I would like opinions from those who use either polyester, acrylic or both for solid surface fabrication. The obvious benefit to polyester is cost, but is it worth the savings? I hear polyester breaks easier, has possible seaming problems, and scratches easier. I've found people who use only acrylic hate polyester based products, and people who use both have no problems with either. Anyone care to share their thoughts?
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
I use both and I pretty much hate most polyester products. I have had problems with the build up coming apart, seams fracturing, and - you're right - it is more brittle and can break easier. Also, it creates a lot more airborne dust when sanded. They have so many good acrylics out there, so why do polyester? I only do it when I am forced to by specs or for a box store.
In my opinion, the money you may save by purchasing polyester products will be lost due to hassles. One broken top can cost a whole lot more than the small percentage you may have saved on the purchase... multiple purchases, for that matter.
I agree about the extra dust, but it hasn't been a complaint by anyone we deal with. The price of the acrylics has now come down to where it should be (could never understand why it was so high to begin with, because I know the cost to make it). The big advantage of companies like ours is that you aren't limited by size, thickness, color, territory, or imagination.
Our product cracks from time to time. The acrylics crack as easily under the same circumstances. We have proven this through labs as well as our own testing. There are classes offered by all the major companies on how to fix these cracks (or other defects) that are inevitable when working with solid surface. One thing I noticed at ISSFA last February is that acrylic fabricators dread fixing the cracks with all the cutting and gluing. We have a technique that makes this a half hour on-site process. Our customers are amazed and very happy.
The product is very easy to work with if you commit yourself to it. From my understanding, most of the products have their own pros and cons. Each requires a little bit of an adjustment in technique. We have matched hundreds of colors from Corian to Avonite, but we also protect our own look, which is unique to the industry and shared with very few.
If you have a top that needs to be bent (thermoformed), you will need to use an acrylic material. Polyester will bend only to a certain radius, not as tight a radius as acrylic.
Yes, you do have to be a little more cautious moving polyesters around when moving the raw sheet. But once you add a piece of build up to an acrylic, you need to be just as careful when moving the top. The build up will stiffen the acrylic and if you twist the top a certain way, it will crack just as easily.
If you follow the rules and don't take short cuts, you will have success. The biggest problem seems to be that the acrylic boys don't know how to carry it. You must understand and eliminate stress risers. Even though we own a Streibig panel saw, I still use a tru-match on all seams. So many reasons. Quality is #1. It doesn't take much more time. If you consider the extra time it takes to sand misaligned seams, it is a real saver, particularly on 4' and longer. Stop using the belt sander and grinder for face sanding. It's a crutch and you will improve your skills and speed.
It is a different kind of material and you have to pay attention. We have installed hundreds of sheets without problems.
Comment from contributor L:
Acrylics and polyeters have more similarities than differences. Yes, blends are more brittle, create more dust when machining, and the seam interface for a polyester should be abraded since it is a mechanical bond.
However, polyester blends have some unique advantages including lower cost. They are more chemically resistant than acrylics. Acrylics are easily damaged by solvents and ketones (nail polish remover, acetone, thinners and other solvents), where polyesters are not. That is why acrylics are rarely used in dental applications - eugenol (a common dental reagent) degrades it (melts, and eats up acrylics) and the dental adhesives weld themselves to the acrylics and result in damage to the top when the technician tries to remove them.
The refractive index of polyester is a closer match to that of the ATH, which results in a greater depth, and colors and looks can be manufactured in polyester blends that are not possible in acrylic.
Also, acrlics tend to undergo much more creep in certain applications than do the polyesters (creep is deformation over time, like sagging under weight, etc.)
But well over 80% of the global market is acrylic, because of the ease of fabrication, thermoforming capability, and toughness of the acrylic product, but each type of chemisty has its place in the market.
We did extensive beta site testing between acrylic and a blend solid surface and found that for residential applications, the homeowner cannot differentiate between the acrylic and polyester products based upon performance.
1,312 Corian jobs with 2 issues.
319 Hi Macs with 1 issue.
97 Avonite with 3 issues.
407 Formica with 6 issues.
We feel we follow the fabrication requirements of each product, which limits our liability. Although issues are minimal across the board, the percent of problems are higher for the polyester based products. I also know much more care has to be taken when working with polyester, and we have more damaged material during shipping (both finished product to the job site and raw material shipments to us) with polyester.
Both products work, but in my opinion acrylic is the way to go unless your customer is set on a certain color in polyester. Take a piece of both and drop it on concrete from waste high...Polyester while break most of the time and acrylic will hold up 99% of the time.