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Most people think of Corian, a DuPont product, as a solid surface countertop solution – intended for kitchens and office desktops. But Corian is an amazingly versatile material that can be used for a broad range of applications. Our pro fabricators at NextFab have been innovating with Corian for quite some time now, and they’re here to inspire you during your next project.

Students thermoforming at NextFab
Thermoforming at NextFab’s hands on workshop

On October 13th, 2015, NextFab and CH Briggs co-sponsored “Create with Corian!” – a hands-on workshop at our main location, 2025 Washington Avenue. The event was the third such workshop in three years, held in conjunction with Design Philadelphia’s annual week-long event. With a focus on both material and working technique, the event was a huge success.

Over sixty participants from the Architecture & Design (A&D) community stopped by to see Corian demonstrations in action at three stations: 1) milling and seaming, 2) sanding and polishing, and 3) thermoforming. Led by seasoned experts from NextFab and CH Briggs’ partner fabricators, the stations enabled our pros to describe and demonstrate several of the unique attributes of the material.

Close up of Corian maze designed by Chris Kolb at NextFab
Corian maze designed by Chris Kolb at NextFab for the hands on workshop

CH Briggs distributes Corian on the East Coast and has established a strong relationship with NextFab, allowing NextFab to provide Corian, a commercial product, to our members for prototyping and product development (non-warranty use) as well as to contract clients for fabrication. This relationship is also beneficial because it allows workshops such as the Design Philadelphia event and gives NextFab members access to NextFab’s and CH Briggs’ combined and diverse knowledge base.

Close up of milling Corian with the ShopBot CNC Router at NextFab makerspace
Milling Corian with the ShopBot CNC Router

NextFab’s John Haggerty has been a certified Corian fabricator since 1988 and continues to find new applications for the product. For this year’s DesignPhiladelphia, John adeptly imagined, designed and produced a smart phone holder, in the shape of a hand as a give-away. John’s design showcases the excellent milling qualities of Corian (it has no grain and mills very cleanly and smoothly) and its potential when thermoforming. After milling, each hand was heated in an oven, then expertly bent at temperature inside of a custom mold.

John Haggerty, Manager, Wood Processes: 
“It is really pretty and really heavy. I have made kitchen counters and several bars out of it as well as sculptures, some of them were thermoformed. It is easy to work with standard woodworking tools. I would like to explore some more artistic uses myself. NextFab had a jewelry making workshop using wood and Corian although nobody used the two together. One of the UArts students used it to make some multi-piece rings. We have several buckets full of samples of discontinued colors that members can experiment with.”

Translucent Corian with dye sublimation printing
Translucent Corian with dye sublimation printing, photo courtesy of CH Briggs

Corian is available in more than a hundred color and pattern options, including opaque and translucent finishes. This creates exciting options for lighting design and light integration in furniture, counter and wall applications. Dye-sublimation printing has been used to impregnate the surface of translucent Corian, creating a dramatic effect, like CH Briggs’ showroom cloud panels (above). The dye sublimation works like a tattoo, the ink impregnates the surface rather than sitting on top. Dye-sublimated Corian also has the advantage of being cleanable and makes it an interesting option in medical applications due to the hygienic nature of the material.

Corian bench/bicycle rack made at NextFab
Corian bench/bicycle rack, photo courtesy of CH Briggs

Brian Schooling, Sales Manager at CH Briggs, has worked with wood for over 40 years and has worked with Corian for the last 20 to create functional and scuptural objects. He finds Corian easier to bend and shape than wood and likes the ability to achieve a fine finish without the application of finishing products.

A great example of this is his Corian Salad Tong project (below).

Corian salad tongs made at NextFab
Corian salad tongs, photo courtesy of Brian Schooling, CH Briggs

Brian relates, “I use a band saw to rough cut the 1/4″ Corian blanks shape and then use a sanding disc and drum to sand the profile before heating the blank to a thermoplastic state in an oven. Using foundry gloves, I remove the blank from the oven and place in the two piece form. I align the piece in the form and clamp. Once cool, I begin final shaping the blank with files, sanding drums, disc sanders and abrasive paper. Using progressively finer abrasives the piece is honed to a surface that resembles bone versus  Corian sheet, as it has a cool and somewhat translucent appearance.”

Salad tong form made at NextFab
Salad tong form, photo courtesy of Brian Schooling, CH Briggs
'Hotlanta' Corian sculpture made at NextFab
“Hotlanta” sculpture, photo courtesy of CH Briggs

Ryan Hyde, Technical Supervisor, Wood Processes:
“Corian is an easily thermoformable material that performs best when evenly heated in an oven. It exhibits a lot of workability and is far less brittle than normal acrylic. I was able to literally tie strips of Corian into a knot… Something that would be very difficult with acrylic. The only difficulties I had were when I tried to bend Corian at a very sharp angle, and I think the bends could be accomplished if I had more practice.”

“The range of colors that Corian comes in is also pretty astounding.  It is easily machined with a CNC router.  It also sands and takes a high polish easily. I can see Corian having a prominent role in product/museum displays, and it could be very useful to event and wedding planners. Corian is a natural choice if you want a surface that looks identical to granite or marble, without the crazy price tag. It’s also a good choice for people looking for solid color surfaces, as it has a more natural look that other plastics cannot achieve. It’s a plastic, that doesn’t looks plastic!”

Corian with color-matching adhesives at NextFab makerspace
Corian can achieve a “seamless” look when using color-matching adhesives

Whether you are prototyping, making a one-off design or need fabrication services, NextFab’s experience with Corian sourcing, design and fabrication is a valuable resource. Please contact us if we can answer any questions or help you decide if Corian is the best option for your next project. And as always, we welcome your comments, insights, observations and process notes!