They don’t make the flooring products consumers buy; they provide the underlying technology that makes the floors they buy even better. That best describes inventive companies such as i4F, Unilin Technologies and Valinge Innovation—companies that continue to work closely with their manufacturing partners and licensees on everything from time-saving, waterproof locking systems to digital printing.
Following is a sampling of some of the technologies, solutions and innovations showcased at Surfaces 2023:
In response to its supplier partners developing new products across various platforms and constructions, i4F continues to put the spotlight on visuals and installation systems that mimic ceramic tile—right down to the grout line. With its True Grout for SPC/rigid core tiles and planks, the technology allows manufacturers to feature a middle grout line mimicking two tiles in one.
“This grout technology gives SPC and laminate suppliers an opportunity to compete against real ceramic,” said John Rietveldt, CEO. “Ceramic tile is too heavy, it consumes too much energy, it’s difficult to install and there’s no recyclability. Using our TrueGrout technology, suppliers of rigid core flooring and laminate can achieve the same visual without the shortcomings of tile.”
Speaking of laminate, i4F has tweaked its popular Click4U technology to further improve the product’s resistance to moisture and water incursion. Now, according to Rietveldt, water can no longer seep through the planks. “It’s one of the best flooring systems available in the market today,” he said. “Many manufacturers have changed the structure of their boards to make them more water resistant, but that makes the product very expensive. In conjunction with Classen, we have launched a technology called AquaProtect, which is sprayed during the profiling process—but only on the part that touches the locking system. It represents a huge savings for manufacturers.”
Visitors to the Unilin Technologies booth got a firsthand look at why the company is at the top of its game in the technology department. From realistic digital printing capabilities to cushion core technologies to waterproof coatings, there were no shortage of innovations on display. In fact, during the show, Unilin received citations for its technological prowess (see sidebar below).
An overview of some of the technologies:
Comfort Core. A new technology that integrates a soft cushion layer underneath the top layer(s) of resilient products in order to upgrade the sound characteristics of the floor while also improving ergonomics and comfort underfoot.
“You can almost compare it to walking on carpet, because the sound is much better than walking on traditional SPC,” said Floris Koopmans, sales director, Unilin Technologies. “It’s not only more sustainable and recyclable, but it also represents an upgrade in performance.”
Hotspotproof. This new core material for flooring has all the advantages of standard rigid products, including a click system and being waterproof, with the additional benefit of being extremely dimensionally stable. On top of that, this new core material is PVC free.
Light SPC. This core technology creates the solution for lighter SPC flooring without losing its performance. The look is the same, but the feel is up to 30% lighter, according to the company. In short, Light SPC enables the same board with less materials. Also, lighter SPC boards save on shipping and make installation of the floor much easier for the installer.
Unicoat. Unilin’s Unicoat water-repellent edge coating for flooring prevents liquids from penetrating into the joints of a floor and protects the floor from any long-lasting water damages. The coating, which is applied on the edges of the flooring board, provides optimal protection against water leakages and prevents damage seen in floors that have been exposed to excessive amounts of water over a long period of time.
The latest addition to Välinge’s family of 5G-branded technologies is 5G Cross, a new system designed to stabilize locking tile squares. In the past, SPC floating floors that were created in a ceramic tile format lacked the stability of their plank counterparts, according to Lennart Thålin, general manager, North America. With the introduction of 5G Cross, that problem is solved.
“We have developed a small cross/clip that we place directly in the section of the tile squares where the corners meet,” he explained. “This prevents up and down movement and keeps the corners from breaking off when they are walked on. With this technology, SPC producers can open up the market space and attack ceramic by mimicking how real tile is installed.”
Välinge also showcased 5G Climb, which allows SPC panels to be installed on vertical surfaces for accent walls. The innovative system utilizes special clips that allow boards to be seamlessly installed without adhering the panels directly to the wall. This makes for easy installation, change-out or repair.
In addition to that, Välinge showcased new advancements in the waterproof/water-resistant arena for SPC and laminate flooring alike. “We came up with a solution—a geometry change—where we create a seal or mechanical gasket that keeps any water or spills on top of the floor’s surface,” Thålin explained. “This prevents water from entering to the joints and seeping down to the subfloor.”
Other attractions at the booth included SPC panels featuring Liteback technology, which reduces board weight by 20%, according to the company. Välinge also showcased its Woodura hardened wood floors throughout the space.