The sixth annual solid surface trade show was held at the
Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas this past February. The show
displayed the maturity of the solid surface fabrication industry as
well as the increasing visibility of the engineered stone
An amazing 20 manufacturers of solid surface materials displayed
their wares, all hoping to capture a segment of the multi-billion
dollar market. Six companies, ranging from small start-ups to one
of the world’s largest multi-national corporations, displayed
engineered stone products.
Along with the range of engineered stone products on display
were a wide variety of machine tools designed to fabricate
engineered stone. Many of these machines have been around for a
long time, and are common in the stone fabrication industry.
One distinctive machine stood out, though. My old friends at
Auto V-grooving, Inc. have introduced a remarkable innovation the
ST-SS-2-FT, a single machine capable of
V-grooving natural stone, engineered stone and solid surface
materials, all without water and with excellent dust collection
capabilities. The V-grooving concept involves precise cutting of
the backside of the sheet, allowing a mitered edge piece to be
folded into place, hinged by a piece of plastic strapping tape, for
rapid and accurate edge fabrication. Significant labor savings are
I first wrote about V-grooving technology in 1994, and the
procedure has proven to be an effective technique for rapid
processing of solid surface materials. For information, visit
Two well-known brand
names in the solid surface industry, Fountainhead and Surell, are
being phased out, though they will live on under another name. The
Formica Corporation has owned both brands in recent years.
Formica plans to market both product offerings under the name of
Formica Solid Surfacing. Manufactured in the former Fountainhead
factory in Odenton, MD, the product features a reformulated resin
mix that Formica says will improve its performance.
Fabricators interested in thermoforming solid surface materials
now have the option of purchasing a sophisticated press made in
Spain for that purpose. The Global membrane press utilizes a
silicone rubber blanket and a vacuum pump to form the heated solid
surface material precisely and rapidly. This press can also be used
for laminating curved and layered architectural wood components.
The company points out that many solid surface fabricators also do
architectural woodwork, and may find such a dual use machine
worthwhile. Global Ecotherm preheating tables are also available
from the manufacturer, Nabuurs Developing S.L., which is located in
Valencia, Spain. More information is available at
One trade association representing some companies in the solid
surface industry is reorganizing. What was once the International
Cast Polymer Association (ICPA) is now called the International
Cast Polymer Alliance, and is affiliated with the Composite
Fabricators Association (CFA), a large trade group representing
businesses involved with fiberglass and related products.
I remember the ICPA when it was called the Cultured Marble
Institute. I spoke at the association’s convention in New Orleans
quite a few years ago, when some of its members began manufacturing
solid surface materials, and were in need of fabrication advice.
George Bush was president back then, and the United States was
preparing to go to war with Iraq. It seems that some things never
The ICPA held a first ever joint meeting with the International
Solid Surface Fabricators Association in Florida last November,
presaging more communication and cooperation between the two most
significant trade associations serving the solid surface industry.
For more information on ICPA, visit www.icpa-hq.org. For more
information on CFA, go to www.cfa-hq.org.
Art Betterley Enterprises
has offered specialized router systems to countertop fabricators
for decades. The venerable Betterley Coving Router, which came on
the market almost 20 years ago, was the first practical method for
creating coved backsplashes on solid surface countertops.
Using joint adhesive, the fabricator assembles three pieces of
solid surface material into a stair step detail at the intersection
of the backsplash and the countertop deck. The angled base plate
allows the router to machine a smooth cove into the stepped
In its original design, this router used a core box router bit
with a very long shank. Betterley now provides an improved router
bit for this application. Instead of a bit with a spherical head,
the new bit has a modified cone shape that creates a cleaner
machined surface in the coved area. The top edges of the flutes are
rounded slightly to prevent tiny steps in the deck or splash.
Another Betterley innovation is the sink hole cutout tool. This
is a router attachment used when trimming around the sink cutout of
a solid surface sink that has been undermounted beneath a solid
surface countertop. The innovation is that the guide bearing is not
connected to the router bit. Instead, it is mounted on a side arm
attached to the router base plate. This arm is attached to a large
ball bearing that allows the entire assembly to rotate freely about
the base plate as the router travels around the sink cutout. The
benefit is that there is no chance of the guide bearing failing at
high RPMs, since it is not attached to the router bit and does not
rotate on its own. Accordingly, the risk of damage to the sink is
Betterley is an old fashioned company that still doesn’t have a
Web site. For more information, call Betterley at
I have a Web site, though. If you have any comments or
suggestions about my columns, go to www.heaphy.com, and send me an
email. Your thoughts are always welcomed.