Tech|Tips – 3DL: Milky “Stretch” Marks On 3DL Surface

Recently I worked with a 3DL component producer that was experiencing wrinkles across the width of very large parts. After working our way through the process the primary culprit was an excessively large membrane belly upon press closing. (See the previous blog)

In the process of working through one issue, another was created, albeit very briefly. Immediately after eliminating the large wrinkles by reducing the press temperature, preheat time and membrane belly, we began to see what looked like stretch marks. (more…)

Tech|Tips – 3DL: Wrinkling on Large Parts

Since the very beginning of my involvement in 3D Lamination, I’ve been aware of the problems associated with producing very long parts (4′ +) in a membrane press.  One of my earliest experiences providing technical support involved a part that was 4′ wide and nearly 8′ in length. “I can’t even get 1/3 of the parts to come out acceptably”, said this frustrated producer.

So what is it about long parts that make them so difficult? For starters, 3D Laminate tends to expand when heated, especially across the width of the material. As it expands, this excess material needs somewhere to go or it becomes a wrinkle on the surface of the product. When producing smaller parts, gaps between each of the parts allows the material to stretch out any excess that was created during the heating cycle.  With very large parts this excess has nowhere to go. The only solution is to eliminate the formation of excess material in the first place.

The process of eliminating these wrinkles can be a long and emotionally arduous task. The solutions will vary based on the press design, but one factor is a consideration among all of them, so we’ll start there.


Tech|Tips – 3DL: Recycling Used Membrane Material


An Array of Membranes in Multiple Colors | Smartech InternationalPreviously we discussed how a very risky use of scrap membrane material lead to an unusual defect and very high scrap rate for one 3DL component producer. That got me wondering how other companies are using their silicone or natural rubber membrane material once it is no longer suitable for use in a membrane press.

The performance characteristics that are required for 3D Lamination are very advanced. Commodity silicone and natural rubber sheeting would never do the job. Over time even high-grade membrane material will lose its elongation, tear strength, tensile strength, and heat resistance – all critical characteristics required for use in a membrane press. However, that doesn’t mean the material is not suitable for other applications where commodity level products are typically used. (more…)

Tech|Tips – 3DL: Diagnosing a Unique Problem

Recently I visited a fixture manufacturer that I had not been to in quite some time. The problem as described over the phone was “worms” under the 3DL in the profile of raised panel cabinet doors.  Upon arriving at the plant I witnessed something I had never seen in my 20+ years in this business.

Cabinet Door with Rippled Membrane | Smartech Online

Though this was a new one to me my thoughts immediately turned to the vacuum system. Maybe the vinyl was floating over the profile just before pressure was applied causing the 3DL to wrinkle in such an unusual pattern? Several tests and checks later and still no solution. (more…)

Tech|Tips – 3DL

Bill Formella with a Press | Smartech InternationalWelcome to a brand new service offered by Smartech International via our website at Tech|Tips – 3DL is a free service to benefit the entire 3D Lamination industry. From the basics for start-ups to rare difficulties with potentially devastating consequences, we’ll address industry issues via our Tech|Tip blog.

In handling various issues, I will rely on nearly 25 years of experience with every facet of the 3D Laminating industry including machinery, materials, supplies, as well as training and technical support. In addition, we’ll include thoughts from other top minds in the industry.

If you’d like to ask a question, send them to us with our website contact page. We’ll do our best to get to it in a timely matter and post our response for the benefit of the entire industry. However, we encourage you to explore your options for on-site training and support for critical issues requiring an immediate response.

Stay tuned as we will begin soon!

Bill Formella is President of Formella Contour Solutions and is the owner and moderator of the LinkedIn group Membrane Pressing & 3D Laminating Design. You can reach Bill at For more tips and ideas, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

More Choices – More Value

Four Solar DiaphragmsWe are excited that Steinbach has added two great choices to their Solar Membrane/Diaphragm/Blanket/Bladder line-up. For those of you that have been paying attention, that’s a 100% increase! So now in addition to Steinbach’s patented EVA-resistant Lamibran® Diaphragm and their equally popular grey, durometer 55 silicone, we are proud to provide two more options to PV Module manufacturers.

Blue, Durometer 50, Type STBB

Designed specifically for the glass lamination industry, this material has 350% elongation and high temperature resistance – up to 230°C. This of course makes it equally well-suited to the solar industry. Available in seamless widths up to 3500mm, Steinbach’s STBB silicone mixture will fit the largest of laminators. High cycle life and affordable pricing make this a great option.

Red, Durometer 58, Type STMB 3003

Best practices have shown that certain brands of laminators work best with stiffer diaphragms. If your laminator falls in this category, Steinbach’s STMB 3003 is available up to 3000mm wide. With a stiffer durometer 58 yet with 310% elongation, this material is ideally suited to the requirements of PV module lamination.

Both of these new materials have one smooth side and one with a texture. Customers tell us that using the textured side toward the panels doesn’t transfer the texture to the backsheet and helps prevent the diaphragm from sticking to the panels or the PTFE release sheet.

But this is only the beginning. In early 2017 Steinbach’s new 3200mm wide Rotocure D320 calendar will begin production in Germany. This new system will allow for incredible flexibility and innovation when it comes to flexible manufacturing materials. As the only Made-in-Germany supplier of wider silicone and other elastomeric materials, Steinbach is uniquely positioned to tailor their production to the solar industry’s needs and expectations. Contact us for samples and pricing!



Smartech Heads to IWF 2016

Revolving Roll Rack | SmartechHeading to HOT-lanta…
for the International Woodworking Fair

Every other year, Atlanta hosts the biggest woodworking industry party in the Western Hemisphere and we’re gearing up for a great show! Our 3DL cabinet, store fixture and component friends have been busy and the industry has an optimism not felt for quite some time.

Smartech is excited to set up shop on “Main Street” in the Machinery Hall B where we’ll be showing the super handy and easily affordable Revolving Roll Rack. Configured to hold 18 rolls of 3D Laminate (or any other rolled material) in a variety of sizes, this rack is still up for grabs. For a once-in-a-lifetime price, contact us before the show and we’ll even pick up all the shipping!

Smartech To Attend Intersolar 2016

Smartech To Attend Intersolar North America 2016 | Smartech InternationalCome visit Smartech in San Francisco during the Intersolar North America event in July! From July 13-16, the solar industry holds one of its greatest family reunions at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco, California. Smartech will be attending the event and positioned in Moscone West, Level One, Booth 7627.

At the event, Smartech will be introducing to PV module manufacturer attendees Steinbach’s two newest solar membranes. The solar laminator diaphragms are Steinbach’s Durometer 50 (Blue) Diaphragm and Steinbach’s Durometer 60 (Red) Diaphragm. Steinbach’s Durometer 50 (Blue) Diaphragm is available in seamless widths up to 3000mm (118”) and offers great EVA resistance, as well as both a smooth and a textured surface. Steinbach’s Durometer 60 (Red) Diaphragm is also available up to 3000mm (118”) wide and works well with Meyer Burger Laminators.

Most Common Uses of Textured Silicone Membranes

Silicone Membrane | Smartech internationalMembranes.

They come in every shape and size – with differing levels of thickness for the varied jobs you face.

They’re used in woodworking, for laminating doors and cabinets. They can be used for veneer and thermofoil (3D Laminate) pressing. The components of the membrane itself can be silicone or rubber.

However, silicone has different qualities than rubber, and so different uses. Here we’ll discuss some of the most common uses of textured silicone membranes.


Tips for Extending the Life of a Membrane

Woodworking Membranes and Silicone Blankets | Smartech InternationalAre you managing a project that requires membranes for 3D Lamination? We want you to be able to get the most out of your membrane pressing processes. As the North American partner for Steinbach Membranes, Smartech understands the importance of quality and improving your bottom line. That’s why we’ve compiled a fact sheet to help you get the most life from your membranes – whether silicone or natural rubber.

Check out these tips for extending the life of a membrane.

Membrane Preservation Tips

  • Cleaning. Lamination projects require the use of a clean membrane. If you find yourself needing to remove any dirt from your membrane, remember to use a solution that consists only of water and mild dish soap. Steer clear of solvents, mineral spirits, alcohol, and acetone. These solutions can weaken the membrane, potentially causing premature failure.