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Only the best for Athlone Extrusions’ new laminates

By Barry Copping
Posted 11 October 2012
Cleanroom manufacture of Durogloss results in a fault-free finish

The new Durogloss foil laminates from Athlone Extrusions are co-extruded multi-layer thermoplastic structures incorporating a high-gloss, scratch-resistant acrylic top layer on a high-impact ABS substrate. Durogloss is available in sheet or reel configurations, and is aimed at the upmarket end of the indoor furniture industry.

The acrylic foils are flat-laminated to either MDF or chipboard panels using specially formulated hot-melt PUR adhesives, for which the bottom (“B”) face of the foil is specially treated to ensure optimum adhesion. The high-gloss top surface of the foil is covered with a PE masking film to protect it during all stages of manufacture through to final installation. The protective film is easily removed.

Athlone Extrusions’ general manager Kenny O’Brien tells PRW: “This product is very demanding in terms of quality and finish; it represents the ‘state of the art’ in sheet extrusion. There must be absolutely no surface defects, and it’s manufactured under cleanroom conditions to exclude dust and dirt completely.

“High-gloss finishes have become increasingly popular in Europe, particularly in bedroom furniture and also kitchen cabinet panel and door applications.”

In-house colour

Durogloss is offered in a range of colours, from pastel to vibrant shades. O’Brien takes up the story: “We have just completed pre-production trials on a range of 22 stock colours. Athlone Extrusions has always prided itself on its work with colourants, and the acrylic top layer of Durogloss exhibits excellent colour consistency and reproducibility. We produce our own masterbatches for in-house use but also supply them, along with added-value polymers and regrind for recycling, to other plastics industry players via our separate trading company Athlone Polymers.”

O’Brien enlarges on the benefits of an in-house colour capability. “Doing our own colour compounding is an absolutely key advantage, and we are the only extrusion company to offer it. We have a library of 12,000 colours which we’re adding to at a rate of 20-30 per week. We can supply any colour in the Pantone and RAL ranges, or match customers’ specific requests.”

Aesthetics

O’Brien notes that colour trends are moving from what he terms “deep” shades of green and red into metallic effects: “These pose technical challenges because they have to resist ultraviolet irradiation and be suitable for vacuum forming as well as other processes. Metallic effects are achieved by various paste formulations. Over-processing will fragment the flakes and spoil the visual effect. There is definitely a lot of technical expertise involved in formulating the pigment and getting the flow characteristics correct.”

Markets for durogloss

O’Brien says: “We know there is a world-wide market. Surprisingly, high-gloss upmarket furniture is not universally popular in the US, but it is already very big in Australia and is becoming so in markets as diverse as Turkey and South America.

Other applications

O’Brien outlines other areas in which Athlone Extrusions has been successful. “Acrylic/ABS laminates have seen significant growth over the last few years, particularly in outdoor applications such as metal replacement. This product is used for exterior panels, exposed cabs and in the instrument clusters of excavation machinery, on trams, trucks and offroad vehicles. The materials are robust and durable, particularly when used with different reinforcement systems such as PU or GRP. With premium finishes they are also used in cars.”

“The main advantage of these materials is that they don’t have to be painted. There’s also the issue of recyclability. Customers used to look to recycling for cost savings, but now there’s market pressure to demonstrate sustainability credentials. Athlone Extrusions compounds 3,000 tonnes of recyclate per annum for both internal use and outside sale.

“Another interesting development is a chemically resistant anti-graffiti foil for lamination onto an ABS substrate. Chemical solvents are required to remove marker-pen graffiti, but they can attack plastic surfaces, for instance seat furnishings in public transport, causing damage. By contrast, our resistant foil laminated ABS sheet product allows chemical cleaning to remove the marks without damage.”


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