Raw materials. All vinyl products are made from combinations of vinyl resin and various additives that give these products their particular properties. For more information on the vinyl resin process, see general vinyl section. Every flooring formulation is different and most are proprietary. Some of the additives commonly used in vinyl flooring include:
•Plasticizers, oily liquids that are used to soften the vinyl and provide flexibility to the formula;
•Stabilizers, used to minimize degradation and discoloration from heat and light;
•Pigments, which are added during the manufacturing process to give vinyl a range of colors; and
•Fillers, such as limestone or clay.
Processing/fabricating. Once the additives have been combined with the resin, the resulting material is called vinyl compound, and is in pellet form. The nature of the vinyl compound allows versatility in the production process, enabling manufacturers to meet many of the performance requirements of various flooring applications. In the next stage of manufacturing, either vinyl tile or sheet vinyl flooring is created.
Vinyl tile is manufactured by one of two methods:
•By melt-compounding the ingredients at high temperatures, then molding the hot material into the desired shape; or
•By using the calendering technique, in which the components are mixed together then fed through a series of rollers that gradually squeeze the material to the desired gauge. The calendered sheet is then coated to increase abrasion and stain resistance. Finished tiles are most commonly 1/8" thick, but are also made 1/16" or 3/32" thick.
Although the total process and product raw materials will vary depending on the type of tile being produced, solid vinyl tile and printed vinyl tiles in general contain a much higher content of vinyl and less filler than vinyl composition tile (VCT).
Sheet vinyl manufacturing process is as follows:
•Sheets are processed on large drums or made by coating a thin layer of liquid (comprised of vinyl resin, plasticizer, filler and other additives) onto a backing material. This method produces a multi-layered construction typically comprised of a backing, vinyl foam core, decorative layer and clear vinyl layer. The entire product is cured in an oven, then, in some cases, coated with a thin film of urethane.
Patterns are applied to some sheet vinyl flooring using the rotogravure printing method, in which colors and patterns are printed on the surface of the base layer; or by the inlaid method, in which the design goes all the way to the backing. With rotogravure, a rotating cylinder prints colored inks on top of the core layer, offering virtually unlimited possibilities in patterns and designs. The printed pattern is then covered with a clear vinyl wear layer and the product is oven cured. In the inlaid process, solid-colored vinyl chips are laid on top of a carrier sheet and then bonded together, under heat and pressure, creating the resulting pattern.
Sheet vinyl is available in continuous rolls between 6' and 15' wide, offering the advantage of installation with few or no seams in which moisture and dirt can collect.