What is Richlite?
Richlite is a dense material made from partially recycled paper and phenolic resin. Phenolic resin is made of formeldahyde and phenol. Individually, these are potent chemicals, but create a harmless, inert substance when combined. The paper is soaked in phenolic resin, then molded and baked into net shape in a heated form or press.
The paper used by Richlite is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global non-profit organization devoted to encouraging and monitoring responsible management of the world’s forests. This adds to the sustainability of Richlite, as it comes from readily renewable wood resources, managed in a way that allows for growth to exceed harvest by 47% in North America.
Richlite is also certified for indoor use in residential, school and institutional environments by GREENGUARD Environmental Institute and under NSF Standard 51.
Originally distributed as a commercial kitchen surface in the 1950s, it has recently been adapted for use in skateboard parks (e.g., “Skatelite”), as well as various other applications, such as residential counters, fiberglass cores and limited architectural applications. Richlite is an alternative to Corian and granite counter tops.
The composition of Richlite is cellulose fiber and phenolic resin which is combined and baked for a smooth hard surface. The composition makes up the basic structure for Richlite. Richlite is made of natural fiber composites and treated with phenolic resin which is type of polymer. The natural fibers are made from plant, animal and mineral sources and therefore can have a varied amount of structures in itself. However most natural fibers are predominantly cellulose structure made up of continuous hydrogen and oxygen bonds.
Richlite’s microstructure cellulose atomic structure
- Cellulose derived from tree pulp is turned into large rolls of paper.
- The paper is then soaked in phenolic resin and goes up to a heating chamber to be dried out before being rolled back up.
- Then hundreds of these sheets are laid on top of each other and with the use of compression molding the stack is compacted while the individual sheets are cross-linked.
Because of the resin’s thermoset properties the resulting cooled material is hard.
Similar materials to Richlite are granite, Portland cement, brick, sandstone, and slate. When focusing on these more recognizable materials this graph studies these materials’ basic properties in order to illustrate its characteristics.
It was originally designed for the Boeing 747 for their air tables, hydroforming dyes, vacuum chuck faces, work holders, and proofing materials. Architecturally it is used for countertops. It has also been used for whalelite and whaleboard in their fiberglass boat buildings. The more commercial uses as cutting boards, prep tables, and pizza peels.
It has also recently been used to make guitar fretboards, instead of the traditional ebony or rosewood. Even such venerable manufacturers as Martin Guitars are now using this Green wood alternative.
High strength to weight ratio with chemical and thermal stability. Temperature resistance to 350 F. It has restrictive bacterial colonization. Similar aspects to wood, metal, and plastic. Low thermal expansion and high compressive strength and durability.