Thermoforming Solid Surface Material
Ever wonder how millwork shops create such intricate, beautiful designs from hard plastic materials? The answer is thermoforming. Through high heat and pressure, Gator can mold and create endless design options for a multitude of furniture, cabinetry and wall paneling options.
We use the thermoforming process when creating unique designs and shapes that aren’t typically normal. It gives us the freedom to be creative and explore techniques and ideas we don’t usually get to explore. Keep reading to learn more about the thermoforming process and how we have created custom pieces:
The first thing we do is heat up the solid surface material to anywhere from 275ºF to 325ºF. This provides the perfect temperature to adequately heat up the material. If you overheat the material, it can melt completely and lose the structural integrity that’s needed to hold its final shape. Under-heating and then trying to mold the piece will result in cracks or stretch marks.
Different types of solid surface material as well as the thickness of each sheet will determine the temperature needed for the thermoforming process. However, this chart gives a good indicator of the temperatures for reference.
We then place the malleable solid surface onto the customized mold. This mold is created and formed before the solid surface material is heated up. The mold is also made to the specifications of the desired final design. This means you can let your creativity fly and really make your design unique to you or your business.
From there, we let the temperature of the solid surface cool down to below 180ºF in order to ensure its structural integrity. Allowing the material adequate time it takes to cool down is an important step in the process. If we move the piece too soon, we could risk deforming or damaging the piece.
Once the piece is fully cooled, we use multiple methods to sand and smooth the surface in order to create a cohesive piece free from imperfections or sharp edges that might have formed from the heating and molding part of the process. This is just an extra step in making sure the piece is in pristine condition and presentable before constructing the final design piece.
St. Tammany Hospital
After the initial process is completed, we construct the final piece. This looks different depending on what the intended product is. For JCW Creative, it was a welcome desk designed with thermoformed solid surface material in a wave-like texture/pattern. The final piece adds character and fluidity to the space, creating a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. For St. Tammany Hospital, it was varying sized welcome desks with added light panels. In addition, there was a slight curvature to properly fill their designated spaces.
If you’re in the market for a new design piece for your home or office building, contact Gator to see how we can be a part of your next project!