Manufacturers of 3D Laminates know that the product has many advantages as compared with HPL and other surfaces. 3DL's impact resistance can be far superior to most laminate surfaces and the taber abrasion can be extremely high especially with solid colors whitch are homogeneous. But how about scratch resistance? In this article I'd like to discuss some obscure tricks on how scratch resistance is obtained with 3DL that most companies don't share.
Firstly, each company has claims that their product is more durable based upon a unique or proprietary lacquer. Although each company has its own formulation the real secret is in tweaking a combination of lacquer and texture. Also gloss level of the print layer and lacquers can play a roll as well as the color of the print however this article is meant to focus on a specific subject of texture which is one of the biggest factors that contribute to scratch resistance of 3DL.
OK... so to start....
The most common lacquers are polyurethanes or polyurethane combinations. Applying lacquer is key to protect the top surface's hills and valleys and provide hardness to the surface. This sounds like the end all be all solution however in reality if a sharp objects digs into the peaks (hill tops of the texture) in a certain way then its irrelevant as to how much or what type top coat is applied. Think of your carpet and running your foot over the carpet. The carpet is not damaged however you moved the carpet strands in a different direction it gives the appearance of difference and that is at the basis of what a surface scratch really is. So if you think about it, a micro level, scratches to most surfaces are either a displacing or a removing of surface area. In theory a top coat will protect a scratch from occurring however in practice its only one component to creating a scratch resistant surface.
In general a higher texture combined with lacquer is a way to get an overall scratch resistant surface. Some woodgrain designs, for example may have a lighter texture from one supplier due to market demand and when you try to scratch it, the appearance is that that supplier's product is less scratch resistant however upon closer inspection you may find that if they put the same texture on they would get equal scratch performance. So its very difficult to judge scratch resistance between supplier if you are not measuring apples to apples. Since each supplier uses different textures and different lacquer/gloss level combos it also may impact the scratch resistance performance in that single color.
Another point is in the texture layout. Imagine a texture on a microscopic level and when a sharp object moves in a straight line it is removing hills on the tops of the texture. If the texture is spaced in a certain way to make the hill tops more random it can trick the eye into not seeing the scratches as easily. This can also be achieved by making different heights of texture in the emboss. Imagine at certain pressure points only knocking off a certain height of textures however with just slight more pressure it may finally break into the next layer of texture hills. Its another clever way to enable an object to glide across the top of the texture yet not see the scratch as easily with the naked eye. Surprised by this observation? As with any product, the expertise in product design combined with the marketability of its appearance all come into play in order to achieve a result. You may in fact, start to see all the complexity that goes into creating a 3DL.
You will also notice that dark colors show scratches more easily. Lighter colors absorb the light and blind your eyes to the scratches that are on the surface so to speak.
So, in conclusion, there are a variety of ways to make a scratch resistant 3DL... Lacquer, quantity of texture, color of design and texture layout on the microscopic level. The items just mentioned must also be used in proper combos to create the best affect.
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