What is Solid Surface?
Solid Surface is a generic term for a product which is primary used as a counter top material. The heart of Solid Surface is that bundle of properties that make it a unique product: its performance characteristics. Some performance characteristics that all Solid Surfaces share are:
1. It is Solid. The sheet or shape must be “homogeneous”- that is, the colour or pattern must be absolutely consistent throughout every part. This makes it very unlike gel-coated product such as “Culture Marble”, or laminated products such as plywood or plastic laminate. It also makes it a little bit like solid wood, but without knots or grain.
2. It is Machinable. Using woodworking tools, you can do so much with it. Woodworking, cabinetry, joinery, etc.. Part of being machinable is that it is repairable.
3. It is Hard. Harder than wood, but not as hard as steel.
4. It is Non-Porous. Chemically and technically, nothing is 100% non-porous. But Solid Surface is very close. It is unaffected by water and changes in humidity.
5. It is Stain and Chemical-resistant. Most household staining agents and chemicals and even some industrial chemicals will not damage it.
6. It is esthetically pleasing. It has beauty, a look, a “feel”. It is a decorative surface made to be seen.
B Chemical Properties
Most Solid surface materials combine two main ingredients: a natural mineral (the “filler”) and a resin (the “binder”), along with various additives. These are combined and then cast in a curing process that results in a sheet or a shape.
ATH = “filler”
Alumina tri-hydrate or ATH is refined from bauxite ore. Bauxite is a form of clay. It has excellent chemical, stain and water resistance properties. It is also hard enough to give superb impact-resistance but “soft” enough to be machinable. Last but not least property is not that it will not burn, but because it has “water in hydration”, when attacked by heat ATH actually releases steam, this makes it a natural fire-retardant.
Resins = “binder”
Two main “families” of resins are used to make Solid Surface. Acrylic and Polyester. Acrylic yields a sheet that is thermo formable – that is it can be heated and bent to various shapes without any loss to its performance characteristics. It is also unaffected by ultraviolet rays present in natural light. As for Polyester, it is used in many high-strength demanding applications. Thus, mixing both of these resins gives you the best of both performance properties.
Every Solid Surface product contains numerous additives. These include pigments, but also a host of additives that improve or enhance chemical and performance properties.
The resin “syrup” is mixed with the additives and fillers and then poured into a mould.
Allowing the chemical reactions that form the Solid Surface product to be as close to 100% complete as possible, leaving a stable, inert material with all the performance properties intact.