Composite Panel Association’s Marketing Committee and the CPA’s Decorative Surfaces Council unanimously voted a few years back to rename the class of widely used board products as Thermally Fused Laminates. The CPA explained the reason for the name change, stating, “It is the collective view that the term Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL) is more descriptive than ‘melamine’ and appropriately unifies the decorative surfacing materials represented by CPA under the ‘laminate’ umbrella.” Although the use of the new term has gained popularity and usage in some areas, we know that some of our customers, co-workers and vendors use both, making communication sometimes difficult. To try and keep us all on the same page we have utilized the CPA’s definitions below to help differentiate the decorative surfaces.

Decorative Foils

Decorative foils are an intermediate-range paperbased overlay and are also called impregnated papers. They are generally pre-impregnated with a blend of melamine, acrylic and urea resins during the paper-manufacturing process or post-impregnated after the paper is fully cured. Decorative foils weigh between 40 and 200 grams/ m2 untreated. During the impregnation process, the cellulose papers typically gain between 20 and 50 percent of their base weight. Those between 100 and 200 grams are dubbed specialty papers and are more likely than lighter-weight varieties to be used for exposed decorative surfaces.

Decorative Papers – Light Basis Weight Papers

Decorative papers, also called light basis weight papers range in weight from 23 to 50 grams/m2. The decorative paper may contain acrylic, polyester or other resins added during the paper making process to improve the internal bond strength. The paper is then printed and top coated with polyurethane, urea, polyester, acrylic or melamine or a combination thereof for increased durability and performance for decorative use.

High Pressure Laminates for Decorative Surfaces

High Pressure Laminates (HPL) is the direct descendent of the original plastic laminate. It is considered to be one of the most durable decorative surface materials and is available with special performance properties including chemical, fire, and wear resistance. Special grades of high pressure laminates can be post formed around curved edges by application of heat and restraint.

Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL) Panels for Decorative Surfaces

Thermally fused laminate (TFL) Panels, once known as thermally fused melamine or TFM, is made by fusing a resin-impregnated sheet of décor paper directly to a substrate. Heat and pressure activate the resin in the saturated TFL panel sheet, creating a cross-linked bond with the substrate. This effectively seals the substrate. Particleboard and MDF are ideal substrates for TFL because they are consistent, uniform in strength and free of defects.