Alternative Materials Hit the Big Time

Among the many interesting engineered materials in EuroCraft Cabinets’ ever-evolving product mix are two lines of composite five-piece doors from industry giant Conestoga Wood Specialties.

“Our roots in wood doors go back 50 years -- and we are not going to abandon wood --  but we are putting a lot of resources behind alternative materials because we are not going to ignore where the market is going,“ said Jeff Eichenseer, director of marketing and product development at Conestoga Wood Specialties.

Conestoga began making big investments in specialized panel processing equipment (such as edgebanders that can handle 2¾-3-inch-wide frames and PUR adhesive lines) about a decade ago.

“I think we were a bit ahead of the market with alternative materials, but that has changed because of the acceptance by the large OEMs,” Eichenseer said. “For other companies to be competitive with them, they have to follow suit and establish their own offering.”

In addition to five-piece-doors made from MDF or MDF/wood hybrid, Conestoga offers two well-developed product lines of alternative engineered materials. In both cases, the doors are constructed so the grain on the stiles runs vertically and the grain on the rails runs horizontally -- creating the look of a solid wood door but priced 30-60 percent below the cost with finish.   

Thermo- Structured Surfaces (TSS)

Conestoga’s TSS line, called Strata, is made with Cleaf’s TSS product. The material offers unprecedented depth of texture, achieved through a variation on the process of manufacturing TFL. Standard TFL is made by fusing a melamine-impregnated décor paper directly to a substrate using heat and pressure. TSS production uses the same basic process to fuse a sandwich consisting of: melamine décor paper- underlay- composite panel core- underlay- melamine décor paper. The resulting two-sided decorative panel can receive a deeper impression from textured press plates.

“We are offering 26 colors of Cleaf’s TSS with seven different face textures for slab and three-piece doors, which is a pretty broad offering,” Eichenseer said. “Of the 26 colors, 18 are available in five-piece doors. The product line is getting a lot of interest.” 

DLV (Decorative Laminate Veneer)

The term DLV is sometimes used as a catch-all for a variety of materials, but Conestoga’s DLV line, called Allure, is a specific, well-developed product. It is available in five-piece doors, and the center panel is textured TFL.

        

“Late in the first quarter, we are updating our line with colors from Tafisa, Uniboard, Arauco and a manufacturer out of Italy,” Eichenseer said. “The same décor paper is taken through a different chemical bath to make it suitable for wrapping. Frames are made by wrapping molded lengths of MDF, starting and terminating within the panel groove where the center panel slides in to prevent delamination.”

Molded frames come pre-finished with an acrylic topcoat containing a UV inhibitor to ensure adhesion and color stability.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the alternative material lines,” Eichenseer said. “There are a lot of advantages to them. Shorter lead times. You don’t have to finish them. They are very durable and extremely stable in environments where there is a lot of change in temperature or humidity. There are some design limitations in terms of shape, but they are beautiful products at a much lower price point than wood.”