Välinge: Progress moves beyond locking systems to new design technologies

Home News Välinge: Progress moves beyond locking systems to new design technologies

Nov. 4/11 2013; Volume 27/number 14

By Steven Feldman

Viken, Sweden—Välinge Innovation was founded as a pioneer of the locking system technology so prevalent in hard surface flooring installations today. What may not be so apparent is the scope of the company’s true mission. As its full name implies, Välinge is all about innovation.

“We develop and patent new flooring concepts and commercialize them through licensing,” said Ulf Molen, director, fold down technology. “We first focused on locking systems, and now all concepts of flooring.”

Case in point: In 2012, Valinge quietly launched what it calls a new category of flooring—wood fiber technology, which it is branding as Nadura. The company refers to Nadura as a laminate/ceramic hybrid that floats using the patented 5G fold down locking technology.

The key difference between Nadura and laminate is that laminate’s paper wearlayers are replaced by three wood powder layers. The balancing paper has been substituted with a powder backing layer that keeps the product flat; the powder-based surface layer that replaces the printed paper consists of a high-quality top layer and a more cost-efficient sub layer. This allows for deeper embossing with limited pressure in an affordable way.

The dry powder consists of wood fiber, which is milled and sieved at Välinge’s facility here; melamine binder to keep it together; aluminum oxide for high abrasion resistance, and pigment to achieve the required color. Next, the powder is scattered on an HDF core board and stabilized. The panel is then turned, and a sub layer and top layer are scattered on the core surface, stabilized and pressed.

Updated scattering equipment allows powder application with better production tolerances and lower powder content. New powder qualities have also been developed based on the latest resin formulations that provide lower material costs and pressing time. Locally mixing, printing, and adding or subtracting material creates unique designs prior to the pressing.

Nadura offers superior performance, the company said, because the solid wood powder layer is fused into the HDF core, eliminating the layered construction associated with laminate floors. There are no overlays to succumb to abrasion, and no paper layers to compromise wear resistance.

Another advantage of this dry powder technology is the breadth and depth of design compared to traditional laminate flooring. “When we print on dry powder, we are not just printing on surface,” said Markus Adler, manager, surface technology. “The ink is penetrating into the powder. We can generate three-dimensional buildup. With laminate, there is a melamine overlay over the paper, so you get some haziness. Here, the printing is on the surface for clarity of design.”

There are other design benefits associated with this technology over laminate, Adler said. Those would include edge treatments on the top surface without penetrating into the core.

Aside from design, Nadura offers cost advantages over laminate. In fact, Adler said there is a potential for saving up to 30% on cost compared to traditional paper backing. “You don’t have to buy different types of overlays,” he said. “The amount of powder used can be adjusted to raise or take down wear and impact resistance to allow for good/better/best.”

Adler said Nadura provides a number of additional benefits when comparing it with other flooring products on the market:

•Laminate – Aside from clarity of visuals, Nadura “looks better with wear—just like stone.” And the moisture resistance is improved, especially around the edges where laminate can have issues.

•Ceramic – Nadura offers a more economical and accelerated installation, and the room in which it is installed can be used upon completion. As well, the floor is warmer underfoot.

•Hardwood – A wood floor must be refinished, but Nadura stands strong against everyday wear. In addition, a consumer can have a wood visual from Nadura in areas of the home where the real thing may not be appropriate.

Välinge sees wide-ranging commercial and residential applications for Nadura, including floors, walls, ceilings, kitchen tabletops, cabinet doors and furniture components. However, the product is not suited for use in areas where there can be standing water, like a bathroom or outdoors, because the core is made of HDF. Installation is similar to laminate, where an underlayment or attached backing for sound absorption is preferred.

Nadura is expected to compete against high-end laminate given its suggested retail price of $4.49 and $4.99 per square foot.

Because laminate and Na-dura can be manufactured on the same production line, Valinge is currently targeting laminate manufacturers to license the technology. The first licensee was Germany-based Meister Werks, which began marketing the technology and manufacturing the product in mid-2012. This past September it expanded its offering with a range of 10 floor and eight wall SKUs. As well, Swedish wood manufacturer Golvabea launched a small range in October with product manufactured by Valinge. Negotiations are ongoing with other European companies to license the technology.

5G and LVT

Välinge’s 5G fold down locking method on the short side of the board has become a world standard with more than 500 million square meters of flooring installed, including 225 million in 2012 alone. Why?

“Speed, accuracy, simplicity and performance,” said Per Plate, deputy manager, basic locking systems. “It’s good for the DIY market. Also, a mechanic can install more floors in the same time period, thus earning more money.”

The locking system has traditionally been used on laminate and hardwood flooring, and more recently on cork, bamboo, LVT and LVT on HDF for thicknesses ranging from 5mm to 22mm. The latter is where Välinge sees great opportunity as the category continues to take market share from all flooring types. Välinge’s locking profiles for LVT are characterized by a high locking angle—between 60 and 90 degrees. “The trend is following wood and laminate and moving toward easier installation and fold down,” Plate said. “One piece fold down and 5G have shown positive results.”

ACTiO2

Earlier this year it was reported that Lauzon was introducing a product called Pure Genius, which is based on a revolutionary purifying coating technology. That technology is ACTiO2, which is licensed from Valinge.

“The purpose is to provide a cleaner, greener indoor environment,” said Laetitia Kimblad, key account manager, adding that the name comes from the active surface (ACT) that uses titanium dioxide (TiO2).

ACTiO2 is designed to clean the air, minimalizing odors and other hazardous substances. It has the capability to break down harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and even toxic pollutants like NOx (nitrogen oxides) from engine exhaust.

What’s more, ACTiO2 breaks down all kinds of micro-organic matters such as bacteria, viruses and mold. But unlike an antibiotic, where an organism fights another organism and can create a more resistant strain, ACTiO2 creates no resistance from the organisms. Rather, it interferes with their metabolisms and destroys them. In other words, it breaks organic chains.

How it works: When a photocatalyst, in this case titanium dioxide (TiO2), absorbs ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or an illuminated light source such as fluorescent lamps, it will produce pairs of electrons and holes. These then form a powerful oxidizing agent that decomposes the ambient organic compounds into harmless water and carbon dioxide. The process is akin to photosynthesis in plants.

The technology is well proven in other industries, and Välinge is tailoring this concept for flooring. “It’s very big in Asia, and is now entering the market in Europe and North America,” Kimblad said.

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