HPL plates have become very popular in recent years. This increase in demand is due to the improvement offered in some areas in relation to other types of slabs. These improved properties revolve mainly around greater resistance and the possibility of using them in humid environments and even outdoors.
What is an HPL board?
As a definition of HPL High pressure laminate) or high pressure laminate, we can say that it is a material composed of several layers or sheets of cellulose impregnated with phenolic resins, which are subjected to great pressures and high temperatures during the manufacturing process. It is also called laminated board or compact.
It is common, although not essential, to add decorative leaves on both outer sides. There are different options in decorative high pressure laminates:
- Decorative paper impregnated with melamine resins. It is an option similar to that found in MDF or chipboard.
- Natural wood veneer. In this case, polyester resins are used to fix the sheet to the rest of the laminate.
- Metallic plates.
The result is a plate of great density and resistance, suitable for the most diverse uses in different types of environments.
Manufacture of HPL compact plates
Cellulose, obtained from wood in the same way as paper, is used in the manufacture of compact panels in HPL, around 60%. The other main compound is thermosetting resins, between 30-40%.
Heat (approx. 140-150ºC) and pressure (approx. 7 MPa) are applied to the mixture in the form of sheets until the polymerization of the compound is achieved.
The result is a material with a plastic appearance and dark color. In some cases, the dyes can be used to color the mixture, so that the resulting compact has a homogeneous color. This is an especially interesting option when the goal is a solid color plate that is not needed for the edge.
Another interesting result of the manufacturing process is the high density, greater than 1350 kg / m3. To give you an idea, an MDF board has a density of approximately 650 kg / m3.
Features of HPL high pressure laminates
High pressure compact laminates have interesting properties and characteristics. Some of them substantially improve the benefits offered by other alternative products:
- Wide variety of colors, designs and textures.
- Very resistant to stains. It is even considered an “anti-graffiti” product. Therefore, it is a very easy material to clean and maintain. You just have to avoid excessively abrasive, alkaline or highly chlorinated cleaning products.
- Good resistance to high temperatures. Larger than any product derived from wood, reaching 180ºC without deteriorating in a specific way.
- The color is generally quite stable against solar radiation. In the open air, slight discoloration may occur.
- High resistance to impacts and abrasion.
- Very low water absorption. The little that occurs usually happens at the edges. It is, therefore, a very stable product against environmental changes.
- Resistant to water vapor.
- Very low moisture content. Even less than 1%. This is a big difference compared to other types of wood and derived boards.
- It can be easily machined, although fixings must be material-specific. Its density and hardness can accelerate the wear of the saws.
Uses of compact phenolic panels
As already mentioned, HPL compact plates can be used both indoors and outdoors. In essence, they are made of the same materials, albeit in different proportions.
To differentiate them, we must resort to labeling. The letter C identifies those with limited use indoors. While the letter G is used for those that can be used outdoors.
- Wall and ceiling cladding. It can even be used as a floor covering. Although the latter is rare.
- Carpentry. Doors, shutters, partitions (cabinets, changing rooms, sinks) …
- Furniture: fronts, drawers, countertops (like those of the Duropal brand) …
- Furniture in damp areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, changing rooms …
- Furniture and surfaces for laboratories.
- Facade cladding.
- Carpentry: enclosures, fences, blinds …
- Outdoor furniture: playgrounds, benches …
Sales and marketing: dimensions and prices
The first thing to note is that there can be significant differences depending on the manufacturer of the HPL board and the country where it is sold. It is common for manufacturers with an international presence to adapt their products to the standardized measures of each country.
- Measures. The most common dimensions are 244 × 122 and 244 × 210 centimeters.
- Thickness: 3, 6, 8, 10, 12 or 15 millimeters are the most common. Although you can even find thicknesses of up to 36 millimeters.
Flame retardant HPL. Compact phenolic plates are also sold with greater fire resistance. On the label they are differentiated with the letter F. This improvement usually implies a higher price.
It is a product with Great value for the price. Undoubtedly, the price of an HPL is higher than that of many other types of plates, but it offers better benefits.