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.