Formica has long been used for furniture, cabinetry, wall boards and other solid surfaces that need to be constructed from hard-wearing, resilient material. It originally served as a substitute for the mineral mica, hence its name "for mica." Today, formica is one of the most widely used surfacing materials in the world
Formica is a smooth, hard plastic laminate that is highly durable, functional and attractive. It is popular for both commercial and domestic purposes, because it is not only easy to clean, but can also withstand the ravages of heat, is easily cleaned and does not absorb liquids. It can also be produced in an almost endless array of colors, finishes and designs.
Formica features a composite structure that is produced primarily from of kraft paper and synthetic resin. Kraft paper is paper that is commonly usually used for paper grocery sacks, envelopes and a variety of other packaging. This paper is coarse and strong, most often brown in color but able to be bleached to produce white paper.
First, kraft paper is impregnated with a melamine or other type of synthetic resin. Multiple layers of the resin-rich kraft paper are compressed with the use of heat and pressure to bond them together to form a hard, resilient surface. A decorative layer is applied to the top sheet, which is in turn covered with melamine. The result if a solid surfacing material that is typically cemented to a backing material such as plywood.
Formica boasts a long history of advances in innovation and craftsmanship. It was invented in 1912 by a two employees of Westinghouse. At the time, it was intended for use as an electrical insulator. In time, however, the market and demand for composite materials grew, and the two men started their own company in 1913 with the silent aid of a banker, to take advantage of it. Formica was used to create plastic-impregnated wooden plane propellers during World War II, and electric motor parts for Bell Electric Motor, Northwest Electric, and Ideal Electric companies.
The new company begun to innovate their engineered laminates to produce products for the consumer market. These products included kitchen counters and tabletops that were offered for purchase around the United States and beyond. In time, the company expanded its operations abroad, building company controlled factories located in Spain, England, Taiwan, Germany, Canada, and France. It was bought out by American Cyanamid in 1956, and its name was changed to Formica Corporation. The 70's saw a slowing down of the demand for the Formica products, coming almost completely to a halt in the early 80's as their product came to be defined in the public eye as synthetic and tacky.
A new product line was introduced, helping Formica Corporation to maintain their spot as the world's leading producers of laminate, and the company continued to flourish again. Formica, still with its original properties, remained its primary product but was produced as a wood veneer product that was similar to wood, but with laminate properties. It continues to enjoy widespread use the world over.
- Photo Credit Formica countertop from the Radiance Collection™ of the Formica Corporation.
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