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Laminate: Manufacturers focus attention on texturing

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By Reginald Tucker

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-21-06-pmLaminate flooring manufacturers across the spectrum are employing advanced surface technology to develop products that more accurately convey not only the look but the feel of real hardwood flooring. These methods run the gamut from improvements to the traditional embossed in register (EIR) process to more recent advancements in dual gloss technologies.

“Over the past three to five years there has been a shift toward more surface textures being utilized,” said Jeff Francis, laminate category manager, Shaw Floors. “Three or four years ago, EIR was really popular; now it doesn’t have to be EIR as long as it has some kind of surface texture on it. For example, with a wire-brushed texture it doesn’t make sense to do EIR on top of it.”

According to Francis, Shaw uses about four primary plates to obtain various surface textures. “One is just a traditional smooth plate and another is an overall surface texture where it’s not necessarily EIR but it’s some kind of surface texture. This way, when someone runs their hands across it they feel variation,” he explained. “Then we have a hand scraped plate, a wire-brushed plate and lastly an EIR plate. We use a wide variety of plates based on what we’re trying to do with that image and ultimately try to get a visual and a texture that is appealing to the end user.”

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-22-20-pmInnovative surface texturing methods are also being employed at Mannington, according to Dan Natkin, senior director of hard surface products, “We focus very strongly on realistic embossed in-register textures, and the nature of our production plant really allows us to do that. The plant was designed to run a little bit slower than some of the more modern plants and this allows us to really differentiate. We’ve done quite a bit over the last couple of years to try to simulate what’s going on in real wood— for example, oil-finish looks and even more subtle textures.”

There are some emerging technologies around dual-gloss applications that Mannington has employed at times to create even further visual interest in the product. For example, the company has several products in its Restoration Series—Black Forest Oak and Treeline—which employ dual gloss technology to create added dimensionality. “On one product the higher gloss is down in the lower layer, and in the other the higher gloss is closer to the top of the surface.”

More important than the bells and whistles, these innovations translate into higher margin opportunities for retailers. “The more realistic laminate can produce and close that gap between engineered and solid wood, it’s going to be harder for the consumer to tell the difference between laminate and real wood,” Francis said. “Although there is an additional cost to that, the benefit to the consumer is when they look at that knot hole or veining in the wood, they can feel it and see it.”

Natkin agrees. “The more realistic the product looks, combined with the natural performance attributes of laminates, really helps differentiate itself vs. something that has just a subtle wood tick or very smooth finish on it.”