I'm taking a class on solid surface fabrication this semester. No questions here - I just thought I'd talk about the class and working with solid surface material.
Just to define things first - solid surface is material like Corian or Staron. It can be worked with carbide woodworking tools. Our first project was to do a kitchen counter top, with a solid surface sink, coved back splash, a cut out for a cooktop, and buildup for the edge (to make the countertop look thicker).
It's been an interesting class so far. Although it's not that hard to work with solid surface material, it does require a lot of care when gluing up pieces, such as doing the buildup on the edges. If you're not careful, the glue joint will show, or in the worse case, you'll have a gap where two pieces fit together.
Additionally, the material is very heavy and difficult to handle.
According to the instructor, there's not much difference between the different brands of solid surface material - although almost everyone has heard of Corian - and may not have heard of the other brands. Also, Corian has the largest selection of colors - but it's the most expensive brand, by far - a sheet of Corian 30" wide and 12 feet long can go for anywhere between $300 and maybe up to $1,000 (I'm quoting figures he gave us). The price to the customer could be $40/sq foot or more, depending upon the color and pattern chosen (the cost of the material).
To buy any of the solid surface material, you have to be certified by the manufacturer. And to get certified, you have to be in business and have a shop - they're not interested in selling to "do it yourself" people. The reason is that each company warrantees the installation. But if problems are reported, and the problem is with the installation (including the fabrication), the installer is called and has to fix the problem. The manufacturer only pays if there's something wrong with the material or the glue.
Each sheet is numbered and the numbers are recorded when the fabricator buys it from the distributor. Additionally, the installer is supposed to register each installation with the manufacturer, giving the sheet numbers used. So if ten years later the manufacturer gets a call that a countertop failed, they can track back to who did the installation.
Anyway, I just thought I'd discuss this for those people who haven't worked with the material. I know several of the regulars on this forum have done solid surface so please correct or add your own comments. I find it an interesting class and wanted to pass along some of the things I've learned.