Vinyl

Introduction

Vinyl is a versatile choice for floor covering that's most used in kitchens, baths and laundry areas. New technology now offers realistic luster, texture, and down-to-earth design with superior wear and stain resistance. It's not your grandmother's linoleum floor anymore!

Lifetime Flooring offers a good, better, best collection of easy to clean, beautiful products. Today's vinyl is more comfortable underfoot than any other hard surface product, and it carries exceptional warranties.

The vinyl industry is an almost $2 billion dollar a year industry. It comprises 14% of the residential flooring business. The industry had little growth during the late '90s, but vinyl flooring still has an excellent value for the dollar in the hard-surface industry. It has the most styling options of any hard surface.

Advantages of Vinyl:

  • Wide array of patterns, textures, and colors
  • Softness and resiliency underfoot compared to ceramic and hardwood
  • Highly stain resistance
  • Moisture resistant
  • Exceptional performance in high traffic areas
  • A floor for any budget
  • Easy to maintain and care for
  • Can be installed with less preparation
  • Absorbs sound
  • Inner core insulates against heat and cold

Types Of Vinyl Resilient Flooring

There are three types of Vinyl flooring: Tile, Sheet Vinyl Resilient Flooring, and High Performance Flooring (HPF).

Tile Resilient Flooring

These are flat, thin pieces of resilient material (such as cork, linoleum, rubber, solid vinyl, or vinyl composition) that can be installed as individual units and are used to cover floors. The surface can be smooth, textured, or embossed. Tiles are usually square, with sides of 9-24 inches. 12 by 12 inches is the most common tile dimension. They can also be long and narrow, which are known as "planks."

Sheet Vinyl Flooring

These are floor surfacing units in sheet form that have a uniform structure and composition throughout. They usually consist of vinyl plastic resins, plasticizers, fillers, pigments, and stabilizers. They may have a printed or inlaid pattern. It usually comes in rolls 6- or 12-feet wide, but there are some 15-foot varieties.

There are two types of Sheet Vinyl Flooring: Inlaid and Rotogravure.

Inlaid Vinyl

These are floors containing a vinyl plastic layer that consists of a blended composition of a binder, fillers, pigments, stabilizers and PVC resins. The vinyl plastic layer is fused to a felt backing during the manufacturing process. Commercial inlaid floors are nonporous and coated with a thin layer of wax. Inlaid floors used for residential application are manufactured with a non-porous pure vinyl wear surface fused to the vinyl plastic layer. The inlaid construction involves a process in which vinyl chips are heat-pressed through a stencil and go all the way through to the backing. The vinyl chips make up the actual pattern. The advantage of this process is that, because the pattern goes all the way through, it can't be worn away by surface traffic. However, when the wear layer is gone, the surface is dulled and must be coated with a wax-type finish to restore uniform luster. This type of vinyl lasts longer, as far as the pattern in concerned, but a finished look that lasts is determined by the wear layer, not whether it is inlaid or rotogravure. Most inlaid products come in 6-foot widths, because they are substantially heaver than rotogravure vinyl and consequently are much harder to work with in a 12-foot width.

Rotogravure

This is the process whereby designs are transferred from etched cylinders to the surface of sheet vinyl products during manufacturing. Up to 6 or 7 cylinders can be used in sequence to produce sophisticated, in-register designs. The Rotogravure process provides vivid colors, sharp crisp patterns, and 12-foot widths to reduce seams. The roto process is also less expensive to manufacture.

Before the process begins, chemists must check all the raw materials that will be used in the manufacturing process to be sure all criteria is met.

Step 1: Gel Coating

The first step in the manufacturing process begins with jumbo rolls of raw felt which act as a stabilizing sheet for the sheet vinyl product. Some manufactures use White Shield II Felt for felt backings. The felt backing ranges in thickness from 24 to 35 mils. These jumbo rolls of felt are thousands of feet long and are staged at the beginning of the coating production line. The sheet is first fed through a series of rollers, which create and release slack to permit continuous production operation. This roller arrangement is called an accumulator. This ensures that the felt or release paper continues to leave the accumulator at a constant rate.

Leaving the accumulator, the felt enters the first coater, where a gel coating is applied to the surface of the felt. Gel coats are applied to provide backing and cushion inner layers. Next the sheet enters an oven where the coating is partially cured or pre-gelled at a temperature up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to create a smooth printing surface. As the sheet leaves the oven, a monitoring device ensures that the exact amount of gel has been applied across the carrier surface. The sheet moves to a second coating station, where another application of gel can be applied, and then to a second oven where the pre-gel is partially cured.

Emerging from the second oven, the sheet passes over a series of steel drums filled with circulating refrigerated water which cools it to room temperature. The thickness of the vinyl at this point makes up the majority of the thickness of the product when finished. Thickness is measured by millimeters, known in the vinyl industry as "mils." 1 mil is equal to 1/1,000th of an inch, or about the thickness of a page in a phone book. 250 mils is equal to 1/4 of an inch of thickness. The more mils, the more cushion, strength, and usually the better the performance overall. Most all sheet vinyl products range between 20 to 60 mils in thickness at the gel coating stage, depending on which style is being manufactured. Prior to being transported to the next production step, samples are taken to ensure the quality of the coating process.

Step 2: Printing

Ink colors are developed by the designers in the product development department. Manufacturers uses water-based inks, which are environmentally-friendly. The colors and patterns are determined and prepared for the printing process. High-tech presses have up to seven controlled print stations, allowing up to seven colors to be applied to a pattern in one pass. The color is applied by engraved, printed cylinders. The pre-gelled sheet first enters an accumulator, and then it passes through a series of conditioning rollers that control the sheet's tension and print registration. Static is removed from the sheet using static eliminators, and the sheet is vacuumed to remove any surface contaminates.

The rotating cylinder with the pattern is bathed in a trough of ink, and a steel blade wipes the cylinder surface so that only the engraved areas retain the ink. The richness or intensity of the color is determined by the depth and type of cylinder engraving. When the cylinder makes contact with the pre-gelled sheet, the ink in the engraved areas transfers to the moving sheet. An oven above each print station quickly dries each application of ink before the sheet reaches the next station. As the sheet passes through several print stations, each cylinder adds pattern and color to the overall design.

Electric eyes read registration marks printed by the lead cylinder, and the computer uses this data to continually adjust the pre-gelled sheet to maintain color and print registration. The print thickness ranges between 1-2 mils thick.

Some of the inks contain a chemical retardant, which is responsible for the final embossing of the product. Embossing is a permanent, multilevel surface produced by mechanical or chemical means.

Chemical embossing occurs when chemical inhibitors are introduced during the print process (mixed in the inks or gel). It prevents the vinyl gel from expanding and allows the embossing to be in-register with the pattern or patterns of the product.

Mechanical embossing is a manufacturing process that produces sheet goods with a high-low surface. A mechanical process applies pressure to the surface of heated sheet goods to create texture in the wear layer. The mechanical embossing process generally produces random embossing. It cannot emboss in-register with a printed design.

Once the printing is finished, technicians carefully inspect the color for consistency from roll to roll, and production run to production run.

Step 3: Wear Layer Application

The sheet again winds through an accumulator, where it moves to a coater for the wear layer to be applied. The wear layer may vary depending on the product being manufactured.

For Prelude (without urethane) the construction is felt, cushion, print, PVC, and a urethane wear layer.

For Peacesetter, the construction is felt, cushion, print,  PVC, and a urethane wear layer.

For Ultima the construction is felt, cushion, print, PVC, and Ultrashield urethane surface with nylon and aluminum oxide suspended in the urethane wear layer.

Before application, the surface wear layer is filtered for impurities and is uniformly applied to the surface of the printed sheet. The vinyl-coated sheet then enters an oven. The pre-gel expands, and the wear layer is fused to it. The expansion of the pre-gel in the oven is controlled by a chemical agent in the gel, while embossing is controlled by the retarding agent that was applied.

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