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GOPODULAR! Article: Laminate vs. Melamine "Laminate"

Select the right encoder cartridgeDon't Fall For Creative Advertising

What does the word "Laminate" mean?  Well, simply put, it's "A sheet of material made by bonding two or more sheets or layers."  Put a puffy sticker on a piece of wood and you can advertise it as being laminated.  Put a stack of puffy stickers on and it is still laminated.  Glue a stack of wood together and that's laminate too.  So how do you know what you're buying?

For this discussion we'll focus on the options available for arcade control manufacturers to use for creating controller enclosures.  There are two basic materials.  HPL and LPL.

High-Pressure Laminate (HPL):

High-Pressure Laminate - several layersThis is the stuff kitchen and bathroom countertops are made of and commonly referred to as "Formica".  It is manufactured at 1400 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure, and 6 to 8 layers of kraft paper bonded with phenolic resin glue, then topped by a melamine plastic facing.  It comes in two basic grades, vertical which scratches easily and horizontal which does not.

When you purchase this laminate, it is generally not attached to wood.  Attaching it to wood is an entirely separate process.  This adds to both construction time and cost.  It should be attached to a dense substrate (base wood layer) for best results.  At GOPODULAR!, we use Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) as the substrate and horizontal grade High-Pressure Laminate.  This results in the most durable arcade controller possible.

Low-Pressure Laminate (LPL):

Low-Pressure Laminate - single layerAlso known as "direct pressure laminate" and commonly referred to as “melamine”, LPL is manufactured at 300-500 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure, the resulting product is a thin single melamine paper bonded to a substrate board. NOTE: “melamine” is the resin used to impregnate the paper covering and is not the resulting wood product.

When you purchase this laminate, it is generally attached to particleboard which has voids in the end grain.  To cover this, and any cuts made during manufacturing of the enclosure, it is common to use "edge banding".   Edge banding is a thin roll of melamine paper very similar to masking tape.   This is rolled onto the edge to cover the unsightly end grain.  For control panel enclosures, it is common for manufacturers to use T-molding instead.

Real Life Examples - Take a field trip:

Go to your local Home Depot, Lowes, or other large home improvement store.  Walk over to the kitchen remodeling area and take a look at the countertops they have there.   Check how thick the laminate is.  Ask for a sample of the laminate.  They have small credit card size samples that you can use to help choose a color for your home.   For this exercise, we don't care what color it is, it's just for comparison.

Now walk over to the melamine shelving units they have (usually near the closet organizers) and pull out your laminate sample.  Hold it up to the shelving and notice the difference.  Look around the base of the floor model for damage that has been caused by moving it around.

That is the difference in quality between a GOPODULAR! control panel and our competitors. 

Take out the trashNow go sit down for some fast food.  Don't go through the drive-thru, go in and eat.   When you're done, take a peek at the garbage container.  Sure people will think you are weird, but look at what kind of laminate they use for something that is going to be seriously abused.  Go ahead and compare it to your Home Depot sample.   It's the same stuff!

What's The Damage Resistance of Laminates?

Wilsonart is a manufacturer of High-Pressure Laminates used for floors and countertops.   They did some testing to show the potential for damage on various materials.   Here are the results for Low-Pressure Laminate, vinyl surfaces, and High-Pressure Laminate:

TEST ONE - Impact Resistance

Laminate planks were laid on Wilsonart Flooring’s 2-in-1 Pad and placed on concrete. A simulated can weighing 396g (the weight of a 14 oz. can of Campbell’s chicken soup) was dropped vertically from a height of 36 inches (standard countertop height) so that the simulated can impacted the surface.

Impact test results

TEST TWO - Constant Pressure Resistance

Two inch square samples were subjected to static load in accordance with AST F970. Loads of 2,000 psi were placed on each sample for 24 hours. After testing, samples were allowed to recover for an additional 24 hours in a room conditioned at 22c / 50% RH before inspection. After the recovery period, samples were inspected for damage.

Direct pressure test results

Comparing Arcade Enclosures:

Watch the wording of the advertisements.  Is the builder using "Laminate" to describe a Low-Pressure Laminate or a High-Pressure Laminate?   Are all surfaces covered in HPL?

You need T-molding.  Arcade machines had it and you should too.  But where should it go?  Why?  When you check our competitors products, ask yourself why they are using T-molding like they are.  If every edge of the controller has T-molding, you can be 99.9% sure that the enclosure is made of Low-Pressure Laminate.  The T-molding is there to hide the builders choice of lower quality materials.

How long do you want your arcade panel to last?  Don't make the mistake of having perfectly good controls falling out of a poorly constructed box.  Think of the Wal-Mart shelves.  How long do they last?  You don't even throw those around, they just sit there!


You're spending good money for commercial grade controls.  Why put them in a substandard enclosure that is prone to damage?  Don't wrap them in gift paper, wrap them in LAMINATE.


Available Arcade Control Panels Available Swappable Cartridge Encoders

Fighting Minions (US) - including "PC" Cart $225 "PC" $55
Fighting Minions (JP) - including "PC" Cart $250 "PS1&2" $55
Classical Minions - including "PC" Cart $225 "Xbox" $TBA
Combat Minions - including "PC" Cart $250 "X360" $75
Golf Minions $TBA "Dream" $55
Grid Minions $TBA "Cube" $TBA
My Minions $varies "Saturn" $55

Want a different cartridge than what is included?   Encoder Cartridge substitutions can be made at the time of purchase.
Just add/subtract the difference in pricing. (ie: changing from PC Cart to X360 = +$20, so Fighting Minions (US) with a "X360" Cart = $245).
USPS shipping for Continental US is ~$15-$20.  Includes insurance & delivery confirmation.


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