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Solid Surface on the Cutting Edge
By Jon Olson, FabNet Contributor
April 13, 2008


 

 
 
I really have a passion for ‘Cutting Edge’ solid surface design. It’s the one surface currently out there that can enhance not only your countertops but also a vast array of building applications. Using solid surface on building applications other than countertops is what defines ‘Cutting Edge’.

As designers create different and unique designs, many surfaces become, well, just flat. Solid surface is more than just a flat surface. Think of all the various applications where solid surface can be used. Cabinets, chairs, building fascias, designer sinks, bathtubs and furniture…the possibilities are endless!

Solid surface is still a relatively new product and because of this, designers are now just beginning to learn learning about it. But it won’t be a secret for much longer. For example, there is a very popular fashion architecture design magazine read by many in the design community called ‘SURFACE’. In a recent issue I saw at least four solid surface cutting edge applications, and many more that could be made utilizing solid surface.

Here are a few quotes from designers who are using solid surface now in their designs.

“First of all, the material, especially Corian, has an emotional impact on the user. It has a silky look but is hard when touched and this irony excites me. Also, it is like dough to shape. You are free to give it almost any form, you can thermoform it like plastic and then chip it like stone."
     Demet Billici – Designer



“In my opinion, what makes solid surface really interesting/fascinating to ork with is the way you can work with it. There is almost no limitation in terms of forms, which gives you a huge field in terms of creativity.”
     Alex Vitet

 

Some of you might be thinking that all is well and good, but only a few companies will be able to do this type of work. At the moment, this is true. In my opinion it’s just the beginning. As word spreads, there will be too much work for just a few companies. The whole solid surface fabrication industry will benefit.

Because of the predicted growth it is important to prepare now. If you need to improve your production process, this is the time to do it. When you are involved in cutting edge projects, you have to be efficient and organized. It’s a whole new animal.

Many projects in the cutting edge field require specialized equipment such as a CNC, thermoforming oven, etc but it isn’t always necessary. Look to partner with companies that have this equipment. I can remember when we received our first job that needed to be thermoformed, we hired another fabricator to bend the material. As the request came in for more of this work, we decided that purchasing our own oven would be a good idea.

I was talking to one European fabricator at the Surface Fabrication Design Expo this year who owns a large company specializing in cutting edge design. I made the comment that I notice when it comes to cutting edge design, most of the work happens before it hits the shop floor. He raised his eyebrows and said, “Exactly, yes, you are correct!”

So what does this mean? Start by hiring smart, hard working people that can build relationships with architects, and industrial designers. It is important to be involved with the project from the ground up so learning your way around a good Computer Aided Design (CAD) program will be invaluable. With the some good people and right training, these projects are a real possibility.

 
So where can we find the movers and shakers that will be looking for this type of work?  I have a list here that will help get you started.

• Industrial Designers
• Interior Designers
• Kitchen Designers
• Architects
• Environmental Interior Architects
• Furniture Designers
• Office Designers
• Lighting Designers
• Millwork Shops

Millwork shops in your area are a very good place to start. They may have come across cutting edge jobs, reviewed the specs and thought, “Who is going to do that?” That’s where you come in. Stop by and let them know you can handle the tough jobs, no matter the complexity.

Someone once said to me, “Isn’t it the job of the sheet goods manufacturers to find me the work?” Well, they certainly have a big role in helping, but taking the lead will put you that much further ahead.

So are you on the cutting edge? I hope so. We are going to need all hands on deck very soon!

About the author: Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at jon@sterlingsurfaces.com

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