Troubleshooting Delamination and Insufficient Bonding

Delamination and Insufficient Bonding

To minimize the occurrence of warped panel constructions during and after fabrication, it is crucial to recognize and understand the underlying causes.

Causes of Insufficient Bonding


The fundamental cause of warping is an unbalanced panel construction, where the individual components of a laminated panel respond unequally to changes in moisture content. Decorative HPL faces, substrates, and backer sheets, known for their differing expansion and contraction rates in response to humidity changes, contribute to the distortion of laminated panels. Rigidly bonding these dissimilar materials creates internal stresses, leading to warp when these stresses are not adequately counterbalanced within the panel’s construction.

Unbalanced Two-Sided Construction

Unbalanced constructions may arise from:

    • Different Expansion Properties: Warp occurs when the HPL face and backer sheet do not expand and contract equally with changes in moisture content. Despite their thinness, these materials exhibit sufficient strength and differential responses to ambient humidity changes, significantly impacting the flatness of the laminated panel.
    • Cross Orientation of HPL Sheets: Proper alignment of the HPL face and backer sheets is crucial, with their machine direction parallel to each other. If machine directions are crossed, a “saddle-shape” warp can occur, influenced by the anisotropic characteristics of the HPL laminates.
    • Improper Conditioning: Improper conditioning of component materials is a major contributor to warp in HPL panel constructions. Warp may manifest when different materials are not conditioned to the same relative humidity before being bonded together.

Speak to an Adhesive Specialist

Insufficient conditioning can exacerbate warp issues, especially when employing thin backer sheets. Thin backer sheets undergo more rapid conditioning than decorative faces and can contribute to warp if combined with partially conditioned HPL faces. In essence, a balanced panel construction is one that remains warp-resistant when subjected to forces arising from uniformly distributed moisture changes.

Key factors for achieving a balanced panel construction include:

  • Proper Conditioning: Ensure the appropriate conditioning of component materials before the lamination process.
  • Selection of Similar Expansion Properties: Choose HPL faces and backers with comparable linear expansion properties to maintain balance.
  • Alignment of Machine Directions: Lay up the HPL faces, and backers with their machine directions parallel to each other to prevent distortions, especially avoiding crossed machine directions.
  • Use of HPL Backer with HP Laminate: Always employ an HPL backer with the HP laminate during hot pressing to enhance the overall stability of the panel.

Temperature Effects

HP laminate and particleboard or MDF exhibit distinct reactions when subjected to elevated temperatures. In instances where thermosetting adhesives are utilized to bond an HPL sheet to particleboard or MDF in a hot press, the result may be severely cupped laminates. This occurs as the plastic HPL expands while the adhesive is in the setting process.

Delamination Issues

While not as prevalent as warp, delamination problems—partial or, in rarer cases, total failure of bonding between the laminate and substrate—can occasionally arise due to various factors:

Adhesive Factors

  • An inadequate amount of adhesive applied to the HP laminate, the substrate, or both.
  • Non-uniform application of adhesive, leading to areas with insufficient coating.
  • Incorrect adhesive tackiness—either too dry or not dry enough. Adhering closely to the manufacturer’s instructions on the optimum tack range is crucial.
  • Inadequate stirring of the adhesive before application to mating surfaces.

Bonding Conditions

  • Insufficient bonding pressure, requiring proper pressure to ensure intimate contact between mating surfaces until the adhesive sets. Care should be taken not to exert excessive pressure that could compromise substrate integrity.
  • Bonding materials that are too cold, as most adhesive manufacturers recommend a minimum temperature of 70°F (21°C).
  • High humidity (> 80% RH) potentially hindering proper bonding, particularly if the temperature is below 70°F (21°C), leading to moisture condensation during drying.
  • Contamination of bonding surfaces may cause delamination, emphasizing the need for clean, dry, and free-of-contaminant mating surfaces devoid of oily materials, dust, etc.

Addressing these considerations is crucial for preventing delamination issues and ensuring the successful bonding of HP laminate to particleboard or MDF under various temperature conditions. Working with an experienced adhesive supplier is the best way to ensure reliable bonding in your lamination process. Learn more about adhesion and cohesion failures and contact UNICHEM for customized assistance.

Universal Chemicals & Coatings, Inc., UNICHEM, is a leading provider of custom-developed coatings and adhesives. We offer troubleshooting solutions to help customers determine the cause of adhesion problems such as warp and delamination. Contact us with any questions and realize the advantages of having an adhesive expert on your team.