SURFACING MATERIALS AND METHOD OF MANUFACTURE

Abstract:

A surfacing material includes a substrate having a top side and a bottom side. A matte surface is formed on the bottom side thereof, wherein the matte surface of the surfacing material is a coating of an electron beam radiation curable material applied to the bottom side of the substrate. The coating is an epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic laid upon the substrate. The epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is irradiated with UV-radiation to produce a UV-radiation layer wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is neither hardened nor is an entire layer of the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic crosslinked but rather the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is only crosslinked on the surface thereof, which produces a matting surface through the effects of a micro-convolution.


Publication Number: US20190077138

Publication Date: 2019-03-14

Application Number: 16154880

Applicant Date: 2018-10-09

International Class:

    B32B 29/00

    B32B 33/00

    B32B 37/26

    B32B 38/06

Inventors: Muyuan M. Ma Rajesh Ramamurthy Jin Chao

Inventors Address: Austin,TX,US Temple,TX,US Shanghai,CN

Applicators: WILSONART LLC

Applicators Address: Austin TX US

Assignee:


Claims:

1. A surfacing material, comprising:a substrate including a top side and a bottom side; anda matte surface formed on the bottom side thereof, wherein the matte surface of the surfacing material is a coating of an electron beam radiation curable material applied to the bottom side of the substrate, the coating being an epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the substrate, wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is irradiated with UV-radiation to produce a UV-irradiated layer wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is only crosslinked on the surface thereof, which produces a matting surface through the effects of a micro-convolution.

2. The surfacing material according claim 1, wherein the UV-irradiated layer is then subjected to an electron beam irradiation to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

3. The surfacing material according claim 2, wherein the UV-irradiated layer is further subjected to thermal curing.

4. The surfacing material according claim 3, wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness of not more than 150 microns.

5. The surfacing material according claim 4, wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness in the range between 30 and 100 microns.

6. The surfacing material according claim 1, wherein the substrate is a resin impregnated paper.

7. The surfacing material according claim 6, further including a decorative layer and a core layer secured to the substrate.

8. A decorative laminate, comprising:a decorative layer, the decorative layer includinga substrate including a top side and a bottom side; anda coating formed on the top side thereof, the coating being a UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the top side of the substrate;a core layer composed of one or more sheets of paper impregnated with resin.

9. The decorative laminate according claim 8, wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is then subjected to both UV radiation and heat to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

10. The decorative laminate according claim 8, wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness of not more than 150 microns.

11. The decorative laminate according claim 8, wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness in the range between 60 and 80 microns.

12. The decorative laminate according claim 8, wherein the substrate is a resin impregnated decorative paper.

13. A laminate lay-up, comprising:a release sheet composed ofa release sheet substrate including a top side and a bottom side; anda matte surface formed on the bottom side thereof, wherein the matte surface of the surfacing material is a coating of an electron beam radiation curable material applied to the bottom side of the release sheet substrate, the coating being an epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the release sheet substrate, wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is irradiated with UV-radiation to produce a UV-irradiated layer wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is only crosslinked on the surface thereof, which produces a matting surface through the effects of a micro-convolution;a decorative layer, the decorative layer including,a decorative layer substrate including a top side and a bottom side; andcoating formed on the top side thereof, the coating being a UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the top side of the decorative layer substrate;a core layer composed of one or more sheets of paper impregnated with resin.

14. The laminate lay-up according claim 13, wherein UV-irradiated layer of the release sheet is subjected to an electron beam irradiation to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

15. The laminate lay-up according claim 14, wherein the UV-irradiated layer is further subjected to thermal curing.

16. The laminate lay-up according claim 13, wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is subjected to both UV radiation and heat to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

17. The laminate lay-up according claim 13, wherein the substrate is a resin impregnated decorative paper.

Descriptions:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/680,679, entitled DECORATIVE LAMINATE WITH MATTE FINISH AND METHOD OF MANUFACTURE, filed Aug. 18, 2017, which claims the benefit of U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 62/377,017, entitled DECORATIVE LAMINATE WITH MATTE FINISH AND METHOD OF MANUFACTURE, filed Aug. 19, 2016.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to surfacing materials and methods for manufacturing the materials.

2. Description of the Related Art

High pressure decorative laminates are currently manufactured with smooth glossy surfaces, textured surfaces, or deeply sculpted and embossed surfaces. As general background, decorative laminates prepared by heat and pressure consolidation have been produced commercially for a number of years, and have found widespread acceptance in the building and furniture industry as countertop and tabletops, bathroom and kitchen work surfaces, wall paneling, flooring products, partitions and doors. These decorative laminates may be described as containing a number of laminae consolidated to form a unitary structure carrying a surface decoration. The surface decoration may range from something as simple as a solid color to something as complex as an embossed simulated wood grain finish.

Decorative laminates generally include plural layers of synthetic resin impregnated paper sheets bonded under heat and pressure to form a unitary structure. In normal practice, a decorative laminate sheet assembly, from the bottom up, includes a core of one or more phenolic resin impregnated sheets, above which lies a decorative melamine-formaldehyde impregnated sheet. The decorative sheet may be further covered with a melamine-formaldehyde impregnated overlay. The core, or base, functions to impart rigidity to the decorative laminate and usually includes a solid substrate which may, or may not, be formed prior to the initial laminating steps. Prior to stacking, the sheets of the core member are impregnated with a water alcohol solution of phenol formaldehyde, dried and partially cured in a hot oven, and finally cut into shapes.

The core may, for example, include a plurality of sheets of 90-150 pound phenolic resin impregnated Kraft paper. The Kraft paper is impregnated throughout and bonded with a substantially completely cured phenolic resin which has been converted to a thermoset state during the initial laminating step. The substrate may be a pre-cured plastic laminate, such as glass fiber-reinforced thermoset polyester resin laminates and the like, a wood product, such as hardboard, wood waste or particle boards, plywood and the like, a mineral base board, such as, cement-asbestos board, sheet rock, plaster board, and the like, or a combination of substrates.

The decorative sheet provides the decorative laminate with an attractive appearance. The decorative sheet also dictates the surface characteristics of the decorative laminate. For example, the composition of the decorative sheet dictates the decorative laminate's resistance to chemical agents, heat, light, shock and abrasion. Decorative sheets are commonly manufactured from high quality 50-125 pounds per 3,000 feet ream basis weight (80-202 grams per square meter), pigment filled, alpha-cellulose paper impregnated with a water alcohol solution of melamine-formaldehyde resin. The resin impregnated decorative sheets are subsequently dried, partially cured, and finally cut into sheets. The pigment filled, alpha-cellulose paper of the decorative sheet, may include a solid color, a decorative design, or a roto-gravure reproduction of natural materials, such as, wood, marble, leather, etc. The aesthetic characteristics of the cellulose paper are revealed as the laminate's decorative design upon completion of the decorative laminate.

Decorative laminates are generally manufactured by placing the resin impregnated core and decorative sheet between steel plates and subjecting the decorative laminate stack to heat and pressure for a time sufficient to consolidate the laminate and cure the resins (generally about 25 minutes to an hour). The pressure and heat force the resin in the paper sheets to flow, cure, and consolidate the sheets into a unitary laminated mass referred to in the art as a decorative high pressure laminate. Finally, the formed decorative laminate is bonded to a reinforcing substrate, such as, plywood, hardboard, asbestos board, particle board or the like.

Generally, more than one laminate is formed at one time. Multiple laminates are formed by inserting a plurality of decorative laminate sheet assemblies into a stack. Release sheets are positioned between the decorative laminate sheet assemblies to separate the various laminates stacked together. After consolidation, the release sheets allow the individual laminates to be separated.

Textured decorative laminates are also very popular. The textured surfaces range from relatively shallow depressions, such as, textured (e.g., satin, matte or semi-gloss) surfaces, to relatively deeply sculpted or embossed surfaces having a noticeable three-dimensional effect, such as, wood grain, leather, slate, abstract patterns, creative designs etc. The textured laminates are commonly manufactured using release sheets with the desired surface texture, which surface texture is imparted to the decorative laminate during the application of heat and pressure in the manufacturing process.

It has, however, been found that high pressure decorative laminates are susceptible to a build-up of fingerprints as the surface of the high pressure decorative laminate is touched during the course of the day. The fingerprints remain visible and can become highly distracting. Prior attempts to address this problem have relied upon chemically modified surfaces to achieve the purpose. However, such attempts have only led to limited success. As such, a need remains for a high pressure decorative laminate that is not susceptible to the build-up of fingerprints on the surface thereof.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is, therefore, an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material including a substrate having a top side and a bottom side. A matte surface is formed on the bottom side thereof, wherein the matte surface of the surfacing material is a coating of an electron beam radiation curable material applied to the bottom side of the substrate. The coating is an epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the substrate. The epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is irradiated with UV-radiation to produce a UV-irradiated layer wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is only crosslinked on the surface thereof, which produces a matting surface through the effects of a micro-convolution.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material wherein the UV-irradiated layer is then subjected to an electron beam irradiation to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material wherein the UV-irradiated layer is further subjected to thermal curing.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness of not more than 150 microns.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness in the range between 30 and 100 microns.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material wherein the substrate is a resin impregnated paper.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a surfacing material further including a decorative layer and a core layer secured to the substrate.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a decorative laminate including a decorative layer composed of a substrate including a top side and a bottom side. A coating is formed on the top side thereof, wherein the coating is a UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the top side of the substrate. The decorative laminate also includes a core layer composed of one or more sheets of paper impregnated with resin.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a decorative laminate wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is then subjected to both UV radiation and heat to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a decorative laminate wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness of not more than 150 microns.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a decorative laminate wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is applied to the substrate with a layer thickness in the range between 60 and 80 microns.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a decorative laminate wherein the substrate is a resin impregnated decorative paper.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a laminate lay-up comprising a release sheet composed of a release sheet substrate including a top side and a bottom side, and a matte surface formed on the bottom side thereof. The matte surface of the surfacing material is a coating of an electron beam radiation curable material applied to the bottom side of the release sheet substrate, the coating being an epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the release sheet substrate. The epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is irradiated with UV-radiation to produce a UV-irradiated layer wherein the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic that is only crosslinked on the surface thereof, which produces a matting surface through the effects of a micro-convolution. The laminate lay-up also includes a decorative layer including a decorative layer substrate having a top side and a bottom side. A coating is formed on the top side thereof. The coating is a UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic applied to the top side of the decorative layer substrate. The laminate lay-up also includes a core layer composed of one or more sheets of paper impregnated with resin.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a laminate lay-up wherein UV-irradiated layer of the release sheet is subjected to an electron beam irradiation to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a laminate lay-up wherein the UV-irradiated layer is further subjected to thermal curing.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a laminate lay-up wherein the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic is subjected to both UV radiation and heat to crosslink and harden the entire layer.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a laminate lay-up wherein the substrate is a resin impregnated decorative paper.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when viewed in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which set forth certain embodiments of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGSFIG. 1 is a schematic of a laminate lay-up in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.FIG. 2 is a schematic of a high pressure decorative laminate produced in accordance with the present invention.FIG. 3 is a schematic of a multi-laminate pressing assembly in accordance with the present invention.FIG. 4 is a schematic of a laminate lay-up in accordance with an alternate embodiment.FIG. 5 is a schematic of a high pressure decorative laminate in accordance with the alternate embodiment disclosed with reference to FIG. 4.FIGS. 6A and 6B are schematics showing the fabrication of the release sheet in accordance with the present invention.FIG. 7 is a schematic of a laminate lay-up in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.FIG. 8 is a schematic of the high pressure decorative laminate produced in accordance with the embodiment of FIG. 7.FIG. 9 is a schematic of a multi-laminate pressing assembly in accordance with the embodiment of FIG. 7.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein. It should be understood, however, that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, the details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for teaching one skilled in the art how to make and/or use the invention.

With reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, a decorative laminate lay-up 10 including a decorative laminate sheet assembly 12 (composed of an exterior overlay paper layer 16, a decorative layer 18, and a core layer 20 as discussed below in greater detail) and a texture imparting member in the form of a textured release sheet 14 (including a top side 14 t and a bottom side 14 b ) is disclosed. As will be explained below in accordance with an alternate embodiment, the decorative laminate lay-up may be assembled without an overlay paper layer. The decorative laminate lay-up 10 is used in the manufacture of decorative laminates 100 (see FIG. 2) in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The textured release sheet 14 imparts a textured matte surface 14 a (formed on the bottom side 14 b thereof) to a resulting decorative laminate 100, wherein the textured matte surface 14 a of the textured release sheet 14 results in a decorative laminate 100 that exhibits a matte appearance and is not susceptible to a build-up of fingerprints on the surface thereof. It is further appreciated the release sheet 14 also functions as a release mechanism between decorative laminate sheet assemblies 12 when subjected to heat and pressure in a conventional platen press manufacturing process. With this in mind, the textured release sheets 14 of the present invention may be used in gang processing of decorative laminates 100 or the present textured release sheets 14 may be used in the manufacture of single decorative laminate to simply impart a desired matte surface.

The decorative laminate lay-up 10 is assembled by first stacking a decorative laminate sheet assembly 12 having a top layer (which, as explained below, is preferably an overlay paper sheet 16). That is, the sheets used in the production of the decorative laminate 100 are stacked in preparation for the heating and pressure steps used to consolidate the laminate. A textured release sheet 14 composed of a substrate 14 s and a textured coating layer 14 c defining the textured matte surface 14 a is also prepared.

The process for producing surface effects in a release coating as disclosed in European Patent Application Publication No. 2527408, entitled Method for Producing a Film with a Matt Surface, which is incorporated herein by reference, is employed in the manufacture of textured release sheets 14 for use in accordance with the present invention. Briefly, the '408 publication teaches a technique for producing surface effects on a sheet. In accordance with the disclosed methodology a coating of an electron beam radiation curable material is applied to one surface of a web substrate, and subsequently cured (ultimately producing the textured coating layer 14 c with the textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet 14 in accordance with the present invention). The surface forming techniques of the '408 publication result in a film (or textured release sheet 14 in accordance with the present invention) with a textured matte surface 14 a . The textured matte surface 14 a exhibits good matting properties (and correspondingly low degrees of gloss as defined in and measured in accordance with DIN EN ISO 2813) having improved scratch resistance properties. Ultimately, and as will be explained below in greater detail, the film produced as a result of the manufacturing process disclosed in the '408 publication is ultimately utilized as a release sheet in the manufacture of decorative laminate.

The material produced in accordance with the '408 publication is sold under the name FENIX NTM. FENIX is described as a super opaque nanotech material that is an innovative interior design product, created by Arpa Industriale FENIX NTM combines elegant aesthetic solutions with state-of-the-art technological performance. The external surface of FENIX NTM employs nanotechnology and is characterized by next generation acrylic resins, hardened and fixed with electron beam curing.

With reference to FIGS. 6A 6B, the release sheet 14 of the present invention (as produced in accordance with the '408 publication), employs a solvent-free and non-aqueous lacquer (in accordance with the present invention the lacquer is preferably an epoxy acrylic or a urethane acrylic (also referred to herein as the acrylate mixture)) in the production of the textured coating layer 14 c on the substrate 14 s . The matte release sheet 14 employed in accordance with the present invention is produced through the implementation of a two-stage irradiation process. First, and with reference to FIG. 6A, the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 14 ea (which is ultimately cured to form the textured coating layer 14 c ) is laid, or otherwise applied, upon the substrate 14 s and the epoxy acrylic or a urethane acrylic 14 ae is irradiated with UV-radiation to a create a UV-irradiated layer 14 m . However, the irradiation is applied so that epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 14 ea is neither hardened nor is the entire layer of epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 14 ae crosslinked. Rather the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 14 ea is only crosslinked on the surface thereof, which produces a matting surface through the effects of a micro-convolution. In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the UV-radiation irradiates at a wavelength of approximately 200 nm-400 nm. It is, however, appreciated excimer emitter based on a Xe-emission spectrum is known, which might be particularly favorable for a large-scale production.

Referring to FIG. 6B, the UV-irradiated layer 14 m (on the substrate 14 s ) is then subjected to an electron beam irradiation to crosslink and harden the entire layer and form the final textured coating layer 14 c of the release sheet 14.

This procedure initially creates a shrinking process in the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 14 ea that ultimately becomes the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic textured coating layer 14 c and thus the desired matting directly on the surface of the resulting release sheet 14. The production of a textured matte surface 14 a is achieved according to the '408 publication with 100% lacquers, to which no separate matting agent (such as silica or the like) is added. The curing and cross-linking of the total layer by means of electron beam irradiation fixes the matte surface created by the partial curing and irradiation without influencing the matte surface in any adverse manner. The matte release sheet 14 produced in this manner is distinguished by outstanding matting properties, which gloss levels to less than 3 (measured in accordance with the cited DIN EN ISO 2813 and 60 geometry) or less than 5 (corresponding at 85 geometry) can be reached.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 14 ea is preferably applied to the substrate 14 s by a roller, with a layer thickness greater than 5 microns and up to approximately 150 microns (preferably, 30 to 100 microns). The substrate 14 s is selected from various substrate plastic materials such as polypropylene, polyester or the like, as well as films made of metal or paper material. In accordance with a preferred embodiment, a plastic film substrate of polypropylene, layer thickness 150 microns, is coated by flexographic printing with an epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic mixture to produce a coating thickness of greater than 30 microns and up to approximately 150 microns (preferably, 60 to 80 microns), wherein the acrylate mixture, in accordance with one embodiment, has the following composition as disclosed in the '408 publication:

100 TNeoRad U 6288 (a 100% UV curable resin, which can be(Parts)used in coatings and overprint varnishes for luxury packagingand high end promotional printing. NeoRad U-6288 offersbroad formulating latitude and high matte efficiency, workingwith most common matting agents. In particular, it is a UVcurable urethane acrylate. It exhibits good adhesion, hardness,yellowing and improved flow. It has high matte efficiency,very good flexibility and excellent shrinkage. It also exhibitssuperior chemical- and abrasion-resistance.).10 TEbecryl 5129 (a hexafunctional aliphatic urethane acrylate(Parts)oligomer which provides fast cure response when exposed toultraviolet light or electron beam. Cured films of Ebecryl5129 exhibit high hardness, abrasion and solvent resistancecombined with a good flexibility).40 TTiO 2 pigments(Parts)10 TMatting agents(Parts)where NeoRad U 6288 is a mixture of oligomer and monomer.

The acrylate mixture is preferably Ebecryl 5129 added with a proportion of 5 to 10 weight percent of the total acrylate mixture, and there are titanium dioxide pigments of an average particle size of 0.1 microns admixed as white pigmentation. The coated substrate is passed under an inert gas in a continuous (in-line) process under a 200-400 nm excimer emitter, with a typical feed of 60 m/min at 0.5 cm distance from the coating surface. The result is a surface matting of gloss 4 (60 geometry, measured as before) which immediately is subjected to thereafter an electron beam crosslinking (and hence hardening) of the acrylate mixture with a record of 30 kGy.

In accordance with an alternate embodiment, the acrylate mixture is as follows:

42%Ebecryl 294/HD 25 (an aliphatic urethane triacrylateoligomer diluted with 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate (HDDA)(1)monomer.).38%Ebecryl 5129 (a hexafunctional aliphatic urethane acrylateoligomer which provides fast cure response when exposed toultraviolet light or electron beam.).9%Ebecryl 8209 (a Sn-free aliphatic urethane acrylate oligomerwhich provides extremely fast cure response when exposed toultraviolet (UV) light or electron beam (EB).).5%HDDA/TMPTA (Hexanediol diacrylate (HDDA) is adifunctional reactive diluent that is commonly used as acomponent of ultraviolet light (UV) and electron beam (EB)curable coatings and inks. Trimethylolpropane triacrylate(TMPTA) is a trifunctional monomer used for its low volatilityand fast cure response.)2%Photoinitiator2%Cerafak 127N (a Fischer Tropsch wax dispersion. Providesimproved water repellence properties.).1%TBPB (tert-Butyl peroxybenzoate (TBPB) a chemicalcompound from the group of peresters which functions as aradical initiator in a polymerization process.1%Modaflow 9200 (an acrylic flow modifier, without siliconeaddition. It improves flow and leveling, substrate wetting, ormaintains high gloss and substrate and inter-coat adhesion,and facilitates pigment dispersion).

With the laminate sheet assembly 12 and the finished release sheet 14 prepared, the finished release sheet 14 is positioned on the top surface 16 a (in the case of the present laminate sheet assembly 12 it is positioned on the upper surface of the overlay sheet 16) of the laminate sheet assembly 12 to form the laminate lay-up 10. The release sheet 14 is positioned on the overlay sheet 16 with the bottom side 14 b (that is, the textured matte surface 14 a ) of the release sheet 14 facing the top surface 16 a of the overlay sheet 16.

Heat and pressure are then applied to the laminate sheet assembly 12 and the textured release sheet 14 using press plates in a conventional manner. The heat and pressure are applied in manner sufficient to bond the layers of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 12, and releasably bond the textured release sheet 14 (in particular, the bottom side 14 b with the textured matte surface 14 a ) to the top surface 16 a of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 12. The heat and pressure also effectuate the final curing where peroxide is integrated into the textured release sheet (as in the case of the second acrylate mixture embodiment disclosed above). Finally, the textured release sheet 14 is removed from the top layer 16 a of the formed decorative laminate 100 to reveal a decorative laminate 100 exhibiting desired matte texture characteristics.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, and as discussed above, the release sheet 14 is formed with a textured matte surface 14 a on the bottom side 14 b thereof (the texture of which is ultimately applied to the top surface 16 a of the decorative laminate 100) exhibiting matte surface characteristics leading to a fingerprint proof surface, that is, a surface not showing fingerprints and remaining clean and clear despite regular use. As discussed above, the release sheet 14 is preferably an acrylic coated polypropylene sheet, the acrylic coating of which is applied in accordance with the procedure disclosed in the '408 publication.

The texture of the textured matte surface 14 a applied to the release sheet 14 is ultimately applied to the top surface 16 a of the resulting decorative laminate 100 as texture 16 t resulting in a textured top surface 16 a of the resulting decorative laminate 100) with a matte surface. When the textured matte surface 14 a (that is, the texture) of the release sheet 14 is applied to the decorative laminate 100 as discussed below in greater detail, the top surface 16 a of the decorative laminate 100 is imparted with a texture 16 t (that is, the decorative laminate 100 is provided with a textured surface) the same as the texture of the textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet 14 making the laminate 100 less susceptible to the formation of annoying and undesirable fingerprints thereon.

Summarizing, when such texture 16 t is applied to the top surface 16 a of the decorative laminates 100 so as to provide for a textured top surface, the resulting characteristics result in the formation of a laminate not susceptible to the formation of annoying and undesirable fingerprints.

As the textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet 14 is ultimately imparted to the top layer (that is, the texture 16 t of the top surface 16 a of the overlay paper layer 16 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention) of the decorative laminate 100 formed using the textured release sheet 14, the resulting decorative laminate 100 is provided with a top surface 16 a having texture 16 t that is the same as that of the textured surface 14 a and will exhibit desired resistance to the formation of fingerprints.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, and as discussed above, the decorative laminate 100 includes an exterior overlay layer sheet 16, or top layer, a decorative sheet 18 and a core 20. While a specific layering pattern is disclosed in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the layering pattern may be varied, somewhat, without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

The overlay paper layer 16 is preferably a melamine-formaldehyde impregnated paper layer. The overlay paper layer 16 is preferably manufactured from a low basis weight transparent sheet impregnated with resin, for example, melamine-formaldehyde. The resin impregnated overlay paper layer 16 is subsequently dried, partially cured and finally cut into sheets. In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the overlay paper layer 16 is B-stage cured and is then coated with a UV curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic film 16 f that is also partially cured (and ultimately defines the top surface 16 a of the overlay paper layer) prior to the platen pressing process that ultimately completes the curing process. While the paper may exhibit opaque properties prior to heating and pressing, the overlay paper layer 16 in the final fabricated laminate is preferably transparent to permit viewing of the decorative sheet 18 positioned directly beneath the overlay paper layer 16. The overlay paper used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is a low weight basis alpha-cellulose paper with a high porosity for resin absorption. The decorative layer 18 is a conventional pattern sheet positioned directly beneath the overlay paper layer 16. When the decorative laminate 100 is fully heated and pressed, as will be discussed below in greater detail, the overlay paper layer 16 becomes translucent, fully exposing the decorative layer 18. In addition, it is the top surface 16 a of the overlay paper layer 16 which takes on the texture 16 t imparted by the release sheet 14. With this in mind, the decorative layer 18 is substantially responsible for the aesthetic appearance of the finished decorative laminate 100.

Decorative layers 18 are chosen from a wide array of sheets. For example, the decorative layer 18 may be a solid color (for example, white) or include an aesthetically appealing pattern. As discussed above, the decorative layer 18 provides the decorative laminate 100 with an attractive appearance. The overlay paper layer 16 and the decorative layer 18 also dictate the surface characteristics of the final decorative laminate 100. For example, the composition of the overlay paper layer 16 and decorative layer 18 help to dictate the decorative laminate's resistance to chemical agents, heat, light, shock and abrasion.

Decorative sheets 18 are commonly manufactured from high quality 80-202 grams per square meter ream weight, pigment filled, alpha cellulose paper impregnated with a water alcohol or water solution of melamine-formaldehyde resin. The resin impregnated decorative sheets 18 are subsequently dried, partially cured, and finally cut into sheets. The pigment filled, alpha cellulose paper of the decorative sheet, may include a solid color, a decorative design, or a photo-gravure reproduction of natural materials, such as, wood, marble, leather, etc. The aesthetic characteristics of the cellulose paper are revealed as the laminate's decorative design upon completion of the decorative laminate.

The core layer 20 is preferably composed of a plurality of phenolic resin impregnated sheets 20 a , 20 b , 20 c , although other materials may be used without departing from the spirit of the present invention. For example, the core layer 20 includes sheets of 120-323 grams per square meter dry phenolic resin impregnated Kraft paper. The Kraft paper is impregnated throughout and bonded with a substantially cured phenolic resin which is converted to a thermoset state during the initial laminating step.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the decorative laminate 100 of the present invention is formed in much the same manner as conventional decorative laminates. The layers are first stacked and placed between steel plates with the release sheet 14 covering the overlay paper layer 16. The decorative laminate lay-up (or stack) 10 is then subjected to temperatures in the range of 121 C.-160 C. and pressures of about 56.24 kg/cm 2 to 112.48 kg/cm 2 for a time sufficient to consolidate the laminate and cure the resins (generally about 25 minutes to an hour).

The pressure and heat force the resin in the paper sheets to flow, cure and consolidate the sheets into a unitary laminated mass referred to in the art as a decorative high pressure laminate 100 having the hydrophobic textured surface 16 t as described above which is imparted by the textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet 14. Generally, more than one decorative laminate is formed at one time. As shown with reference to FIG. 3, multiple decorative laminates are formed by inserting a plurality of lay-ups 10 in a stack. Conventional sheets 40 are positioned between the core lays 20 of the lay-ups 10 to separate the various decorative laminates stacked together. The textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet 14 is oriented against the top surface 16 a (in this case the upper surface of the overlay paper layer 16 as defined by the UV curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic film 16 f ) of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 12, be it the decorative sheet 18 (as discussed below with reference to an alternate embodiment) or the overlay paper layer 16, with the smooth top side (or back surface) 14 t of the textured release sheet 14 positioned against the steel plate 30. A standard release sheet 40 is positioned between the adjacent lay-ups 10 along the core layer sides. Upon pressing between suitable laminate press plates, the textured release sheet 14 imparts the matte texture 16 t described above to the top surface 16 a of the first lay-up layer (in this case the upper surface of overlay paper layer 16 as defined by the UV curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic film 16 f thereby creating the textured surface 16 t discussed above), and serves to allow release between the first lay-up and the adjacent lay-up. A platen press assembly, as is well known in the lamination art, provides the necessary heat and/or pressure during lamination. After consolidation, the release sheets allow the individual decorative laminates to be separated.

As discussed above, and with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5, the decorative laminate 100 of an embodiment of the present invention may be manufactured without the overlay. The decorative laminate 100 is manufactured with the formation of a decorative laminate lay-up 10 including a decorative laminate sheet assembly 12 composed of a decorative layer 18 and a core layer 20. The core layer 20 is the same as discussed with regard to the embodiments disclosed with reference to FIGS. 1 to 3. The decorative layer 18 is the same as discussed above with the exception that, after the resin impregnated decorative sheet is B-stage cured, it is coated with a UV curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic film 18 f that is also partially cured (and ultimately defines the top surface 18 a of the decorative layer 18) prior to the platen pressing process that ultimately completes the curing process.

The manufacture of the decorative laminate in accordance with this embodiment also requires a texture imparting member in the form of a textured release sheet 14 (including a top side 14 t and a bottom side 14 b ) as discussed above with regard to the embodiment disclosed with reference to FIGS. 1 to 3. Briefly, and as discussed above in detail, the textured release sheet 14 includes a textured matte surface 14 a (formed on the bottom side 14 b thereof) and applies the textured matte surface 14 a to a resulting decorative laminate 100, wherein the textured matte surface 14 a imparts the matte texture in a decorative laminate 100 that exhibits the matte appearance and is not susceptible to a build-up of fingerprints on the surface thereof. The release sheet 14 also functions as a release sheet between decorative laminate sheet assemblies 12.

The decorative laminate lay-up 10 is assembled by first stacking a decorative laminate sheet assembly 12 having a top layer (which, as explained below, is preferably the UV curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic film 18 f of the decorative layer 18). The textured release sheet 14 is also prepared.

In practice, the finished release sheet 14 is positioned on the top surface 18 a (in the case of the present laminate sheet assembly 12 it is positioned on the upper surface of the decorative layer 18) of the laminate sheet assembly 12 to form the laminate lay-up 10. The release sheet 14 is positioned on the decorative layer 18 with the bottom side 14 b (that is, the textured matte surface 14 a ) of the release sheet 14 facing the top surface 18 a of the decorative layer 18. Heat and pressure are then applied to the laminate sheet assembly 12 and the textured release sheet 14 sufficient to bond the layers of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 12, and releasably bond the textured release sheet 14 (in particular, the bottom side 14 b with the textured matte surface 14 a ) to the top surface 18 a of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 12. Finally, the textured release sheet 14 is removed from the top layer 18 a of the formed decorative laminate 100 to reveal a decorative laminate 100 exhibiting desired matte texture characteristics.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, and as discussed above, the release sheet 14 is formed with a textured matte surface 14 a on the bottom side 14 b thereof (the texture of which is ultimately applied to the top surface 18 a of the decorative laminate 100) exhibiting matte surface characteristics leading to a fingerprint proof surface, that is, a surface not showing fingerprints and remaining clean and clear despite regular use.

The texture of the textured matte surface 14 a applied to the release sheet 14 is ultimately applied to the top surface 18 a of the resulting decorative laminate 100 as texture 18 t resulting in a textured top surface 18 a of the resulting decorative laminate 100 with a matte surface. When the textured matte surface 14 a (that is, the texture) of the release sheet 14 is applied to the decorative laminate 100, the top surface 18 a of the decorative laminate 100 is imparted with a texture 18 t (that is, the decorative laminate 100 is provided with a textured surface) that is the same as the texture of the textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet making the laminate 100 less susceptible to the formation of annoying and undesirable fingerprints thereon.

In accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention, the textured release sheet 14 of the above embodiments, may be used in conjunction with different decorative laminate lay-up 210 employing a decorative layer 218 having a UV/thermal cured coating 218 c applied to a decorative sheet substrate 218 s . In particular, and with reference to FIGS. 7, 8, and 9, a decorative laminate lay-up 210 including a release sheet 14 and a decorative laminate sheet assembly 212 composed of a decorative layer 218 and a core layer 220 as discussed below in greater detail is disclosed. The decorative laminate lay-up 210 is used in the manufacture of decorative laminates 300 (see FIG. 8) in accordance with the present invention.

Although this embodiment discloses a decorative laminate manufactured without an overlay paper layer, it is appreciated the present invention may be adapted for decorative laminates including an overlay paper layer. In accordance with such a variation, the UV/thermal cured coating would be applied to the overlay paper layer instead of the decorative layer.

With reference to FIGS. 7 to 9, the decorative layer 218 of this embodiment employs a solvent-free and non-aqueous lacquer (in accordance with the present invention the lacquer is preferably a UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic (which is referred to below as the acrylate mixture)) in the production of the UV/thermal cured coating 218 c on the decorative layer 218. In accordance with a preferred embodiment, and as will be discussed below in greater detail, the decorative layer 218 includes a base composed of a melamine-formaldehyde resin impregnated decorative sheet substrate 218 s.

The decorative layer 218, and ultimately the decorative laminate 300, of this embodiment are produced through the implementation of a multi-stage curing process. The substrate 218 s of the decorative layer 218 is chosen from a wide array of decorative sheets. For example, the decorative sheet substrate 218 s may be a solid color (for example, white) or include an aesthetically appealing pattern. As discussed above, the decorative layer 218 provides the decorative laminate 300 with an attractive appearance.

The decorative sheet substrate 218 s in accordance with the present embodiment is manufactured from high quality 80-202 grams per meter squared ream weight, pigment filled, alpha cellulose paper impregnated with a water alcohol or water solution of melamine-formaldehyde resin. The resin impregnated decorative sheet substrate 218 s is subsequently dried, partially cured, and finally cut into sheets. The pigment filled, alpha cellulose paper of the decorative sheet substrate 218 s , may include a solid color, a decorative design, or a photo-gravure reproduction of natural materials, such as, wood, marble, leather, etc. The aesthetic characteristics of the cellulose paper are revealed as the laminate's decorative design upon completion of the decorative laminate 300.

Once the decorative sheet substrate 218 s is prepared (in a traditional manner) as described above, the UV/thermal curable epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea (which is ultimately cured to form the textured coating layer 218 c ) is applied upon the decorative sheet substrate 218 s and is irradiated with UV-radiation to a create UV-irradiated layer 218 m . In accordance with an alternate embodiment, the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea may be irradiated with electron beam radiation or by a combination of UV and electron beam radiation. However, and regardless whether UV-radiation is applied or electron beam radiation is application, the irradiation is applied so that epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea is only partially cured. The epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea is partially cured to the extent the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea is no longer tacky but before the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea is cured to the extent the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 218 ea begins curling due to too much curing.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 216 ea is preferably applied to the substrate 216 s by a roller, with a layer coating thickness of greater than 30 microns and up to approximately 150 microns (preferably, 60 to 80 microns), wherein the acrylate mixture, in accordance with one embodiment, has the following composition:

42%Ebecryl 294/HD 25 (an aliphatic urethane triacrylateoligomer diluted with 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate (HDDA)(1)monomer.).38%Ebecryl 5129 (a hexafunctional aliphatic urethane acrylateoligomer which provides fast cure response when exposed toultraviolet light or electron beam.).9%Ebecryl 8209 (a Sn-free aliphatic urethane acrylate oligomerwhich provides extremely fast cure response when exposed toultraviolet (UV) light or electron beam (EB).).5%HDDA/TMPTA (Hexanediol diacrylate (HDDA) is adifunctional reactive diluent that is commonly used as acomponent of ultraviolet light (UV) and electron beam (EB)curable coatings and inks. Trimethylolpropane triacrylate(TMPTA) is a trifunctional monomer used for its low volatilityand fast cure response.)2%Photoinitiator2%Cerafak 127N (a Fischer Tropsch wax dispersion. Providesimproved water repellence properties.).1%TBPB (tert-Butyl peroxybenzoate (TBPB) a chemicalcompound from the group of peresters which functions as aradical initiator in a polymerization process.1%Modaflow 9200 (an acrylic flow modifier, without siliconeaddition. It improves flow and leveling, substrate wetting, ormaintains high gloss and substrate and inter-coat adhesion,and facilitates pigment dispersion).

In addition to the curing facilitated by the application of the UV and/or electron beam radiation, the acrylate mixture of this embodiment requires a final thermal curing step to fully cure the coating layer 218 c . As will be explained below, the decorative layer 218, with the UV-irradiated layer 218 m thereon, is ultimately subjected to heat and pressure when the laminate lay-up is subjected to conventional high pressure laminate manufacturing through the application of pressure via press plates under traditional heating conditions. The need for the final heat curing results from the inclusion of peroxide in the acrylate mixture.

As mentioned above, the laminate sheet assembly also includes a core layer 220. The core layer 220 is preferably a plurality of phenolic resin impregnated sheets 220 a , 220 b , 220 c , although other materials may be used without departing from the spirit of the present invention. For example, the core layer 220 includes sheets of 120-323 grams per square meter dry phenolic resin impregnated Kraft paper. The Kraft paper is impregnated throughout and bonded with a substantially cured phenolic resin which has been converted to a thermoset state during the initial laminating step.

With components of the laminate sheet assembly 212, including the decorative layer 218 and the core layer 220 as discussed above, and the finished release sheet 14 prepared (as discussed above with reference to the prior embodiments disclosed with reference to FIGS. 1 to 5), the finished release sheet 14 is positioned on the top surface 218 a (in the case of the present laminate sheet assembly 212 it is positioned on the top surface 218 a of the decorative layer 218, that is the UV-irradiated layer 218 m ) of the laminate sheet assembly 212 to form the laminate lay-up 210. The release sheet 14 is positioned on the exposed surface of the UV-irradiated layer 218 m of the decorative layer 218 with the bottom side 14 b (that is, the textured matte surface 14 a ) of the release sheet 14 facing the top surface 218 a of the decorative layer 218.

Heat and pressure are then applied to the laminate sheet assembly 212 and the textured release sheet 14 using press plates in a conventional manner. The heat and pressure are applied in manner sufficient to bond the layers of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 212, and releasably bond the textured release sheet 14 (in particular, the bottom side 14 b with the textured matte surface 14 a ) to the top surface 218 a of the decorative laminate sheet assembly 212. The heat and pressure also effectuate the final curing of the epoxy acrylic or urethane acrylic 216 ea . Finally, the textured release sheet 14 is removed from the top layer 218 a of the formed decorative laminate 300 to reveal a decorative laminate 300 exhibiting desired matte texture characteristics.

In accordance with the present invention, and as discussed above, the release sheet 14 is formed with a textured matte surface 14 a on the bottom side 14 b thereof (the texture of which is ultimately applied to the top surface 218 a of the decorative laminate 300) exhibiting matte surface characteristics leading to a fingerprint proof surface, that is, a surface not showing fingerprints and remaining clean and clear despite regular use. As discussed above, the release sheet 14 is preferably an acrylic coated polypropylene sheet, the acrylic coating of which is applied in accordance with the procedure disclosed in the '408 publication.

The texture of the textured matte surface 14 a applied to the release sheet 14 is ultimately applied to the top surface 218 a of the resulting decorative laminate 300 as texture 218 t resulting in a textured top surface 218 a of the resulting decorative laminate 300) with a matte surface. When the textured matte surface 14 a (that is, the texture) of the release sheet 14 is applied to the decorative laminate 300 as discussed below in greater detail, the top surface 218 a of the decorative laminate 300 is imparted with a texture 218 t (that is, the decorative laminate 300 is provided with a textured surface) the same as the texture of the textured matte surface 14 a of the release sheet 14 making the laminate 300 less susceptible to the formation of annoying and undesirable fingerprints thereon. As such, the present invention provides a new product which offers a non-melamine formaldehyde surface.

In accordance with the present invention, the decorative laminate 300 of the present invention is formed in much the same manner as conventional decorative laminates. The layers are first stacked and placed between steel plates with a release sheet 14 covering the decorative layer 218 as described above. The decorative laminate lay-up (or stack) 210 is then subjected to temperatures in the range of 121 C.-160 C. and pressures of about 56.24 kg/cm 2 to 112.48 kg/cm 2 for a time sufficient to consolidate the laminate and cure the resins (generally about 25 minutes to an hour).

The pressure and heat force the resin in the paper sheets to flow, cure and consolidate the sheets into a unitary laminated mass referred to in the art as a decorative high pressure laminate 300 having the hydrophobic textured surface 218 t . Generally, more than one decorative laminate is formed at one time. As shown with reference to FIG. 9, multiple decorative laminates are formed by inserting a plurality of lay-ups 210 in a stack. A standard release sheet 240 is positioned between the adjacent lay-ups 210 along their core layer sides. A platen press assembly, as is well known in the lamination art, provides the necessary heat and/or pressure during lamination. After consolidation, the release sheets allow the individual decorative laminates to be separated.

While the preferred embodiments have been shown and described, it will be understood that there is no intent to limit the invention by such disclosure, but rather, it is intended to cover all modifications and alternate constructions falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.