Las Vegas—They don’t manufacture or distribute any of the products that floor covering retailers sell. However, the innovation and R&D that installation system technology companies provide certainly improve the products suppliers offer to retailers. Many of these time-saving/game-changing technology innovations were on full display at Surfaces as companies like i4F, Unilin and Välinge Innovation conducted hands-on demonstrations of their latest patented technologies. Following are a few highlights.
i4F gave attendees a first look at True Grout for SPC/rigid core tiles and planks. The innovation allows manufacturers to feature a middle grout line mimicking two tiles in one. The grout is applied at the factory via the addition of a colored wear layer between the décor film and the core. Since grouts are directly milled into this additional wear layer, the risk of grout damage, color deviations, staining and the gathering of mold is eliminated, according to i4F. What’s more, this increased resilience outperforms both v-groove and traditional ceramic grouts in terms of wear and tear, facilitates the creation of staggered patterns and cuts total installation time in half.
Compared to a normal v-groove grout, tiles and planks featuring True Grout technology from i4F deliver enhanced visual aesthetics and more closely emulate the beauty of modern rectified ceramics with a grout for both floors and walls, according to i4F. Furthermore, True Grout is extremely durable and delivers demonstrable resistance to wear and tear, stains and chemical household agents. Tiles and planks with True Grout are very easy to install as well as replace, especially when compared to traditional ceramics.
“Floors and walls enhanced with True Grout technology not only look like real ceramic, but improve on the real thing by delivering stronger tiles and planks enabling greater design possibilities in any room,” said John Rietveldt, CEO.
That’s not the only innovation i4F showcased at the show. i4F has expanded its drop-lock technology portfolio with the introduction of a new, patented drop-lock system specifically
designed for an easier installation of herringbone panels.
According to the company, the new system facilitates the fitting of a herringbone panel’s short side into the long side of an adjacent herringbone panel. Disassembly is also significantly easier, which, in turn, helps facilitate any necessary replacements.
“Due to the more complicated nature of the installation, the placement or repair of herringbone patterns have traditionally almost been exclusively reserved for professionals,” Rietveldt explained. “Our new purpose-built herringbone drop-lock system makes it possible for more end-users to do it themselves, by making installation, disassembly and replacements very similar to more conventional flooring installation techniques.”
Anchoring on the perimeter of the sprawling Mohawk booth space at Surfaces, Unilin Technologies conducted both recorded and live demonstrations of its latest innovations in locking systems, grout technology and waterproof installation systems. These innovations, which are ultimately licensed to flooring manufacturers, aim to improve installation times, enhance durability and provide greater wear and surface protection, according to the company.
“We give companies the knowledge and necessary licenses to produce exciting innovative products,” said Floris Koopmans, sales director, IP, at Unilin Technologies. “The Technologies division of Unilin doesn’t sell the product themselves; rather, we open up the know-how and expertise for others to make it.”
Attendees got a chance to see innovations such as Unilin’s XPC, or “eXtreme dimensional stable polymer core.” According to Koopmans, it has all the advantages of an SPC—the look and feel of SPC and a click locking system like an SPC—but it is extremely dimensionally stable. It offers the performance of ceramic tile but has the thickness of an SPC panel. It’s also waterproof and PVC free.
Another PVC-free core innovation from Unilin Technologies is P-SPC, a circular flooring alternative made from PET that provides a more environmentally friendly construction while still offering the high performance for which SPC is known. The company also launched Comfort Core, which features a soft foam cushion underneath the top vinyl layer that improves the sound properties, ergonomics and walkability of SPC.
Unilin Technologies also took the wraps off SquareClic, a new innovation that enables more secure installation of square tiles. Heretofore, square floorboards often made checkerboard pattern installations challenging due to extremely tight tolerances and little wiggle room for error. According to Koopmans, the new SquareClic solves this issue.
Lastly, Unilin unveiled Unigrout, an innovative grout system designed for those installers and DIY consumers who prefer the look and feel of real grout on resilient flooring planks and tiles without the fuss and mess associated with applying grout to more complex ceramic tile installations. How it works: the planks utilize U-shaped beveled edges that look like a grouted groove without the mess. “It’s basically the closest you can get to the design of real grout, but you just click it and go,” Koopmans explained.
Välinge Innovation unveiled a suite of technologies designed to address some of the important issues faced by hard surface flooring manufacturers. These include innovations that address the trend toward higher material costs on the production side while improving installation techniques on the final phase of the sales process.
The first innovation comes in the form of a process that alters the construction of SPC products. Dubbed Liteback, manufacturers can create a product that’s 20% lighter— but no less durable—than traditional rigid core products. Resulting in a box that’s nearly 8 fewer pounds than standard cores, suppliers and their customers can save thousands of dollars in shipping costs. This is especially critical in today’s environment where supply chain issues are wreaking havoc.
“Liteback is seen as a revolution for the flooring industry —ushering in the era of sustainable resilient flooring,” said Lennart Thalin, regional manager, North & South Americas. “Through the removal of material from the core of resilient floorings, Liteback enables reduction of the weight of the final product up to 20%. All handling of the product thus becomes easier and more efficient: from reduced raw material use, to delivery out of the production unit, to the time of purchase and during installation by the end user.”
Another innovation from Välinge is Hygienius, developed as an “invisible” room cleaner. How it works: A hardwood or resilient floor with Hygienius integrated in its lacquer layer enables a natural photocatalytic process to take place when exposed to daylight or indoor light. This allows harmful emissions and unpleasant odors to be broken down as well as degradation of bacteria, fungi and even viruses on the surface. Hygienius also makes it easier to remove dirt, minimize unattractive moisture streaks and allows the flooring to dry more quickly, according to Välinge.