If you make consumer electronics and household appliances, function isn’t enough: Aesthetics are a top priority, too.

When a leading home appliance manufacturer recently tested shelves for a new line of refrigerators, the company ran into a glitch: The die-cast metal frames for the glass shelves were susceptible to corrosion. So Mar-Bal Inc., a compounder and molder of thermoset composite products based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, worked with the appliance manufacturer to design and test an alternative. Mar-Bal supplied more than one million shelf frames made from THERMITAL™, a thermoset composite with a physical vapor deposition (PVD) finish that resembles metal.

“Our solution won out because inside refrigerators there’s condensation, and with condensation comes the potential for corrosion and rust,” says Ron Poff, manager of global marketing and brands for Mar-Bal. “Thermoset composites gave the customer the look and feel of die cast, but with the added benefit of corrosion resistance.”

Mar-Bal THERMITAL Finished and Printed Knobs

It’s a challenge in the appliance market to balance functional requirements, such as thermal stability and heat resistance, with aesthetic demands. “The parts have to look good – and stay looking good – and they’ve got to resist hundreds of thousands of interactions with the owner,” says Marc Imbrogno, director of materials engineering for Mar-Bal Inc. “Dozens of times a day these knobs are touched and turned.”

Mar-Bal provides thermoset composite components for several consumer appliance brands, including Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, GE and Electrolux. “You can find a Mar-Bal manufactured component in anything in the kitchen or laundry room of a home,” says Marc Imbrogno, director of materials engineering for Mar-Bal. The company makes components that consumers see and touch every day, such as appliance handles, knobs, control panels, consoles and vent trim.