This article will explore the various materials that are commonly used in console room worksurfaces. Although similar in appearance, each surface material offers a different level of quality, which determines an array of important factors such as the console's longevity, durability, and resistance to wear and tear.
At Sustema we always opt for HPL in all of our consoles because we believe that it consistently meets the rigorous needs of our clients time after time. So what exactly is HPL? Simply put, HPL stands for High-Pressure Laminate. Typically, HPL is manufactured by taking 6-8 layers of kraft paper and applying glue and high pressure mixed with high heat to bind them together. The process leads to a long-lasting product. However, at Sustema, our way of applying HPL to our work surfaces is by using high-density particleboard respectively at a 1” thickness or 1¼” (depending on the console model) and then we glue an HPL panel supplied to us by our good friends at either Formica, Wilsonart, or Arborite.
Although HPL is typically pricier than its counterparts such as Melamine, for example, the advantages of HPL are obvious.
It can be applied to curved surfaces which is essential in the control room console industry
Durable and impact resistant
Stain-resistant (if you want stain resistance it’s better to go with an HPL with a Chemtop layer on top, see https://www.wilsonart.com/chemsurf-laminate
Anti-static, meaning that it does not attract things like dust and therefore is considered as a hypoallergenic material (https://panolam.com/esd-electro-static-dissipative/)
Alternatively, sometimes console surfaces are made with a material which is known as Melamine. What exactly is Melamine you might be asking yourselves? Well similarly to HPL, Melamine requires the use of kraft paper but this time only 1-2 layers of decorative kraft paper are used, which is then pressed onto a particle board and then sealed with resin. Unlike HPL which can be applied to curved surfaces, Melamine is almost always only available in a predetermined size and thickness (4X8 in size and 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, and 1″ in thickness).
Despite Melamine providing some advantages (affordability), the use of Melamine in the control room environment carries with it the following significant disadvantages.
Breaks easily when being worked on
The emissions can be harmful when cutting and processing the boards
Tends to swell and deform when exposed to water
Another material that often appears on control room surfaces is Compact Laminate. This product is an innovative material that offers a clean and low-maintenance finish. So what exactly is Compact Laminate you might be wondering? It’s essentially a material that is made up of layers of recycled paper fibers that have been coated with resin and then dried. After the resin has dried, the layers are then placed between two sheets of laminate and then undergo intense compression under high pressure and high heat until all materials are permanently melded together. These layers are stacked and sandwiched between laminate before being compressed under high pressure and heated to permanently meld together. From experience, the main reason clients choose compact is that you can have a thinner worksurface, that’s as sturdy as 1’’ or more particle board + HPL work surface, in half the thickness or less
Some of the characteristics of Compact Laminate are the following;
Resistant to fading
Resistant to most solvents, acids, and corrosives
Extensive color palette
Finally, we have what is known in the industry as 3D Laminate also known as Rigid Thermofoil (RTF). This material is typically used as a decorative surface that is either membrane-pressed or vacuum-formed allowing for the material to contour surfaces without requiring edge treatments. 3D Laminate is a master at replicating machined solid wood or other solid surfaces.
When purchasing consoles for your control center, it is important to look at every detail and not just the price or aesthetics. Too often, first-time console owners purchase a specific console without understanding what exactly it is they are buying. Unfortunately, that kind of purchasing behavior leads to unsatisfied customers, having to replace their console(s) sooner than anticipated due to the wrong material being used for their specific needs. That is why we at Sustema walk our clients through every detail and explain to them what materials are being used and what they can expect in terms of durability and life span. We go above industry standards to use the highest quality materials on all our consoles. From our reinforced steel bases to our HPL worksurfaces, at Sustema we offer a lifetime warranty because we know that our consoles are built to last. In addition to providing some of the most durable worksurfaces, we place great importance on console edging which is an often-overlooked element. In a previous article titled “Worksurface Edges for 9-1-1 Dispatch Consoles”, we discuss the importance of the edge of the work surface. Taking into consideration that the edge of any console is one of the main touchpoints between dispatchers and the console, it is fundamental that when buying a console, you ensure that its’ edge is designed specifically to your comfort needs.
In conclusion, the work surface should have as much if not more consideration as any other element when making your console purchasing decisions. In terms of durability and longevity, the worksurface plays a significant role in meeting your working needs and protecting your investment.