September 7, 2016

Super Smart Surface Materials to Know About

New super smart and super strong surfaces are helping to lengthen the shelf life of everyday interior products while also cutting down on material use, waste, and energy consumption. From nanotechnologies to connected countertops, here we look at how manufacturers are incorporating new enhanced materials and surface finishes into everyday interiors.

Recent years have seen scientists developing tough nano-scale structures that can be fine-tuned to mimic coatings found in nature. One such material is Fenix, a self-healing hydro repellent thermo laminate surface that is soft to the touch. Its hyper-durable properties make it suitable for use across the interior from kitchen and bathroom products to retail, office, and contract business furniture. The surface was recently employed by Danish brand +Halle in the design of its new Nest tables by Form Us With Love, as well as by Cassina for its 1=2 tables by Jean Nouvel. In addition to being anti-smudge, anti-fingerprint, anti-bacterial and heat-resistant, marks and scratches on the surface can be erased on the application of heat.

When strengthened with resin, wood materials such as rattan and plywood inherit new performance-enhancing properties. For instance, German design firm Studio Out for Space has developed a new strengthened rattan material that is made by infusing the palm plant’s long capillaries with stabilising bulking agents that can also add color to it at the same time. Called Karuun, the new material is firmer, harder, and more affordable than comparable hardwoods. Similarly, OrganoWood pine planks used in architecture are a chemical-free, silicon-treated wood with rot- and fire-resistant properties. Corelam, a strong but lightweight plywood with excellent acoustic properties, is made by layering three pieces of veneer coated with melamine resin. In 2013, Bejamin Hubert successfully collaborated with the manufacturer to create Ripple, the world’s lightest timber table.

New ceramic composites such as Villeroy & Boch’s TitanCeram and Laufen’s Saphirkeramik are made by mixing materials such as quartz and minerals to create surfaces that are harder than their traditional ceramic counterparts, yet can be molded into precise angles and delicate shapes. In addition, specially developed coatings and baked-on glazes are making sanitaryware products more hygienic and easier to clean than ever before. Bathroom ceramics brand Laufen offers customers optional dirt-repelling and anti-slip surface treatments across all of its ceramic products, while Toto’s invisible CeFiONtect glaze provides a super smooth surface that helps prevent dirt and bacteria from collecting.

At this year’s NeoCon, Carnegie Fabrics won a gold medal for its new line of lightweight Atmosphere window coverings by Creation Baumann. Thanks to their metalized backings and the use of innovative yarn and weaving technologies, the fabrics help to control heat, glare, light, and sound in office spaces. Another groundbreaking launch is Wolf-Gordon’s Rampart, a collection of scratch- and dent-resistant wallcoverings finished with a specially formulated surface treatment called Surcoat. Described as a hybrid between standard vinyl wallcovering and rigid sheet goods, Rampart can be easily cleaned with soap and water as well as a variety of heavy-duty cleaning agents, disinfectants, and phenols.

Surfaces that can wirelessly charge devices have already hit the mainstream with brands such as IKEA offering up products like the Riggad work lamp with built-in charging pads. More recently, connected surfaces that interact with smartphones and tablets are starting to emerge. During Milan Design Week, Fenix NTM presented the FENIX NTM Empowered Panel, a surface that can be programmed to show audio, video, text, and links to websites via contact with an app. “The idea is to empower the experience of the user,” explains Sandro Marini, corporate communications manager and art director at Fenix NTM. “For instance, the table of a restaurant can have tags that link to the menu, the wine list, or a webcam showing the chef preparing the food in real time.” 

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