typically don’t require protective coatings and are shipped as is12.
Next, the substrate is laminated and sheeted at the end of the production line where
it is taken to a vacuum forming area. The sheet is heated and drawn into a cast former,
and then shaped into the finished pattern using vacuum machinery. The uniform pressure
from the vacuum process eliminates shifting and air pockets, creating perfectly smooth
parts with consistent, predictable results. The back side of the finished sheet is also
taken into account to ensure that there is enough surface area to bond the sheet.
The sheet is then cooled before undergoing a two-step cutting process (rough
and final cuts). Finally, the sheet is inspected for quality control before packaged for
shipping in either cartons or crates. The finished panels are extremely lightweight,
and are flexible enough to be rolled for shipping, yet completely rigid when laminated. This makes the end product more cost effective to ship and easy to install.
Finished 3DL panels are typically about .030-inch thick and are fire retardant
grade, passing ASTM E84 Class A Test Standard requirements. Despite their thin
profile, vacuum-formed 3D laminates are also extremely durable (more on features
and benefits below) and can withstand the demands of high-traffic environments.
Three-dimensional panels and tiles are perfectly suited for both wall and ceiling surfaces
to add depth and dimension to a space. Wall panel sizes vary based on application,
but many manufacturers offer full-sized wall panels that reach up to 4- by 8-feet in size,
while wainscot panels may vary between 30 and 32-inch by 48 inches. Smaller panels
for kitchen backsplashes and glue-ups are typically specified in sizes from 18- by
24-inches or as small as 2- by 2-inch.
Some 3DL wall panel designs also incorporate a Built-In Overlap (BIO) feature,
where the inclusion of a flat edge on the top and right side of each sheet outside
the pattern makes seams less visible (almost invisible in some cases). Panels are
lightweight and easy to handle and install, and are well-suited for columns and other
vertical surfaces where decorative laminates are desired.
Overhead, adding design elements to the ceiling plane can have significant
impact on the overall ambiance of a space and can create feelings of openness,
seclusion, intimacy, or even energy. Further, a study of the life cycle analysis of
wall-to-wall ceilings versus an open plenum found that while initial installation costs
are higher for suspended ceiling systems, energy costs and maintenance are lower
than those of exposed ceilings in the long run13.
There are typically two options that exist for ceiling applications—glue-up and
lay-in tiles. Glue-up tiles are designed to be installed directly onto ceilings (or even
walls), and most feature a BIO or a bead-and-button overlap to offer less visible
seams and joins. Lay-in tiles are lightweight and easy to install, and can be laid
over an existing suspended grid system. Many lay-in tiles feature four flat edges
to help create seamless look.
Some specifiers may naturally wonder how these new lay-in tiles will coordinate
with an existing grid system that might not match the intended design theme or
aesthetic. The solution is simple: thermoplastic grid covers are available from the
manufacturer to perfectly match the finishes of the new decorative tiles and create
a seamless look to the ceiling.
Before adhering glue-up tiles to any surface, always check the manufacturer’s
recommendations for adhesives. For renovation projects, existing popcorn ceilings
need to be scraped completely clean before new glue-up tiles can be applied. As a
general rule, trowel and latex adhesives can be used to adhere the tiles to drywall
or other ceiling surface. Brush or roll-on, non-flammable, spray-on, and water-based contact adhesives suitable for PVC also work well.
Designers can also dramatically enhance the look of existing drop ceiling systems
using light diffusers which are available in contemporary designs that can add up
to 30 percent brighter light within a space. Light diffusers replace existing prismatic
ones within a suspended ceiling system to create a more attractive look without
the need to change out the mineral fiber tiles in order to use them. Diffusers are
ideal for office work environments because the light is directed from side to side
and does not shine downward onto computer stations.
For panels that need to be trimmed, an existing mineral tile can be used as a
template and a marker and utility knife (razor, scissors, etc.) can be used to score
tiles to size and then snap the pieces apart. If grid covers are required, install them
prior to the decorative panels, which are simply inlaid directly over the existing mineral
tiles within the suspension grid. If making room for a ceiling lamp, ensure that an
opening is cut on the tile where the lamp will be attached.
When it comes to selecting surfacing materials and products for an interiors project,
the question isn’t why should you choose 3DLs—it’s why shouldn’t you? With hundreds
of designs and color combinations, low costs, easy installation, and overall flexibility
and performance, the sky’s the limit in terms of the features that specifiers have at
their fingertips, including:
◗ TEXTURES. Given the advancements in printing and manufacturing
technology, nearly any shape, size, or pattern can be created. From organic,
geometric, weave, wave, and faux textures, 3DL panels give interiors a unique
appearance and tactile appeal that’s attractive to both the eyes and the hand.
◗ FINISHES. Many suppliers now offer dozens of 3DL finishes, including wood
grains, metallic, patinas, and solid colors. Although the design options are nearly
endless, it’s important to note that color-through finishes are good option for
high traffic areas, especially when combined with lower profile designs.
LEFT TO RIGHT Three-dimensional ceiling panels are generally
one of two types: glue-up (seen at left with built in overlap)
or lay-in, which can be installed directly over existing ceiling
grids, reducing waste to landfill.