Panel Saw Chips Melamine Inside The Book

Voids between stacked pieces could be the culprit. April 10, 2005

We have an automatic beam/panel saw. At various times over the years and currently we have had problems with certain melamine panels chipping on the bottom side of the panels within the book (stack). The tops are not chipped, and the bottom of the bottom panel is not chipped (because it is first scored). We don't believe it is the saw because we can cut a different brand or color of melamine and it cuts without chipping. Have you experienced this problem and found a solution other than to return the material?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor A:
This is normally due to a variance in the thickness of the raw board. A beam saw as you know presses the material flat to get a clean cut. Any thickness issues cause air pockets in the stack. The best way to check this is to go to your local auto parts store and get what is called plastic gauge; it is a compression measuring material.

Lay several strings of this material with the book of material and let the machine dry cycle the book (not cut). After the dry cycle, remove the plastic gauge and note on the panels the variations in pencil. Rebuild the book and cut the panels in pattern that was dry cycled. Most likely, where you find changes in thickness, you will see your chipping.

From the original questioner:
Believe it or not, that is the only explanation I could think of. What I was thinking is that there are slight hills and valleys that would not allow the book to be compressed, because the chipping wasn't consistent across the panel.

From contributor B:
You make a very good point, but there is another possibility to cause hills and valleys and that is small chips and debris between the sheets as they are loaded on the saw. The following is from a previous post (dated 9/17) also talking about melamine chipping:

Re: Melamine Chipping
Mitch 9/20

Have any of you considered the fact that it might be the melamine itself and not the board or the tools? I have encountered that problem in the past. At a former employer we did our own melamine lamination because of the large volume we used. At one point some genius figured we could save about $1 per sheet by switching brands of melamine. The colors were good and texture was almost identical, but once that stuff got to the machines it sucked. It would chip along the entire route path and even around drill holes larger the 6mm.

What I learned in addition at that time, was that, not only the brand can make a difference, but also the age of the melamine before it is applied to the substrate can make a huge difference. As melamine ages it becomes very brittle. This also becomes a factor after it is laminated too. The longer the sheets lay around in the warehouse or your shop, the more brittle that melamine becomes, thus increasing the chip factor along machined edges.

From contributor A:
Very good point. When I referred to the raw material I was blanketing in the type of laminate or other surface product.

From contributor C:
The first thing I would do is a test to see if the melamine is overcured - a very common problem. Too much heat during the laminating process causes brittle melamine.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor D:
I agree with the poster who said it could be the melamine itself. I would use different brands at times due to different architectural specifications. I used to have a lot of problems with chipping that I could never put a finger on. Then one day I was cutting with a blade that I knew was a little dull, but still adequate. The chipping was nearing the point where I felt I would soon have to change out blades. Before I did I started cutting a different job using a different board. I was amazed when I discovered there was no chipping. The brand was Panolam. When I saw that, I knew my problems were in the board and not my saw or blades. I began using Panolam as much as I could. The cost per sheet was about $2 more (give or take) but it saved me labor and also money because I was not changing out saw blades as often.