Melamine resin or melamine formaldehyde (also shortened to melamine) is a hard, thermosetting plastic material made from melamine and formaldehyde by polymerization.
In the kitchen
Melamine resin is often used in kitchen utensils and plates (such as Melmac). Melamine resin utensils and bowls are not microwave safe, as they absorb the microwave radiation and heat up. As with all thermosetting materials, melamine resin cannot be melted and, therefore, cannot be recycled through melting.
During the late 1950s and 1960s melamine tableware became highly fashionable. Aided crucially by the stylish modern designs of A. H. Woodfull and the Product Design Unit of British Imperial Plastics, it was thought to threaten the dominant position of ceramics in the market. The tendency of melamine cups and plates to stain and scratch led sales to decline in the late 1960s, however, and eventually the material became largely restricted to the camping and nursery market.
Melamine resin is the main constituent of high-pressure laminates, such as Formica and Arborite, and of laminate flooring. Melamine-resin tile wall panels can also be used as whiteboards.
Cabinet and furniture making
Melamine resin often is used to saturate decorative papers that are directly laminated onto particle board; the resulting panel is often called melamine and commonly used in ready-to-assemble furniture and inexpensive kitchen cabinets.
Melamine is available in different sizes and thicknesses, as well as a large number of colors and patterns. The sheets are heavy and difficult to work with, as the resin is prone to chipping when being cut with conventional table saws.