In Tacoma, Wash., 35 years ago, I was a grunt at a plastics company with no idea where my career path would take me. I spent a number of those years molding plastic components, modeling fiberglass, machining aerospace parts, and creating full-size 3-D models for organizations like Kenworth Truck Company. After all of that, who would have guessed I would now be spending so much time working with solid surface material?
It wasn’t until 1999 that I found out what exactly this solid surface was made of and what it could really do. When I started working in solid surface, I worked with DuPont Corian surfacing and I knew it was a countertop material, but I didn’t know what it was made of until my brother-in-law from Missouri sent me a chunk of this material and said he needed it machined for his newly remodeled dental office. After machining and working with the material my thoughts were, “Wow! This is amazing!”
It’s 10 years later in 2009, and I have a company located in Kirkland, Wash., that produces, among other things, DuPont Corian solid surface beyond the traditional countertop applications in significantly unique ways. Don’t ask our company to build and install countertops; that’s not our forte. Admittedly, there are excellent fabricators out there who are much better at building countertops than we are.
R.D. Wing Co. Inc. is made up of a team of “left-brain” thinkers. We look at solid surface material and ask ourselves, “What can we do with it that no one else is doing?” Since the company’s formal introduction to solid surface in 1999, we have developed and patented a process to produce Backlight Images, a trademarked 3-D photo-imaging process in Corian solid surface. We have also developed Patterned Surfaces, a process of creating patterns in solid surface and other nonmetallic materials from many different pattern sources, and are one of the first companies in the country to produce large-format Dye Sublimation in solid surface graphic panels. Most recently we have developed and perfected a process to create 3-D Sculpted Reliefs in solid surface.
All of this brings me to my point: If you think solid surface is still just for countertops, you’ve missed the recent explosion in the industry utilizing this versatile material for unique architectural components. You’ve also most likely missed a chance or two to grow your company and yourself in a niche market, and in times like we now face, passing on a job isn’t a luxury most of us have.
To demonstrate the point of working outside of the proverbial box, our company was recently contacted by Carapace Corporation, a Corian distributor for DuPont in Atlanta, Ga., to produce a unique and challenging architectural application in Alabama utilizing our 3-D Sculpted Relief process.
We had partnered with Oldcastle Surfaces in Birmingham, Ala., (one of those excellent fabricators I mentioned before who do great work in traditional solid surface applications) and PH & J Architects in Montgomery, Ala., and we set out to produce a series of science-inspired, large-format (45 by 65 in.) 3-D Sculpted Reliefs using 1-in.-thick Corian solid surface. The images were produced and installed in the newly renovated Calhoun College Math & Sciences Building in Decatur, Ala.
The selected images for the project were a DNA Helix, the Solar System, a Nautilus Shell, the Pyramids and Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. These 2-D images were utilized to create the finished 3-D Sculpted Reliefs.
Utilizing the approved images, we scanned them into our company’s proprietary software to re-create the 2-D images into a 3-D format. Once scanned, we were able to see the highest or thickest part of the solid surface for each image needed to be ¾ in. thick. Through trial and error, we literally “drew out” each image’s surface from a flat 2-D plane into a surfaced 3-D model that could later be CNC machined.