Why ACM panels are more expensive than other Cladding Materials?

ACM panels

Exterior cladding systems for new construction and renovation projects have become a must-have architectural element for commercial or residential facilities. In contrast with traditional methods of simply painting structures, contractors and homeowners prefer to add functionality and support to their building’s facade using various cladding materials, including ACM panels, wood sidings, longboard sidings, etc. For homeowners on their first renovation or new building project, choosing the most efficient cladding system from the array of materials and styles that the market offers can be a daunting statement. If the project requires modernity and flexibility of exterior cladding, it will be challenging to choose between wood, vinyl, ceramics, and aluminum composite panels. The first thing that most people consider when selecting their exterior paneling system is the price. While building materials such as wood and brick tend to come in at about 3$-14$ per square foot, with high-end wood cladding, which is the most expensive system currently, ACM panels often cost anywhere around 15$-35$ per square foot. However, there are several reasons behind the relatively expensive cost of aluminum composite panels.

Advantages of ACM Panels that Make Them More Expensive Than Other Systems

Aluminum composite panels (ACM panels), also known as ACP materials, are created by bonding and securing two aluminum sheets to unique core material. These panels are designed and engineered to provide long-lasting durability for homeowners who want to invest their money in the new construction or renovation of buildings. Using ACM panels offers numerous benefits when used as a facility’s cladding material, making them relatively expensive than other cladding systems. These practical advantages are as followed:

ACM Panels Provide the Best Durability Among Cladding Systems

The production process of ACM panels for providing cladding systems is the key to their popularity. Two sheet metals adhere to a thermally resistant polyethylene core which often features thin characteristics. The resulting aluminum composite panels are lightweight, and molding or fabricating them into different demanding shapes and styles is relatively straightforward. These particular rain-screen systems consist of additional coating that enhances their waterproof property and protects them against dents due to high-impact weather conditions. Metal panel cladding products are all factory-tested for their ability to withstand various damaging external factors. All ACM panels that are adequately produced offer:

  • High wind loads resistance
  • Structural supports during precarious conditions
  • Presumption deflection
  • Air infiltration and leakage protection
  • fireproof characteristics (safety regulations require fire-resistant features for exterior cladding systems)
  • Moisture and humidity resistance (for buildings in locations with high humidity levels)

These characteristics of ACP materials make them unbreakable and impervious to tear or wear from the worst of weather conditions during the year.

The versatility of Aluminum Composite Panels

Other cladding materials such as wood, vinyl, and stone can provide unique visual aesthetics and appeal for architects. However, these cladding systems have a limited range of styles, making them challenging for creating a new and modern appearance for the building. For instance, the stone is often preferred for its rustic, rough appearance and cannot accept other paints or finishes, resulting in the color choice reduction for customers. Moreover, molding and fabricating stone and wood can be challenging due to the current designs featuring curves and modern looks.

In contrast with traditional materials, ACM panels are incredibly flexible and lightweight, making them the perfect materials for fabricating in different designs. Additionally, the light characteristic of ACP materials allows builders to install them more straightforwardly. Manufacturers can shape aluminum composite panels into circles and curves as well as more traditional rectangles or squares. Another essential factor making these cladding systems more versatile than other paneling materials is that choosing any color during the mixing and finishing stage is possible, allowing architects to select from any color under the sun to suit the aesthetic requirements for their customers.

ACM Panels Require Low Maintenance During Their Lifespan

Wood siding cladding systems that are entirely made from natural wood require regular maintenance. While the natural appearance is more appealing to some people, using non-composite cladding materials requires consistent painting, oiling, and finishing. Water infiltration and pests can easily cause several damages to these products, including splitting, erode, and cracks.

On the other hand, ACM panels don’t require regular maintenance, primarily when the building is located in temperate areas. Cleaning aluminum composite panels usually require a simple wash and buff for removing any visible stains. With the highly reflective nature of aluminum surfaces, ACP materials are incredibly resistant to tear and wear from UV rays existing in sunlight, allowing them to maintain their finish and appearance for even decades.

Rainscreen Construction Principle (Part II)

Rainscreen Construction Principle

Rainscreen Construction Principle basic idea is to have an exterior surface or cladding layer that can break the force of sideways, wind load, water movement, resulting in preventing water penetration into the building’s structure. For most of the buildings, from modern to traditional ones, water is the biggest enemy. However, producing a complete watertight cladding system is challenging. Thus, manufacturers started working on the rainscreen construction principle decades ago to provide better protection for the constructions in the city. Rainscreen comes in different styles and types. One of the most popular types is the ACM panels or ACP materials used widely in the modern era. These particular products offer numerous advantages along with their waterproof characteristics.

In the rainscreen construction principle part 1, we discussed the basics of these practical systems and their structure that engineers designed for better watertight characteristics. This article covers essential information about this principle that anyone in the building industry must know.

Rainscreen Construction Principle Types

The rain screen construction principle is based upon two distinct and separate barriers on the building’s cladding. The outer barrier controls most rainwater while the inner leaf performs multiple functions, including moisture and air barrier, insulation, and the structural wall. The outer section allows the water to penetrate through open joinery, and the volume of the penetration depends on the design principle. This is where two distinct types of products come into the picture: the Drained/Back-ventilated and Pressure-equalized/Compartmented systems.

Both rainscreen systems are available in ACM panels cladding materials and different siding for the facade. They use the principle of controlling water leakage without stopping it from penetrating through the exposed outer surface completely. However, the internal design of both systems functions differently based upon the approach. Moreover, the Rainscreen construction principle has been generalized and consolidated into one unified product in specifications combined with both types’ characteristics. For complicating and confusing matters, the water, and air resistance standards from the traditional building cladding systems are applied to these modern designs and specifications of the exterior material’s exposure. Placing the water and air tightness codes on the outer surface of the barrier contradicts the underlying fundamentals of the Rainscreen Construction Principle. Now let’s get to the fundamental of each system.

Pressure-Equalized/ Compartmented Rainscreen

In this article, we focus on the Pressure-equalized rainscreen principle, which is very design intensive. Please read the third part of this article to learn about Drained/Back-ventilated systems for ACM panels.

Pressure-equalized systems are susceptible to design variations and deviations from their design principle. The openings in this system are created uniquely for both static and dynamic pressure equalization allowance across the rainscreen. The essential factor that separates this system from the D/BV principle is the design and the use of the compartmented method within the cavity. The reason behind the compartment is that the pressure equalization can only happen within limited periods and in the case of controlled volume behind the Rainscreen system. This equalization is essential due to the none-uniformity of wind loads, constantly changing across a single cladding of a building.

The vent numbers and their geometry calculation depend on the cavity volume, allowing sufficient airflow in and out of the internal equalized area quickly enough to respond to the ever-changing wind loads. This promotes the pressure differences between the ACM panels or other types of panels used in the system and the internal compartment pressure resulting in equalizing the air pressure on the external cladding and the inner sides of the building facade. If the conditions exist properly, forces causing water movement will decrease; if not, they will be eliminated.

The effective area of the vent holes in this type of rainscreen construction principle depends on three factors which are:

  • The airtightness of the air barrier on the inner section
  • The stiffness of the cladding material and its inner leaf
  • The volume of the compartments that make up the internal air space

The compartments are the essential elements of a proper pressure-equalized rain screen principle. They come with crucial properties, characteristics, and functionalities. Followings are the reasons why these elements play an indispensable role in the PE systems:

  • They control lateral and vertical airflow.
  • They size the volume of the space that the vent openings must be designed for facilitation.
  • The most crucial role of compartments is limiting water infiltration and controlling the water drainage when air-pressure disequilibrium occurs.

The characteristics above show that rainscreens with non-compartmentalized cavities cannot be pressure equalized. However, many of this system’s construction factors and elements are almost similar to the drained/back-ventilated rain screen construction principle. Still, they have several significant and essential differences, which we have discussed in the third part of this article.

The Best Properties of ACM Panels

The Best Properties of ACM Panels

The Best Properties of ACM panels are what the building industry requires to improve cities and facility’s attractiveness and durability while satisfying construction regulations and standards. Aluminum composite materials or panels are modern construction and decorative products first invented in Germany in the 1960s. These materials take other traditional material’s place, such as cement and wood, in the market.

The best properties of ACM panels made other substances no so significant in the construction industry. Additionally, older and traditional materials are not environmentally friendly products, and they get damaged or even destroyed easily. Thus, architects and builders need new and valuable products to improve facilities with higher quality and resistance. ACM panels are the ideal solution since they provide a wide array of benefits.

What are Aluminum Composite Panels?

Before getting to the best properties of ACM panels, it is essential to know what exactly are aluminum composite panels. Like other composite panel materials, these products are made up of three necessary yet thin layers, including two Aluminum layers and one primary core material. Customers demanding projects can change the core substance since it can vary the product’s fire exposure behavior. For example, the core material may be a solid mineral or honeycomb filling, but the standard ACP products feature polyethylene or considerably combustible polyurethane substances.

The combustibility of the core material made issues for the past few years. Thus, manufacturers decided to change the core material for exterior cladding applications to prevent feature disasters. ACM panels are practical for applications where the project requires a mix of high structural materials. As a result, manufacturers create products with different yet high quality by using the correct core substance. The quality and the best properties of ACM panels have made various companies and manufacturers invest in the production process. The world statistics estimates that more than two hundred companies are active in the aluminum composite panel industry, and the numbers are still growing day by day.

Know the Best Properties of ACM Panels to Understand Their Value

As told, many companies and manufacturers spend their money on developing factories to create ACM panels. However, customers often want to know the reason behind this large-scale investment. ACP materials come with various advantages that made them famous. The best properties of ACM panels include:

Lightweight Characteristic:

ACM panels are one of the most lightweight construction materials in the building industry. This property of ACP materials makes them the ideal choice for cladding applications. Additionally, compared to other traditional materials such as brick, stone, and even other composite materials, ACM panels are considered the lightest.

High-Quality Surface:

Manufacturers and factories coat and cover ACM panels with two kinds of substances which are fluorocarbon and polyester. These two substances allow developers to create a high-quality product with a perfect surface. Additionally, aluminum composite panels are hard to break and can handle harsh external conditions for decades.

Durability:

One of the best properties of ACM panels is their durability. Every construction material should long last, and ACP manufacturers are aware of that. Thus, with the mix of zinc, magnesium, copper, and aluminum, they create stable products for cladding. This specific advantage of these panels shows up in advertisement projects where durability is in priority.

Fire Resistance:

Modern era construction regulations require so many different properties and factors. One of the common significant factors is the level of fire resistance of the building. Thus, if homeowners use fire-resistance materials, they can benefit from lower taxes. Modern Aluminum composite panels are covered with fire-retardant materials, which make them more fire-resistant products. Therefore, even if the product catches fire, it will not spread to other portions of the facility.

Sound Insulation:

Due to the sound pollution increment in the modern age, buildings require cladding materials to improve sound insulation and provide a more relaxed area for occupants and workers. Aluminum composite panels are the best materials for noise reduction purposes. This property is due to the arc type core in these materials, taking the sound waves and providing acoustic properties.

Thickness:

ACM panels are available in different thicknesses to satisfy any demanding project. Their gauge can be changed equivalent to the customer’s usage. Additionally, the core substance can affect the depth and the width of the panels. The overall thickness of ACP material varies from 3 to 6 millimeters. Generally, for cladding systems, manufacturers produce these materials with a thickness of more than 4 millimeters.

Flexibility:

ACP materials are famous for their flexibility and easy fabrication process. Manufacturers can easily bend, cut, fold and shape them. Thus, designers and architects can create limitless exteriors for buildings depending on the customer’s desires. Even if a piece of ACM is damaged and requires replacement, the homeowner can change only the panel with a problem since it is easy to install.

Among the best properties of ACM panels, other characteristics can be considerably beneficial for the construction industry, including being cost-effective, weather resistance, corrosion resistance, environmentally friendly, flat, and available in various colors and finishes for more satisfying designs.

How to Recycle ACP Materials?

Recycle ACP materials

ACP materials popularity is continuously growing within the construction industry due to its various advantages, including low price, energy efficiency, recyclability, and construction functionality. These materials have a unique design to satisfy renovation and rehabilitation projects in ventilated facades. ACP solutions can adapt to all fields of building and architectural applications. In this article, we will mainly introduce and concentrate on the recycling process of these panels. However, before getting to the process introduction, it is better to know the preliminary information about the characteristics and properties of aluminum composite panels.

Basics of ACP Materials

As it is evident, manufacturers utilize aluminum to produce ACM panels. Aluminum metal is a common element in nature, making it easier to find and extract for further utilizations. This material is located in many silicates, and then manufacturers extract it from the bauxite mineral and apply a complex procedure to obtain pure aluminum. Due to its low density and corrosion-resistant characteristics and being a perfect conductor, it is a suitable element for various industrial processes. Among its typical uses, aluminum materials’ mirror-like appearance helps designers create modern and sleek designs. Thanks to its physical properties, manufacturers can combine aluminum with other materials to produce new products, including ACM panels.

Uses of the ACP Materials

The most common usage of ACP materials is in ventilated facades. These cladding materials feature several layers that stand out for their effectiveness in solving insulation issues and make them a type of coating system for building’s exterior. Due to their physical properties, buildings can achieve efficient thermal behavior. The most notable thing about these ventilated facade systems is that they allow the construction to have a chimney effect between its exterior layers. The chimney effect generates continuous ventilation in the chamber while maintaining a stable temperature, resulting in greater energy efficiency than more conventional cladding systems. Thus, during winter, air circulation slows down and preserves the heat, while in summer, the heat gets evacuated, and the circulating air is renewed.

Recycling Process

The ACP materials are entirely recyclable, and despite their cost, the manufacturers of the world try their best to recycle these materials and not to throw them away directly. The high inherent value of aluminum materials is a significant economic stimulus for its recycling. Aluminum composite panels scarp can repeatedly be recycled without decreasing their value or diminishing their physical properties. Additionally, the energy that manufacturers utilize to complete the recycling process is a mere fraction of primary production requirements. The process involves a few but essential steps and requires machines to meet the recycling procedure. The method of aluminum composite panels recycling working as follows:

Crushing: The first step of recycling is cutting the aluminum composite panel into smaller pieces. This is done to provide easier workflow due to the large size of these panels. Without cutting ACP materials, there is no way to start the recycling procedure.

Grinding: Due to the perfect adhesion between the aluminum and the core material which holds the panels together, it isn’t easy to deal with these pre-cut pieces of ACPs. Thus, it is essential to grind these tiny particles into powder by utilizing special grinding machines to make them easy to separate.

Circulation Water Cooling: It is crucial to note that the grinding process can generate considerable heat which will lead to burning some pieces, resulting in reducing the separation rate. Thus, manufacturers utilize a circulating water-cooling system to reduce the temperature during the grinding stage of the panels.

Sieving Stage: The sieving stage, which features a vibrating screen, involves sending the small pieces without grinding them back to the grinding mill for further grind process. The produced powder will follow its process by continuing to the next stage.

Electrostatic Separation: The last step of recycling the ACM panels is utilizing the electrostatic separation method. According to the different conductivities between the core and aluminum, the electrostatic separator can easily divide the core material from the aluminum composite materials.

Machines Used for Recycling ACP Materials

Waste aluminum composite material is the most valuable raw material to recycle for complete PVC and high productivity characteristics. One of the machines used for the purpose is the recycling machine named YX-800, a device with a high handling property. This machine is mainly used to process and recycle scrapped ACM panels that often come from old outside walls of buildings, decorative panels for interior walls, notice boards, billboards, renovation, and portable house projects.

Things to Know about Aluminum Composite Panels Installation

Aluminum Composite Panels Installing Methods

Aluminum Composite Panels are popular external cladding products that are widely used in modern architecture and buildings. They are also used as the internal surface designing and coating material. To ensure that these products fit correctly into the design of the construction, they need to be fabricated precisely and then installed in various methods. Almost all of the methods utilized in the industry for this purpose are approvable. Before installing ACM panels, some prior action needs to be taken, considering thermal contraction and extraction, removing the protective film, and defining the process direction.

Thermal Contraction and Expansion

Change of temperature can lead the ACP fasteners into intolerable overstressing and bowing. Thus, to avoid this type of damage, heating the construction work and ambient air process must be considered. It is essential to know that aluminum composite panel has a coating system, damaged if the temperature exceeds 100-centigrade degrees. This means that the thermal resistance of the material must be modified before installation.

Removing Protective Film

Generally, aluminum composite panels’ manufacturing company leaves a non-transparent protective film for covering the material before leaving the product line. Humid ad hot weather conditions can make the film’s residual glue stick onto the lacquered surface of the ACP. Thus, removing the protective film as soon as the material reaches the construction site is necessary. After the removal, it is essential not to use a marker pen or tape on the coated surface. Particles such as acrylic, rubber, and epoxy can be very harmful to coating integrity.

Aluminum Composite Panels Process Direction

It is crucial to install the ACP materials in the predefined direction, whether horizontal or vertical. Manufacturers apply the paint finish in one consistent order. Thus, for maintaining the finish and the color across the panels, each ACM panel must course in the correct direction. Identifying the path is not so hard. The protective films are being developed, having an arrow on them, which defines the proper installing order and the applied finish. Builders need to install all the panels in the same direction throughout a construction project.

Aluminum Composite Panels Installation Methods

After the preliminary preparation steps, it is time for the installation process, which can be done utilizing many methods. Here are some of the most common ACP installation methods in the industry.

Hanging Method for ACP

One of the most common ACP installation methods is the hanging method. This installing system can simplify the procedure, and as a result, it shortens the construction period. In this system, panels are not fastened tightly to the mainframe and are suspended. Thus it is easy to loosen the movement of thermal expansion and contraction. The hanging installation system must follow the steps below.

  • The design of the facing is defined relative to the axis of the construction. The ACM panel skeleton consists of vertical and horizontal pieces. The vertical rod should be fixed, followed by the anchor point determination of the vertical frame.
  • Then installing the fixed connection part of the basis of the pay-off line is required, followed by an electric welding fixture. Thus, the connection partition is welded to the embedded domain.
  • The welding frame is utilized to take the main skeleton on it. This step of installation includes checking the elevation and center lining the position. Additionally, the cross-section weld should be treated as anti-rust paint. Then the quantity, height, and depth of the insertion will be set.
  • The last step is to install the Aluminum panel on the inner frame of the profile using the screw holes and fixing them to the steel frame block with particular supplies such as rivets. The boards need to have 10-15 mm of a gap and be injected with silicone-based material for sealing purposes.

Wet Sealant Joint

Another renovation and modern method for aluminum composite panels is using wet sealant joints. This method includes applying appropriate sealing material to the joints to ensure water-tightness and prevent water infiltration into the building structure. Followings are the six steps that need to be followed in a wet sealant joint installing system.

  • Choosing an hourglass-shaped sealant is essential, and the width should be twice the depth of the gap.
  • The backer rod diameter is generally 25% larger than the central joint, which needs to be filled.
  • Joint sizes are typically designed to be four times greater than the expected movement.  
  • The sealant is not made of caulk, and it should never be tooled with a finger. Choosing the right tool is always a priority.
  • Then, preparation for sublayers is necessary.
  • Applying wet sealants under average temperature is recommended. This is due to the expanding and contracting characteristic of the joints.

Dry Gasket Joint used in Aluminum Composite Panels

There is another installing method for ACP materials instead of wet sealant joints, including dry gasket joints. This method is durable and can reduce the amount of strain and dirt on the panel’s surface. The process will be completed by doing the following 11 steps.

  • Inspecting the gasket to ensure the absence of defects and checking if it has clean cuts with no rips or tears is essential.
  • The gasket should be placed between the panels with precision.
  • Avoiding applying to release joint compounds on the surface of the gasket is needed.
  • It is familiar to insert 2-3 bolts through connecting panels to reduce the damages and pinches.
  • Load bearings need to be coated with lubricants considering many factors such as particle types, sizes, and temperature.
  • Consulting with the gasket manufacturers is vital in defining the torque values that need to be applied to the nuts.
  • The most efficient way to tighten nuts is by utilizing a cross-bolt pattern and multiple tightening rounds during the ACP installation procedure.
  • The nuts need to be tightened by hand but generally with 20 percent lower torque than the recommended amount.
  • Each nut will be torqued 30 percent of the predefined torque amount.
  • The last step needs to be repeated by applying 40% torque until 100% of the maximum torque is approached.
  • Finally, involving at least one final maximum torque to all nuts is needed to place all nuts in a uniform torque.

How to Make Aluminum Composite Panel?

Aluminum Composite Panel

Aluminum Composite Panels, which are also called ACP materials, are popular construction products that are widely used in modern building architecture. These panels are not just a reverberation for interior or exterior designers and architects but also are beneficial for the environment. They are considered new sustainable materials known as sandwich sheets and brought new fields to the architecture. This means the composite panels do not just increase the durability of modern buildings but also contribute making the whole world sustainable and cleaner. Thus, using them has been expanded in the last few years to cover up energy efficiency and low price possibilities. Additionally, they are specially created for the ventilated facades rehabilitation and renovation.

Obtaining Aluminum from Nature

Aluminum is one of the most common elements found in the mother earth’s crust. However, the pure material that is used for developing different industrial products such as ACP does not occur naturally. Thus, there is a standard process defined for obtaining the usable material. This process is broken down into three main stages, which are extracting bauxite, turning them into alumina, and then producing pure material using electrolytic reduction. Bauxite, which is found naturally on the surface of the ground, contain aluminum in their structure and is made up of aluminum oxide mixed with other elements and minerals. Experts extract this material by using open-pit mines. For turning the material into alumina, a common process, which is called Bayer, is utilized. The produced alumina has an unlimited shelf life.

However, it should be stored under precise conditions due to its property of absorbing moisture. After this process, for creating the pure material, another component is required for creating the best environment for electrolysis, which is called Cryolite. In modern manufacturing systems, it is made by mixing up aluminum hydroxide, soda, and hydrofluoric acid. The last stage of producing pure aluminum is the electrolytic reduction, which requires an area for smelting the material. This area consists of many large rectangular constructions, which have a length that exceeds one kilometer. Inside these buildings, there are hundreds of pots or cells arranged in rows, which are connected to power sources through massive cables. In each of these cells, pure aluminum is being developed from alumina. The material is extracted from the cell by using a special vacuuming bucket for two to four times per day. A hole needs to be created in the cryolite and then the liquid aluminum is sucked into the bucket through a pipe connection.

Production of Aluminum Composite Panels

Aluminum composite panels can be produced in different methods and ways. The production procedure can be divided into two methods of cold composite and thermal composite. These two can additionally be classified with continuous and intermittent methods. ACM is generally manufactured by joining thin aluminum skins to both sides of a lightweight core, which is typically thermoplastic.

The production process of aluminum composite panels starts with cleaning the coil material. This material, during its creation, due to the needs of the process, is coated with anti-oxides and lubricants, thus a speck of considerable dirt and dust will be attached to the material during transportation. This can affect its adhesion thus precise cleaning is required. After coil cleaning and chemical treatments, a dense protective film starts to form on the surface of the material. This coat can improve the oxidation resistance of the panels and will increase the lifetime of the paint finish.

The produced panels of exterior composite sheets are coated with two layers of primer and paint. The top layer of the cladding materials is an extreme weather-resistant fluorocarbon, which has, resin substance and called polyvinylidene fluoride. This coat keeps the surface of the product protected due to its ideal UV resistance and environmental pollution characteristics. In addition, the surface can have beautiful marble color and pattern, which makes it perfect for creating modern architectural designs. The fluorocarbon substances are usually applied to the coils by roll process and then baked at lofty temperatures for drying. The last layer of coating is a varnish surface and this creates a total thickness of 30 micrometers. Each of these layers must be baked and dried at 200 degrees of Celsius for almost 60 seconds. After the drying process, the heating oven must be cooled by an air cooler. The interior wall paint is generally made of polyester, epoxy resin, or acrylic. It is important to have precision during installation and transportation for preventing any further damages on the product such as surface scratches.

The protective film, which is a self-adhesive material, needs to be removed after the installation procedure. Then, the aluminum coil, which is coated with fluorocarbon resin, can be compounded with the core material. This material is also a three-layered substance that contains adhesive on both sides and PE plastic in the middle section. In the case of Alpolic materials, the core portion can be either a proprietary mineral-filled, fire-resistant, or polyethylene material. In both cases, the standard layers will be produced in 0.5mm thickness. Some Heavy-duty skins that have 0.8 thicknesses are also available on the market. The completed ACP material is available in 3mm, 4mm, and 6mm thickness that the last one is the most used thickness for the building industry. However, there are some custom sizes available for special demands.