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Tufnol History

Tufnol Composites Ltd. is not a company that rests on its laurels. Since our inception in the 1920s we have prioritised the development and production of new materials, created special materials for specific purposes and generated many for bespoke customer projects.

Tufnol’s focus on quality and performance has helped to build confidence in a multitude of engineering sectors in relation to non-metallic materials and has contributed significantly to the wonderful achievements in engineering and technology from which the world benefits today.

How Tufnol laminates came about

Tufnol (from the two words, “tough phenol”) was invented by a team employed by George Ellison in the 1920s. Originally called ‘synthetic resin bonded paper’ or SRBP, it was created from layers of high quality kraft paper bonded together under high pressure with phenol formaldehyde resin. It was hard, strong and easily machinable.

The development of Tufnol laminates

Originally used for switchgear, new ideas for its use proliferated and it came to be used for thousands of applications throughout industry replacing metals like cast iron, steel, brass and bronze in the mechanical engineering industry.

During the second world war, the factory in Birmingham was key to producing a multitude of components for the war effort, including in the ‘Bombe’ equipment used at Bletchley Park to help decode messages from the German ‘Enigma’ machine.

Work done by the Tufnol Research and Development team set up in the 1960s has provided the basis for the modern, high performance Tufnol range available today. A new material made from polyimide resin that can survive exposure for long periods to very high temperatures was developed, creating another world-beating grade which effectively pushed out the leading edge of applications for which engineering plastics could be used.

The importance of the properties of the many Tufnol resin materials and laminates has ensured their acceptance in a multitude of demanding applications in the aerospace, marine, mining, railway, electrical, offshore and construction engineering sectors.

(Abridged from “A History of Tufnol” by R. Godwin.)

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