A research project conducted in collaboration with RISE allowed Norwegian flooring manufacturer Alloc AS to improve their product and increase productivity by 15%.
The four-year project, designated Elephant Floor, commenced in 2013. Like all manufacturing concerns, Alloc was on the hunt for cost reductions or quality improvements – or preferably, both.
“We were facing strong competition from cheaper manufacturers. The aim of the project was to develop the world’s best laminate flooring with an attractive appearance,” explains Leif-Kåre Hindersland, head of R&D at Alloc AS.
Strong enough to resist scratching and impact
Laminate flooring is built up from a number of layers of different materials with a core of thicker kraft paper to provide stability. This is covered by decorative layer and an outer layer that contains wood fibres and ceramic particles, which must be strong enough to resist scratching and impact. This outer layer is itself a laminate of several different materials.
“From the outset, we were unsure of how these materials interacted. We therefore began by characterising the materials and describing their various properties,” says Gary Chinga Carrasco at RISE PFI.
“A large part of the project involved basic research into the laminate to investigate the disposition of particles using a microscope,” explains Leif-Kåre Hindersland.
One key issue was identifying methods to improve durability, an area in which the project has provided a number of answers. Although the project was able to confirm for Alloc that their working methods were correct, it was also possible to disprove a number of previous assumptions.
Reduced production costs
More specifically, the project led to the total number of layers of laminate being increased from between 16-20 to 26 layers being pressed in the same manufacturing process. This has led to a floor that is more resistant to scratches, as well as to a 15-20% increase in productivity. Not only that, but production costs have also been reduced. The project also resulted in a doctoral thesis that can also act as a lamination text book.
New project will look in to byproducts
In February 2018, Alloc AS and RISE began work on an in-depth project focusing on floor and wall products, with the intention of optimising manufacturing processes for the entire product, rather than just the outer layers. The project will also study how byproducts from the manufacturing process can be better utilised in a step towards a circular economy.
The four-year Elephant Floor project developed a new laminate floor with specific surface properties and optimised the manufacturing processes. The participants in the project were Alloc AS, RISE PFI and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The project was partly financed via the Research Council of Norway.