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Pearlescence: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of a Technological Breakthrough

July 8, 2009

In 2009, Lamin-Art is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Pearlescence® Solid Colors collection with the largest product launch ever: 50 colors and 6 finishes, for a total of 300 mix and match design options. While a milestone in Lamin-Art’s history, Pearlescence also represents a technological breakthrough for the high-pressure laminate industry as a whole: It was the very first pearlized decorative laminate introduced to the North American marketplace.

A light-responsive surface inspired by beauty and fashion
In the early 80’s, Lamin-Art’s Design Director Hans Mutzke got intrigued by the shimmer and sparkle of cosmetics.

“I noticed it first in makeup. But then I also looked at nature, flora and fauna, and then I said we have to do this. I have to do this. And it can be done” says Mutzke. Researching what gave cosmetics their captivating luster, Mutzke discovered irregularly-shaped platelets that refract and reflect light at different angles, making the surface flow as the light or viewing angle changes. In collaboration with Lamin-Art’s partners, he was able to find a way to integrate these platelets into an ink system which prints the decorative papers used in the manufacture of Pearlescence products.

A few years of research and development later, the first Pearlescence Solid Colors collection was released, bringing a whole new dimension to the product and challenging the traditional perception of high-pressure laminate as a flat, purely functional surface. Pearlescence was making a glamorous design statement.

Creating the pearlescent effect
The pearlescent effect in high-pressure laminate could not be achieved through printing alone. The manufacturing process also had to be altered to allow the surface to reflect and refract the maximum amount of light, creating an iridescence very similar to that of mother-of-pearl.

In order to allow for this light interference, the laminates are manufactured with a reduced amount of the melamine resin that makes the surface so durable. This is why Pearlescence laminates have a lower abrasion/scratch resistance than standard HPL.

“I had to also find out how do we, as Lamin-Art, go out and present this product that is really light activated? The more light and the right light makes this thing really come alive. There’s a lot of joy in the surface” recalls Mutzke.

Despite being recommended for vertical and low-wear applications, Pearlescence laminates have become a favorite in commercial interior design, especially in hospitality and retail interiors. They are adding an intriguing luminescence to surfaces, and a sense of luxury that attracts customers.

Oyster Shield High-Wear ProtectionTM makes Pearlescence laminates suitable for highwear applications
In the course of the ensuing 25 years, technological advances have made it possible to increase the surface durability of Pearlescence without altering its beauty. Released in the early 2000’s, the Oyster Shield High-Wear ProtectionTM has expanded the range of possible applications for the product, which is now often used for transaction counters, table and desk tops, and other work surfaces.

The new Catalyst® finish, with its brushed metal look, also meets the industry standards for horizontal or high-wear applications. It offers a cost-effective alternative to real metals while being easier to work with, more durable, and available in 50 colors!

New finishes make the surface more versatile
As a response to market demand for surfaces with textural qualities, Lamin-Art also developed new finishes for the release of its 25th anniversary Pearlescence range of colors. The well-known Textured and Gloss are offered as always, Chrysalis® and Catalyst have been made available on all 50 colors, and the new Wisp and Crisscross have been developed specifically for the occasion.

Wisp features airy striations of matte and semi-gloss finishes undulating lengthwise along the sheet. Crisscross has the appearance and texture of a faintly woven pattern with touches of shimmer and matte.

An outstanding application
The Pearlescence collection, with its glamorous luster, was designed for the commercial specification industry. “In its 25-year history, Pearlescence has grown to become a staple for applications in retail and hospitality interiors, but is also widely used in education, corporate and other environments where materials have to make a more subdued statement,” said Stephanie Goudreau, marketing manager, Lamin-Art.

An excellent example of the usability of the product is the Southwest Washington Medical Center, located in Vancouver, WA and designed by NBBJ. The project included a new 307,000 sq. ft. tower featuring 13 operating rooms, 154 private patient rooms, 6 interventional suites, and 2 suites dedicated to open-heart surgery. Various colors of Pearlescence have been installed throughout the hospital, including the patient rooms, the common areas, and even the operation rooms.

Christine Vandover was the main designer on the project, she recalls: “We wanted people to feel comfortable. The warm gray in the Pearlescence collection (2407-Taupe) enabled us to do just that and the pearl texture allowed for light reflection to brighten up the room.” But Vandover was also faced with a durability challenge: While most designers are only concerned about the durability of horizontal applications, she also had to address the durability of vertical applications. Hospital staff and patients are in constant motion so walls have to withstand being banged into by gurneys, wheelchairs, IV poles, carts, and other equipment. Surfaces also must be easy to clean, especially in the operating rooms. To ensure a heightened level of utility, she turned to her Lamin-Art representative. “We needed something very durable. Our representative recommended the Oyster Shield High-Wear ProtectionTM for the Pearlescence laminates and it turned out great” she says.

History in the making
With the 25th anniversary of Lamin-Art’s Pearlescence collection, design professionals have access to the widest range of pearlescent hues in the industry, along with the ability to mix and match from an exclusive array of classic and avant-garde finishes. But this doesn’t mark the end of innovation for Lamin-Art’s Design Director. “I think we’re just in the first stage of Pearlescence. There are many things we can do with Pearlescence” says Hans Mutzke. Stay tuned!

For more information visit www.pearlescence.com, or call (800) 323-7624

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