Laminates: Need to know terminology
ADHESIVE: A substance capable of holding materials together by surface attachment.
The term is used to cover the bonding of sheet material and is synonymous with glue.
BACKER: A non-decorative overlay used on the back of composite panel constructions to
protect the substrate from changes in humidity and to balance the panel construction.
BALANCED CONSTRUCTION: A laminated composite panel construction that typically has
a similar overlay on both surfaces, which reduces or eliminates warp when subjected to
uniformly distributed moisture changes. BASIS WEIGHT Most often used to characterize
paper products, in the decorative laminates industry. The basis weight is defined as the
weight in pounds of a ream (3000 square feet) of paper.
CALENDERED: For polymers, passing of the film through heated rolls, moving at varying
rates, to reduce the film thickness.
CUP: Deviation, flat-wise from a straight line stretched across the width of the panel.
DELAMINATION: An actual separation of a laminate from a substrate.
EMBOSSING: A process by which the surface of the panel product is given a relief effect.
This can be accomplished with a pressure roll or a patterned caul plate in a hot press.
HOT MELT: A thermoplastic adhesive that is 100 percent solids and is applied molten to form
a bond upon cooling. Hot melts differ from conventional liquid adhesives because they
set by cooling rather than by absorption or evaporation of water or solvent.
LINEAR EXPANSION: A measure of growth along the length and/or width of a material
when exposed to conditions from low to high humidity, stated as a percentage of the
MACHINE DIRECTION: The orientation that corresponds with the direction in which the
product moved through the machine that manufactured it.
MIL: A thickness measurement typically used for vinyls and papers. One mill equals
one-thousandth of an inch or 0.001 inch.
MOISTURE CONTENT: The amount of water in wood and expressed as a percentage of
MOTTLING: Irregular visual appearance in an area or entire surface of a finished panel.
PRECURE: Curing of a resin before pressing.
RELATIVE HUMIDITY: Ratio of the amount of water vapor present in air to that which the air
would hold at saturation at the same temperature.
SOLVENT-BORNE ADHESIVE: An adhesive containing polymeric materials dissolved in volatile
organic solvents, to which a small percentage of cross-linker is added to obtain certain
desired performance properties, such as higher heat resistance. This type of adhesive is
typically used on a “hot line” laminator where it is applied to the board or film surface,
dried and then heat activated prior to a hot roll laminating station. They are nongrain
raising and exhibit good coatability, high heat resistance and excellent bond strengths.
SCREW-HOLDING: A measure of the force required to withdraw a screw directly from the
face or edge of a board, stated in pounds (lbs) or Newtons (N).
SUBSTRATE: A material that provides the surface onto which an adhesive or coating is spread.
TACK: Viscosity or degree of “stickiness” of an adhesive, which reflects its state of dryness or
advancement of cure, prior to bonding.
TELEGRAPHING: Transfer of substrate surface defects through the thickness of the
THERMOPLASTIC ADHESIVE: Resins or adhesives that harden at room temperature and
re-soften upon exposure to heat.
THERMOSETTING ADHESIVE: Resins or adhesives that cure at room temperature or in the
hot press by chemical reaction to form rigid bonds that are not resoftened by exposure
to heat (cross-links).
UNBALANCED CONSTRUCTION: When individual components or layers of a laminate do not
respond equally to changes in moisture, thus causing warp.
WATERBORNE ADHESIVE: Water-based adhesives are formulated synthetic polymers (usually
vinyl acetate or ethylene vinyl acetate polymers). These products are generally used for
paper laminating, where the adhesive is applied to the web and/or board surface and
tacks up through one or more heated rolls that combine paper to board.
WARP: Deviation of a panel from a flat plane due to unbalanced construction, excessive
moisture pickup, wetting or other unfavorable exposures.
According to the Laminating Materials Association, Inc., there are a number of terms involved in the manufacturing and specification of laminates that are helpful for understanding the nuances of the various types of surfacing products in this category:
1, 10-11 Jeffers, Grace. (2013). Learn about Laminate:
How laminate was invented and how it is made.
2-3, 8-9 Jester, T. C. (2014). Twentieth-century building
materials: History and conservation.
Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
4-7 Wikipedia (2014). Formica (plastics).
12, 21 Advanced Technology, Inc. (2015).
13 Ceiling & Interior System Construction
Association. (2008). Life Cycle Analysis:
Wall-to-Wall Ceilings and the Open Plenum.
14, 22 Bush, Kenn (April 2015).
Composite Wood Panels: The Big Green Picture.
15-20 U.S. Green Building Council. LEED 2009.