September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7
By Reginald Tucker
With all the attention being paid to WPC-type floors—and rightfully so—one might think there’s not much happening in the way of innovations with other competing hard surface categories.
That notion could not be further from the truth as evidenced by what’s taking place in the mature-but-still-evolving laminate flooring sector. As several manufacturers continue to fortify their coreboards with materials and proprietary processes designed to better resist water or repel moisture altogether, several companies responsible for developing glueless locking systems are ramping up their own innovations.
Following is an overview of the latest glueless locking system developments along with a summary of how several click system licencees are incorporating those technologies in their respective products.
One company at the forefront of glueless locking systems is Innovations4Flooring (I4F). Its latest innovation—3L TripleLock—provides a unique one-piece, drop-lock installation system for flooring panels that eliminates the need for an additional insert on the short side. The system works with all types of flooring materials, including laminate coreboard panels. According to I4F, the elimination of the additional insert on the short side provides manufacturers with the possibility to improve productivity levels while at the same time reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Furthermore, the 3L TripleLock click system (see illustration) is suitable for existing high-speed production. The good news for installers is shorter laying time. According to I4F, boards featuring 3L TripleLock technology can be installed up to 30% faster than basic click systems. Plus, there are no special tools required for installation.
While the 3L TripleLock system addresses installation issues on the short side of the plank, I4F’s Click4U technology, an angle-system, takes care of the long side. Combined with the drop-lock on the short side, the locking strength is very high. And just like 3L TripleLock, Click4U is suitable for existing high-speed production machinery.
I4F’s technology is already being used on millions of square feet of flooring around the world. “We believe the global flooring market is ready for change, and our innovations will play a significant role in this huge industry transformation,” said John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F.
Unilin Division Technologies
Unilin Division Technologies is the intellectual property unit within the Unilin Group that grants licenses with regard to Unilin’s patent rights.
Unilin provides several different glueless locking system platforms, including Uniclic, UnitFit (Plus and X) and Unipush. Uniclic is the industry’s traditional glueless locking technology for installation of flooring and wall panels, while Unifit Plus and Unifit X are designed for fold-down installation of flooring panels, which includes laminates.
Lastly, Unipush aims to make push-down installations even more intuitive and simple. How it works: By angling the long side of the panel in, the panel can be connected on the short side simply by pushing the panel down on the short side. No additional materials, i.e., inserts, or equipment, are necessary using this system.
To date, Unilin Division Technologies manages more than 2,000 patents in over 300 patent families. Several licensee partners include: Alsapan, AGT, Berry, BHK, Classen, Clarion Industries, Egger Group, Faus, Kronotex, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw, Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others.
Classen, a Unilin licensee, utilizes state-of-the-art locking technology in its Megaloc system. Manufactured in Germany, the Megaloc locking system is DIY friendly and makes installation simple and seamless. In illustration: A laminate floor with a Megaloc system has a locking mechanism on the short side. The panels are simply dropped down into the joint of the previously laid row. As planks are lowered, a special patented insert/lock, located on the short end of the laminate, will lock the plank in place. (A locking-clip in the short grooves allows the next plank to be locked directly from above.) Once the panel is installed into place, the locking element also locks and a stable connection is created. All the installer has to do is press along the short side when he hears the click.
Other well-known lines featuring Unilin click technology is the Majestic collection from Quick-Step and Mohawk-branded laminates. Equipped with the patented Uniclic system, the products allow a quick and easy installation for floor layers. The products also score points in the aesthetics department. Majestic, for example, comes in a variety of decors from vintage/reclaimed to rustic and smooth and features surface texturing designed to mimic real wood floors. The line also touts resistance to water and scratching.
“Based on original wooden planks, the R&D team uses innovative techniques to develop a product that combines natural beauty with the practicality of high-end laminate,” said Ruben Desmet, general manager laminate, Unilin.
Uniboard is another Unilin licensee. The company’s lamiante flooring product range includes both 12mm and 14mm offerings, each featuring the “Bestlock” glueless locking technology. The end result, according to the company, is a streamlined installation anchored by strong locking joints.
Välinge continues to demonstrate its knack for innovation with the latest iteration of its signature 5G locking system. Known as 5G-i, the new system is designed, in part, to expand the installation options for a variety of new floating plank flooring products hitting the market.
How it works: Slits underneath the groove side of the panel provide flexibility so the tongue side—when pressed downward in a single-action motion—clicks into place.
While the system is new, it doesn’t represent a difficult learning curve for installers. In fact, floor layers don’t have to learn a whole new procedure when installing the panels at all. Installers can take it apart the same way they would with the traditional 5G, the company said. Another advantage of the system is it reduces costs (no need for plastic tongues or insertion machines).
Välinge Innovation’s patent portfolio comprises more than 1,600 granted patents and a global license base of over 200 licensees. The company’s range of locking systems provides an industry standard for installing floating floors. Valinge licensee holders include: Armstrong, Abel Laminati, Alloc, Berry Floor, BHK, CFL, Classen, Faus, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others. For instance, all of Mannington’s current laminate collections (Restoration, Revolutions, Coordinations and Value Lock) can be laid down via a click-lock mechanism for fast, secure installations. While the company strongly recommends using trained, professional installers to achieve the best long-term performance of its various flooring products, it advises DIYers to follow all directions contained in the Installation Guidelines brochure.
Shaw’s VersaLock and LocNPlace patented locking technology securely installs laminate flooring panels on all four sides. This single-action locking system enables installation in a snap, literally, without messy, slow-to-dry glue.
Swiss Krono, which markets the American Concepts brand, is a licensee of locking systems developed by both Unilin and Valinge. The vast majority of these systems are designed for private-label applications.