What is the Best Work Surface Material for Manufacturing?

Choices, Choices, Choices — Formaspace Offers So Many Options

It’s true! Formaspace offers quite a number of different work surface options for our industrial strength work benches. How many? Well, when you check out our new Furniture Quote Generator you’ll see we actually offer 7 different work surface material options in our standard line of workbenches.


So How Do I Know Which Work Surfaces are Best for Use in a Manufacturing Facility?

removable table top with conveyor underneath
Custom Conveyor & Closable Table Combo

We can help. As you might expect, given our extensive client roster—which ranges from manufacturers such as Dell Computer and Boeing to Medtronic and Toyota—our Formaspace Design Consultants have lots of hands-on experience helping customers select the most appropriate work surface material for any given situation.

So we asked our Formaspace Design Consultants about their recommendation for work surface materials for manufacturing facilities and here are their recommendations:

If your manufacturing facility requirements are typical, you can narrow your selection down to these three different works surface materials:


  • Plastic Laminate
  • Phenolic Resin
  • High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)


Tip: These three materials are the top-selling choices for use in manufacturing facilities.


How Do I Pick the Right Work Surface for My Manufacturing Needs?

Now it’s time to narrow down your final selection. But how?

Again, we turned to the Formaspace Design Consultants who work with manufacturing customers every day, helping them decide between different work surface materials. They recommend using the following five criteria to help you decide which work surface material is right for you:


  1. Surface Durability
  2. Suitability for the Task
  3. Visual Appearance
  4. Initial Investment
  5. Turnaround Time


Let’s look at each of these criteria one by one:


1. Surface Durability: Phenolic Resin and Plastic Laminate Lead the Pack

When it comes to durability, Phenolic Resin and Plastic Laminate are the best choices for manufacturing work surfaces, so this information can help you narrow down your choice.

It’s not surprise that Phenolic Resin is one of our most durable work surfaces. It’s one of the original plastic materials, made by impregnating a base material with resin under extreme heat and pressure.

But it might surprise you that Plastic Laminate is also quite durable for manufacturing use as well.

A little explanation is in order.

The first key to getting longevity from Plastic Laminate work surfaces has to do with the edge design. The edges are the weakest area of Plastic Laminate work surfaces, so we always recommend you choose rounded edges. With the edges rounded down and out of the way from the work area, Plastic Laminate is less likely to crack and chip.

The second key to achieving long-lasting Plastic Laminate is to specify high-pressure laminate measuring 1 1/8” inch thick. The combination of a high-pressure manufacturing process and the added thickness assures a much longer lasting work surface. Rest assured, both of these are standard features of all Formaspace Plastic Laminate work surfaces.


Basix workbench with gray laminate countertop
Basix Workbench with Gray Laminate


2. Suitability for the Task: It Depends on Your Exact Manufacturing Processes

Our next criterion is suitability for your specific manufacturing task.

For all around use, both Plastic Laminate and Phenolic Resin are extremely durable; making them suitable for heavy-duty manufacturing applications.

But what if you need to prevent leaving scratches and scuffs on your work product, such as plastic assemblies, which are easily scratched during handling?

That’s when you might want to consider High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) work surfaces. They are relatively soft—which seems counterintuitive—but their relative softness is an advantage.  Just as diamond will scratch glass (and not vice versa), nearly all product materials are harder than HDPE, which means the HDPE work surfaces will absorb any scratches while protecting your manufactured surfaces from damage.

Chemical resistance is another consideration for some manufacturing processes. Here, Phenolic Resin is the top preferred work surface option. See our article on Chemical Resistant Countertops for more information.

Phenolic Resin work surfaces are also highly resistant to heat damage, so if your manufacturing processes involve high temperatures, this is your best choice.


3. Visual Appearance: Make the Right Impression in Your Manufacturing Facility

Making the right impression is important.

Fortunately, Formaspace makes it easy.

Whether you choose Plastic Laminate, Phenolic Resin, or HDPE, you have your choice of three standard colors: white, black, or gray.  You can also specify a custom color, allowing you to match or choose a color that works with your existing installation work surfaces, walls, or floors. You can also match the color scheme for your corporate logo or brand.

What about the visual appearance over the long haul? Plastic Laminate and Phenolic Resin work surfaces are extremely durable and will maintain their appearance for years to come.

However, because HDPE material itself is relatively soft, it will generally become scratched over time under heavy use, much like a kitchen cutting board. That’s considered an acceptable compromise because that’s the inherent tradeoff one makes when choosing HDPE work surfaces.

As we noted above in criterion 2 above, HDPE is inherently durable, yet it is softer than most other materials, making it an ideal work surface for protecting manufactured assemblies from becoming scratched. In other words, HDPE work surfaces are likely to become scratched—but your production items will be protected, which makes HDPE work surfaces the right choice for many manufacturing companies.


3. Initial Investment: How Do Work Surface Materials Rank According to Cost?

Price is an important consideration when choosing a work surface for manufacturing facilities.

Clients often ask: which is the least expensive material?

There’s no question about it: Plastic Laminate has the lowest upfront cost. In turn, HDPE costs a bit more than Plastic Laminate, followed by Phenolic Resin, which is the most expensive. Choosing a custom color also costs more than our standard colors (black, white, and gray.)

All three materials will provide manufacturing facilities with a long life.

Remember, our furniture is backed by our famous 12-year guarantee, which keeps you covered—even if your furniture is used by 3 different shifts working around the clock.


4. Turnaround Time: How Fast Can Formaspace Deliver?

Sometimes customers don’t have the luxury of time—they need their product delivered as fast as possible.

In this scenario, Plastic Laminate is the best choice. It has the shorter lead time.

Phenolic Resin takes the longest for delivery (around 4 – 8 weeks), and HDPE is somewhere in-between.

And, if you need your manufacturing work surface in a hurry, consider ordering one of our standard colors (black, white, or gray). Sourcing a custom color may add to the time required for your final delivery. Ask your Design Consultant for more information. They’ll be happy to quote you a price and delivery time estimate for your project.


Quick Summary:

Now that we’ve reviewed all the characteristics of work surface material options for manufacturing, here is a handy chart to keep track of the different properties for each one:





Turnaround Time

Plastic Laminate




Phenolic Resin









Contact your Formaspace Design Consultant Today for More Information

Ready to get rolling with your manufacturing facility project? So are we. Get in touch with your Formaspace Design Consultant today and get the answers you need to make your project successful.





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