Laminex is the brand name of one of the world’s most popular kitchen benchtop and splashback surfacing products. The Laminex product range is so popular, in fact, that the word is often used in place of the more generic “plastic laminate” and the even longer technical name for all plastic laminate products — high pressure decorative laminate (HPDL). What do those words mean and why has the Laminex name become synonymous with plastic laminate in Australia?
What is Laminex?
Whether you call it Laminex, plastic laminate or high pressure decorative laminate, the key word is “laminate.” All HPDL products are manufactured in a similar way, from layers of paper saturated with melamine and bound together with phenolic resins. Only the top layer is the decorative layer. This technique has remained largely constant for over half a century, simply because it works so well and even modern technology has not come up with anything better for a hard-wearing, low cost benchtop or splashback.
In the past, this decorative layer was produced using then standard printing techniques, but now that digital imaging has become common, it is now used to create an even larger range of patterns and styles. Digital printing makes it possible to create amazingly authentic natural images on Laminex. For example, Laminex or a similar product is now used on bowling alleys because it looks like natural timber, but does not shrink, dent or expand as readily as natural timber.
Aside from being available in an enormous range of colours, patterns and styles, Laminex also comes in a variety of textures. For benchtops, textured laminate is preferable to a smooth surface because it hides scratches, but for vertical surfaces that aren’t scratch-prone, a smooth or gloss finish may be preferable.
Laminex, Wilsonart and Formica are the world’s largest manufacturers of plastic laminate. These companies have been in business for generations and produce the largest ranges of HPDL products. However, they are not the only manufacturers of plastic laminate and smaller companies have found their market niche in the production of designer patterns.