Every year, laminate flooring is becoming more and more popular type of flooring, ahead of the once more popular linoleum in popularity. But the production of laminate is not a business for beginners.
In Russia, they learned about laminate not so long ago: it appeared on the market only in the early 90s. The first laminate was made in Europe, and its prices were very low. Later, the market was filled with Chinese goods, and Russian manufacturers also appeared. Competition has intensified noticeably, and the laminate itself has become a more mass product. Many types of laminate have appeared, the trends of its production are constantly being improved.
Today, laminate flooring is the second most popular type of flooring produced in Russia after ceramic tiles. According to BusinesStat, between 2014 and 2018, laminate replaced linoleum from second place, and its share is estimated at 28.7%.
According to analysts’ forecasts, the trend of increasing popularity of the laminate will continue further, and by 2023 its share will increase to 29.3%. In many ways, the success of this material among other floor coverings is due to its medium price segment. Laminate simultaneously replaces both more expensive floor coverings (such as parquet) and cheaper ones, such as linoleum, in comparison with which it has much greater advantages. However, the production of laminate is a technologically rather complex process, which is largely due to the material itself and its structure.
Structure and classes of laminate
Laminate is one of the most popular types of flooring along with parquet, linoleum, carpet and ceramic tiles. “Laminated” from Latin means “layered”, which, in general, reflects the whole essence of the laminate. The laminate has a multi-layer structure, made according to the principle of a sandwich or a sandwich and consists of at least 4 layers.
- HDF-board is the main bearing layer of high-density fibreboard, which is responsible for wear resistance and impact resistance, which provides stable geometry and rigidity.
- Bottom stabilizing layer, balance paper. This is a synthetic layer, which is necessary to compensate for residual stresses when the board cools down after lamination and additional protection of the board from moisture penetrating from below. Resin impregnated kraft paper. The essence of this layer is that it does not allow the laminate to sag.
- decorative layer. A layer of paper with a decorative printed pattern that sits above an HDF board. Thanks to this layer, the laminate takes on the appearance of wood, tiles, marble, porcelain stoneware and any other material.
- Protective top layer. The thinnest layer of paper impregnated with resins and containing substances to create strength. For example, the composition of such paper may include corundum – the second most durable mineral, second only to diamond. When pressed, this paper becomes transparent. This layer prevents the formation of minor damage and scratches.
In addition to the layers of laminate, one of its important features is the so-called lock, which allows you to connect the planks without the use of glue. Well-known manufacturers use locks with CLICK or LOCK locks, which differ in the way the panels are joined.
To make it easier for customers to choose a laminate, the most common classification today (EN 13329) has appeared in Europe, which carries information about the wear resistance and durability of the product. Initially, the laminate classes were divided into two groups: for home use (grades 21-23) and for commercial use (grades 31-34). But then the first came out of production, so we will not consider them.
Existing laminate classes:
- Class 31 – operated in rooms with a low load: pantries, libraries, bedrooms. In commercial premises it will last no more than 2-3 years, at home – no more than 12 years.
- Class 32 – the most common type of laminate, in public spaces with average traffic will last 3-5 years. At home (canteens, kitchens, corridors) can lie up to 15 years.
- Class 33 – operation of the floor with heavy load. In commercial premises, the service life of such a coating will be about 5-6 years, and at home it can last up to 20 years. Attractive appearance lasts as long as possible.
- Class 34 – used in public areas with a high load, for example, car dealerships, train stations, airports, dance clubs, where such a laminate can last from 7 to 15 years. At home, it can lie for about 30 years.
Assignment of classes according to the European standard is carried out on the basis of 18 tests, including tests for moisture resistance, resistance to scratches, fading, impact resistance and others.
It is impossible not to mention that there is a lot of criticism of the class system, since different states have different quality standards and its indicators. As well as the star rating system in hotels, laminate classes are a rather arbitrary concept, which is successfully used by unscrupulous manufacturers and marketers.
Benefits of laminate
Like any other type of flooring, laminate has a set of pros and cons that make it stand out from other flooring materials.
Benefits of laminate:
- Affordable price. Laminate is most often chosen as an alternative to parquet, the cost of which is much higher. Laminate is cheaper, since its origin is artificial, and the production technology using synthetic materials, if it is already put on stream, is relatively simple. During crisis periods, the demand for laminate increases, while cheaper types of coatings lose demand.
- Laminate appearance. For the price, laminate flooring has a stylish and aesthetic look, and the buyer can choose any decorative surface pattern that will be combined with walls, wallpaper, furniture and other objects in the house.
- Ease of installation. Compared to other flooring, laminate flooring is very easy to install. Since each slab has a special lock, the coating is easily assembled around the entire perimeter of the floor like a designer, and a medium-sized room can be covered in 2-3 hours.
- Strength. Laminate is able to withstand heavy furniture, thin heels, toys without damage, and is more durable than linoleum.
- Ease of maintenance. Laminate flooring is easy to care for and can be used in both domestic and commercial environments.
Cons of laminate:
- Environmental friendliness. The laminate is composed of synthetic materials in which there are phenol and formaldehyde resins that are harmful to human health. Therefore, in terms of harmfulness, the laminate is inferior to parquet. At the same time, it is safer than linoleum and other floor coverings. At the same time, a high-class laminate has a minimal inclusion of harmful substances and is equated in this criterion with a wooden coating.
- Noise isolation. Maximum sound absorption is only guaranteed if the laminate is laid perfectly even. Therefore, the floor before finishing should have changes in level of no more than 1 mm per square meter. If there are even slight voids under the artificial turf, it will turn into a source of noise.
- Moisture resistance. Laminate is 70% wood fibers, so it has low moisture resistance. Therefore, it is rarely used for bathrooms.
- Short lived material. Over time, the protective layer is erased, and the average service life in practice is 7-8 years. Therefore, in rooms with high traffic, laminate flooring is not the best option.
Laminate production technology
The production of laminate is a rather complicated process, so this idea cannot be considered as a home or garage business. It is rather the idea of a full-fledged factory, or at least a mini-factory.
Full cycle production technology includes 4 main stages:
- Production of HDF high strength fibreboard;
- Impregnation of the upper layers;
- Slab lining;
- Sawing and milling panels.
Let’s take a closer look at these steps:
1. Production of HDF boards
HDF (High Density Fiber board) is high density fibreboard. As we said above, the HDF board is the basis of the laminate, which largely determines the quality of the laminate and its resistance to mechanical stress. The greater the density of the board produced (the minimum density is 850 kg/cu.m.), the higher the moisture resistance and strength of the material. The thickness of such a plate varies from 5.8 to 12.1 mm.
HDF is created from solid wood, which is pre-cleaned, then dried, and then chopped into chips using special machines. Of course, the wood itself can be different. It can be, for example, both cheap poplar and more expensive birch.
It is not necessary for a manufacturing company to have its own production of HDF boards: some manufacturers buy ready-made boards and have a part-time production of laminate. However, this option, as a rule, leads to a significant increase in the cost of the final product.
Impregnation is the process of impregnation of the upper layers of boards with special substances. Resin is used as an impregnation, which is supplemented with various additives. During hardening, these substances create a durable layer on the plate. The strength and wear resistance of the top layer of the laminate, and hence its class, depend on the formulation of the impregnating compositions. In order to improve the strength of the floor, particles of corundum are sometimes added. Manufacturers can also choose not to impregnate the top layers, but buy them ready-made.
3. HDF cladding
In order for fiberboard to become laminated, it must be covered with an overlay and paper-resin films. This process can take place using different technologies. Exactly:
- HPL – high pressure laminate;
- CPL – conveyor production laminate;
- PDL – pattern printing;
- DPL – Direct Press Laminate;
- CML – Continuous Multilayer Press Laminate;
- ELESGO is an electron beam hardening method.
4. Panel milling and sawing
After the press, the laminate must be cut to the required dimensions using sawing equipment. Dimensions are set by the manufacturer. Further, on the cut plates, on the edge of the sheets, with the help of a milling machine, grooves and spikes are cut, which are called laminate locks. Laminate locks are used to fasten the boards together without the use of glue. Since the quality, strength and density of the connection depend on the quality of these locks, the types of locks themselves are made using various technologies (CLICK, LOCK, UNICLICK, etc.). Manufacturers can also use metal or rubber to make locks more durable, or wax the edges for greater moisture resistance.
After the completion of all production processes, the finished laminate is packaged in a heat-shrinkable polyethylene film (PE) and cardboard packaging. Inserts are inserted into the packs with information about the laminate, class, number of planks, and so on.
Investments and equipment
Opening a laminate production is a costly business. The cost of the simplest production lines is indicated by specialists in the amount of 20-25 million rubles. And this is without taking into account the lease of a workshop with an area of at least 2-2.5 thousand square meters. m, warehouses (necessarily dry and heated, since the laminate does not tolerate moisture changes), the purchase of forklifts, wages for workers (at least 20-25 people), office staff, and an accountant. Thus, the starting costs for opening a mini-factory for the production of laminate will be from 30-35 million rubles.
Mini Laminate Plant Production Line Equipment List:
|Laminating machines ZYX1400; ZYX1600||The presses are made for different sizes of HDF boards: 2800×2070 mm, 2440×1830 mm, 2440×2070 mm. High pressure presses “ZYX” have different capacity and pressing force, supplied with infeed and outfeed table.||$40,000 – $60,000(2.6 – 3.9 million rubles)|
|Laminate sawing machine DP-2700||Machine for sawing laminate to the required dimensions for subsequent milling of locks. Each manufacturer has its own dimensions of the laminate.||n/apresumably from $20,000(from 1.3 million rubles)|
|Milling line for click lock on laminate FHZ525+FHH625||The automatic high-speed line is intended for production of the lock (Click) on a laminate. It is equipped with additional cutting spindles, which eliminates chips along the entire perimeter of the workpiece. The working surface of the table is equipped with carbide plates, which ensures the durability of the equipment and reduces wear on the table surface. The receiving table is equipped with an automatic workpiece feeder to increase the feed rate up to 80 m/min.||$220,000(14.2 million rubles)|
|TS-200 Laminate Packing Machine||The machine is designed for semi-automatic packaging in a thermoshrinkable PE film of the finished laminate||$9,900(640 thousand rubles)|
To sell finished products, the company will need to develop its own dealer network. But since the competition in the flooring market is high, it will take quite a long time to find distribution channels, so it is better to do this already before or during the opening of your production. At the same time, one should not forget about the development of the brand: since the brand must stand out among a huge number of other names (for example, by price, quality of material or unusual design idea), you will have to think about the concept and competitive advantages, and this, as a rule, a completely different approach to business and a completely different investment.