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Endless Creativity: Formica Corporation's Printing Innovations

  
  
  
  
  

You may know Formica Corporation for its product and design innovations, but did you know we’ve led major breakthroughs in laminate print technology

In the late 1920s, Formica Corporation was the first to patent a rotogravure printing process for making multilayer lithographed woodgrain surface laminate on a flat-bed press (say that three times fast!). The ability to print patterns – with marble, granite and graphic patterns to follow – is what shifted Formica Corporation’s focus from industrial products to the decorative surfaces we come in contact with each and every day. 

Fast forward to 2009.  Thanks to yet another advancement in print technology, we created 180fx®, an industry first and our best-selling laminate launch in company history.  Reflecting the true scale and striking color variations and veining of a full-size natural granite slab, 180fx® patterns are printed five-feet wide with no repeats.  Prior to this innovation, all granite and stone laminate patterns were essentially printed as a series of small-scale repeats that “fit on a chip”— functional and attractive, yes, but never to be mistaken as real.  In contrast, 180fx® has even the most hawkish eye fooled – how’s that for size?

Conference table featuring Formica laminate Silver Travertine.180fx® Silver Travertine

The pattern size of 180fx® posed a challenge that turned into an opportunity.  Since the pattern was far larger than a traditional 2” x 3” laminate chip, we experimented with different ways to provide consumers with the full effect of the design while not increasing material usage.  The result was the invention of 12” x 19”paper samples that, through printing advancements, reflected the finish quality of each pattern.

The most recent examples of our “infinite” printing creativity are our two new Endless™ and Ellipse™ patterns from the Anniversary Collection.

Countertop with Formica laminate Endless GraytoneEndless Graytone from the Anniversary Collection

Until now, the repeat on laminate patterns was at best 50” in length due to the size of the printing cylinder.  However, in response to a concept first presented by Formica Group (of which Formica Corporation is part), Abbott Miller, partner at the world’s largest independent design consultancy Pentagram, worked with a preferred printer to develop a design and printing technique that would create patterns that know no bounds. Soon after, Endless™ and Ellipse™ were born.  Both patterns repeat only after 500-700 sheets – or, every 1.3 miles. 

Formica laminate countertop in Red Ellipse.Red Ellipse from the Anniversary Collection 

So how exactly did we do it? We can’t disclose too many details (trade secrets, you know), but will say that it is the result of independent layers of the pattern randomly interacting in the course of printing.  The fluidity of overlapping elements creates patterns that appear to go on forever.  Formica Forever™, if you will … very fitting for a company starting its next 100 years.


Comments

Formica has done an outstanding job keeping up with design trends throughout the years! Thumbs up!
Posted @ Thursday, June 13, 2013 6:56 AM by Lou Vaughn
Thanks for the comment, Lou! And thanks for reading!
Posted @ Thursday, June 13, 2013 11:42 AM by Stacy Stufft
Very interesting finish which keeps Formica way out front.How would you match it though if the pattern doesn't repeat. Say on an adjacent worktop and splashback? Or is it because it's so random that it'll work together?
Posted @ Friday, June 21, 2013 7:57 AM by George Carman
Thank you, George, and great question. These linear-based designs are easy to match. Your fabricator should line up each strand in the Endless and Ellipse designs end-to-end. The randomly placed bars or ovals that have no repeats in how they layer down the length of the sheet show minimal seams.  
 
If you are fabricating sheets side by side, again your fabricator will need to trim the sheets at the side seams to make sure the resulting spacing is consistent with the linear spaces between the ovals in the middle of the sheet. Since the scale is relatively small, the seams would be minimal in the random linear layout.
Posted @ Friday, June 21, 2013 9:03 AM by Stacy Stufft
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