Paper doesn’t usually evoke images of solid structures and water resistance, and it doesn’t sound like a material you’d want to clad your building in. But American company Richlite has other ideas. Founded in 1943, the Richlite material was originally used by the aerospace industry, and eventually its hardiness translated into the food industry who were also able to make use of its sanitary properties. It’s durability was made use of to build skateparks and it’s water-resistance was tested and utilised in the construction of marine products. Today it is used for various interior projects and serves a multitude of architectural needs.
Richlite is paper, but it has been infused with resin (a split of approximately 65% FSC®-certified or recycled paper and 35% phenolic resin). To produce the durable material the paper rolls are saturated with the resin, cut to length and then stacked in alternating directions. These stacks are then pressurised with even heat, bonding the layers and curing the resin. The result when cooled is a simple and effective solid surface which can be manufactured into a variety of lengths and thicknesses from ¼” (6mm) to 3” (75mm) thick and sheet sizes up to 5’x12’ (3660 x 1525mm).
This crafty surface is an ideal candidate for use in place of known solid materials such as hardwood and steel. It can be custom shaped and designed and used for a huge range of products from exterior cladding to commercial countertops, and skate parks to fret boards. It is not only strong and weather resistant, but also abrasion and corrosion resistant, heat resistant up to 350°F (176°C), and is naturally antimicrobial.
The appearance of Richlite is down to its unique creation process – the subtle mottled texture comes from the fibers in the recycled paper and the resin affects the colour. Three ranges of colour options are available. Northwest contains eight natural and earthy shades chosen and named after landmarks in the Pacific Northwest. Heritage follows in a similar vein with three natural neutrals. Cascade makes a show of layers with embedded bamboo and varied layer thicknesses and colours which give a remarkable visual effect. Their Cascade range is also highly customisable, and the coloured layers make for incredible features.
This company is truly innovative, as a quick look at their Twitter feed will show you. They’re inventors of the modern time and truly inspire with their material’s unlimited potential.
Supplying the UK with Richlite is Surface Matter.
A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, June 2019.