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Some plastics are easier to discuss than others. For example, although we recently wrote an article on the properties of polyurethane, most (if not all) people have at least heard of polyurethane and likely encountered it in certain consumer products like skate wheels. Industrial laminates, commonly called “phenolics”, are a different matter.

What are industrial laminates? You likely use them everyday, you just don’t know it. Have you ever seen the circuit board within your computer? The brown board the chips and wires are attached to is an industrial laminate. Phenolics have a use within many industries; however, they have a niche within the electronics industry due to their electrical insulating properties. Phenolics are made of alternating layers of resin and material: usually cloth, paper, or glass-based fabric. The resins used are epoxies, melamines, silicones and polyesters. These materials are sandwiched under extreme heat and pressure forming a solid thermoset plastic with many useful properties.

Key characteristics across all phenolic types include corrosion resistance, good electrical insulating characteristics and good machinability. Not only do phenolics come in sheet form, as one would expect from a laminate, but they can be filament wound into strong tube shapes useful as bearing material.

PAPER BASED laminates are used when electrical insulation values are the most important feature. They also have the benefit of being the least expensive industrial laminate.

CLOTH BASED m are selected when greater mechanical strength than paper laminates are required. Two primary cloth types are used: canvas and linen. Canvas has better mechanical strength; however, linen has a finer texture and is easier to machine.

GLASS BASED fabrics have the best overall properties. They do not absorb much moisture, have excellent electrical and mechanical properties.

Each resin has its own strengths and weaknesses as well.

Phenolic resin – Extremely hard, high load capabilities.

Epoxy resin – Virtually no water absorption, great electrical insulation, good temperature and chemical resistance.

Melamine resin – good solvent and chemical resistance, available in almost unlimited colors.

Silicon resins – Retain properties over a wide temperature range, bio-compatible.

Polyester resins – Low cost and good arc resistance.

We hope this has shed some light on the remarkable properties of industrial laminates. If you have any questions about Phenolics or our other plastic products please contact us.


CDN: 1 800 667 0999

USA: 1 866 733 2684

If you’re really interested in industrial laminates, we have posted a recorded webinar below released by the International Association of Plastic Distributors on phenolic materials.

Happy Holidays!