Corian Solid Surface is an extremely versatile material in the design industry. Its flexibility when shaping it leads to endless possibilities. Combined with the number of colors you can order your Solid Surface in, this makes it possible to achieve a unique, one-of-a-kind product. But just how does the whole process work? It’s all done with thermoforming.
To get Solid Surface into the shape and size you’ve ordered, we employ a technique called thermoforming. That means we use heat to give it the shape it needs! In the same way plastic can be molded by warming it up, so can Solid Surface. Of course, because Solid Surface isn’t as simple as plastic, there’s a bit more to it than that. Let’s take a look at the process.
The first steps to thermoforming are preparation and warming. A sheet of Solid Surface will need to be cut into the right size. Now, because the heating process will make the Solid Surface shrink, the cut will actually be a bit larger than ordered. That way, when the thermoforming is finished, it won’t be too small. Any excess size can be sanded down to make it the perfect size.
Once we’ve got a cut of Solid Surface, it’s time for heating. The heating process starts with putting the material into an oven. There are three different kinds of ovens: radiant, convection, and platen press. The platen press oven will contact the sides of the material. Therefore, of the three, this one will heat the material fastest. However, regardless of which is used, the outcome will be the same.
There are important guidelines to consider when heating. For one, the material needs to be heated in its entirety. Heating only the portion being bent can lead to stress in the cooled parts of the material. This stress will turn into cracking in the future. Not only that, it’s important that the material not be heated too much or too little. Too little heat can lead to cracking, breaking, or stretch marks when forming. Too much can cause blistering or bubbles.
The next part of thermoforming is the forming itself. With the material nice and hot, it will become flexible enough to bend. There are a couple of different ways we can gain the desired shape.
If we plan to use a mold, we’ll cut one out from plywood. This gives us a flat surface ensure your countertop will not be warped. Any imperfections in the surface of the wood will transfer to the Solid Surface being shaped. Because of this, we may line the plywood with tempered hardboard. This is the material used for pegboard, but without the holes.
For more difficult shapes, a vacuum membrane forming press may be used. This is a machine which will allow us to shape your Solid Surface order without a mold. This kind of machine is great for curved products that need stretching in one or more parts. Sometimes a helper stick will be used to ease the product into place.
No matter which method is used, it’s important not to go to slow or too fast when forming. Stretching or bending the material too slowly can lead to damage, as it loses flexibility the longer it cools. Generally, there’s plenty of time to do the necessary bending before it cools. It is important to keep in mind, however, to avoid waiting after it’s done heating. On the other hand, it’s also important not to bend it too quickly. Bending or stretching the material too quickly can lead to white stretch marks, cracking, or breaking.
Once the forming is done, the process is nearly finished! It’s then time to complete the finishing touches.
Cooling doesn’t require any effort from our part. We just let the temperature drop on its own. It shouldn’t be lifted from the mold or machine until it’s reached 170° though. Until it’s cooled to this temperature, it will maintain too much of its flexibility and can bend out of place, crack, or break.
Once the material has cooled down, the last step is seaming. This is where we use an adhesive to add on any other pieces to the countertop. This process can be for connecting two main pieces at an angle, building a trough sink, or for any number of detailed additions. Either way, this is the last step in the Corian Solid Surface process and when complete, will mean a finished product, ready to take home and install.