Opening the Doors of Opportunity: New markets for new materials

by Suzanne VanGilder

 

As a general rule, design sensibilities throughout North America vary with regional preferences and original concepts. Fashion is never stagnant and European stylings influence North American trends. The trend path is somewhat predictable, with fashions first landing in the multi-cultural region of Quebec and then filtering down the East Coast of the United States. As new ideas move throughout North America, they are embraced or modified to meet the local demands.

One such influence is the Euro-modern style for furniture and full-access cabinetry, which has opened the door for new surfacing aesthetics and the materials that deliver them. The latest line to be offered to North America – available through distribution by Richelieu – comes from the Italian company Krono System srl. The company was originally founded in 1976 under the brand Eurocomponenti by Mr. Silvio Montagner, who spent the previous 30 years running a business that supplied value components to important furniture manufactures and DIY chains throughout Europe. Weary of specifications that continually called for lower quality products and shrinking margins, Montagner reached out to European kitchen and furniture manufacturers to identify the most desirable design and performance characteristics for modern materials. He then collaborated with engineers and chemists to develop high-quality panels to meet those criteria, and in 2006, Krono System was born.

The panels are made from a proprietary polymer mix that addresses some of the common challenges that come with processing high gloss. Available in 60 standard colors of high gloss (100 gloss), 20 colors of matte (4 gloss), along with wood patterns and prints, Krono System’s panels are already widely used throughout Europe in office furniture, kitchen, bathroom, accent doors and exterior applications. There is also a line of panels called FaceStone made with fine metamorphic rocks and a product with an anti-bacterial surface for healthcare and educational applications. “Our company exports more than 60 percent of its turnover, so we are used to working with different cultures and tastes,” says Valentina Montagner, commercial director for Krono System. “We deeply analyze any market we face to understand its furniture habits, trends and colors. We listen carefully to what customers ask in terms of products and design, and are at the disposal of architects and designers who want to develop innovative products or projects. What we see from talks with distributors is an interesting growth of 20 percent per year for modern kitchens, especially on the East Coast.”

 

The Material

Krono Systems’ specialty material is a co-extrusion of acrylic (ABS) and PMMA (poly methyl methacrylate) bonded together with a proprietary adhesive. The resulting panel is 1.4 mm thick and provides the benefits of each material without the common issues. “The reason for co-extruding the two materials is to create a light weight sheet that is a good alternative both in terms of cost and weight to full acrylic,” says Montagner. “Yet it keeps the same features of high-gloss or super matte with the extraordinary capacity to be repaired (buffed) should scratches occur.” Krono System also offers a total anti-scratch panel perfect for furniture and store fixture.

According to Montagner, other acrylic products on the market are either remarkably thin (.08 mm) to keep costs low (which can result in telegraphing or “orange peel” that ruins the gloss surface when laid up on a substrate) or are 4mm thick with no substrate – resulting in panels that look great, but are costly and difficult to manipulate. At 1.4mm, Krono System’s sheets can be specified and pressed onto particleboard, MDF, or lightweight honeycomb board. The sheets can also be laid up on marine plywood and post-formed for wet environments. In fact, Krono System won a RED DOT DESIGN Award at interzum 2013 for a bathroom vanity application, featuring an anti-bacterial matte acrylic door with a patent-pending grip 30° post-forming profile.

The combined materials lend other advantages to the product, such as resistances to heat, water, stains and UV exposure (which prevents the sheet from yellowing over time). Unlike the traditional lacquering process used to achieve a mirrored high-gloss finish, Krono System’s panels emit no VOCs. Both thermoset plastics used to produce the sheets are biocompatible and fully recyclable.

 

Applications

“Krono System, the name itself, represents our intentions,” says Montagner. “’Krono’ means ‘time’ and ‘system’ means ‘service.’ Thus, choosing to collaborate means working with a modern company that offers innovative products and flexible solutions in terms of minimum order quantity and quick delivery.” In addition to the company’s large standard offering, Krono System can make the ABS/PMMA sheets to virtually any custom color specification. The company also collaborates with architects, designers and fabricators to develop product lines, often resulting in stunning store fixtures, furniture pieces, cabinetry, wall paneling and interior doors.

Although Krono System panels can be machined with typical woodworking equipment, they can also be specified with or without hardware, pre-edgebanded, or pre-drilled. “Any value-added process to our acrylic product is very easy,” says Montagner, “And we are always available to answer questions or train fabricators about the handling of any Krono System product.”

That educational component and commitment to service makes it easy for a wide variety of customers to integrate the high-gloss or super-matte look into an end product. “In Europe, one of the most popular product lines is modern, high-gloss interior doors that are ‘filomuro’ or ‘flush with the wall’”, “says Montagner. “Krono System will work with the customer to make product to exact specifications. So if a customer is a manufacturer, they can offer a collection of doors and finish them to order. If it is a contractor for multi-family homes or hospitality, they can get the look of a sleek modern door without having to do all the processing.”

By offering reasonably priced high-gloss and matte decorative panels through established distribution, Krono System is poised to meet North America’s increasing demand for sophisticated surfaces. The relative light weight of the panels – and durability that comes from the proprietary co-extrusion – add to the product’s allure. “It is a great opportunity for this new technology to enter Canada and the US,” says Montagner. North America’s design curiosity and affinity for new materials makes for a good product/market match. If the panels are as successful as anticipated, Krono System will consider setting up production in Canada, a presence that will create jobs and strengthen the local economy.