100 years of Formica® brand

Evolution of Formica ® brand

The history of the brand takes us to workshops of Westinghouse Electric in Pittsburgh (USA) in 1905, early twentieth century, when George Westinghouse acquired a Swiss paten to glue paper and mica with shellac resin to manufacture its electric insulators, Micarta. In 1907, Dr. Leo H. Baekeland developed a completely synthetic resin from a specific condensation for the manufacture of plastic items called bakelite. Continuing with studies for the production of electric insulators, in 1910, Westinghouse managed to press a heavy cotton fabric with liquid resin; this was the first step.

Deepening the research of this new product, in 1912, the two young employees of Westinghouse, the development engineer Daniel J. O'Conor and businessman Herbert
Faber businessman, saw for the 1st time the real possibilities of the laminate technology. They began to develop a material to replace mica (phyllosilicate), used at the time mostly in clothe-ironing devices. Using cellulosic material (kraft paper) instead of cotton fabric impregnated with phenolic resin subjected to high pressure and temperature, they obtained the laminate, ready to be cut in the most varied formats.

Convinced that this novelty opened a new horizon, O'Conor and Herbert Faber, in 1913, left Westinghouse, patented the product, registered it with the Formica ® brand, and founded on the 2nd of May, with the help of a lawyer and banker, John G. Tomlin, their own company. Formica Insulation Company, (the name Formica ® arose because the product was applied in place of mica - "substitute for mica").

The laminates that were produced only in black color, also began to be manufactured in brown color to better meet the needs of the time. With this movement, the brand diversified the application of its laminates beyond the borders of electrical insulators and components for the automotive industry, entering the new market of electronics such as radios, washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and coating of external surfaces of furniture. Noticing that the product had great potential in decoration, they decided in 1924 to further develop the product technology and hired expert Jack Cochrane with the mission to become the most attractive, colorful laminate, as well as closest to the consumers' taste.

They succeed in developing the decorative laminate that was durable and could be produced in virtually any color desired. With this, Formica ® leaped ahead of its competitors with two new patents for the production of a multilayer, lithographed such as wood, laminate. This was the starting point for market leadership of the brand.
The laminate products have become resistant even to cigarette burns, and in 1938, the resins became melamine formaldehyde-based, which enabled to improve strength, durability and the product appearance.

The laminate products began to be manufactured with seven sheets of Kraft paper impregnated with phenolic resin, a decorative sheet of melamine coat and a melamine
opaque sheet that became transparent after its cure in the flat press. Formica® has won major clients to strengthen its brand, such as the wall panels of HMS Queen Mary and the reading tables of the American Congress in Washington, D.C. Its innovations allowed the creation of laminate in light colors at a much more affordable
price. The company decided to expand its market based on the functionality of its products and started to manufacture table tops. The sales success was only interrupted by the outbreak of World War 2.

During the war, the company manufactured wooden airplane propellers covered with plastic and stopped to manufacture the support to specialize in the production of decorative laminate. The brand grew alongside the expansion of the real estate market and the laminate began to gain ground in kitchen covering in the pearl, marble, wood patterns and pastel shades colors were brought to life.

The company's aim was to introduce its products to homes, schools and other public buildings. Hundreds of laminate colors and patterns were available, the production of table tops went from 28,000 units in 1948 to 55,000 in two years.

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