ACP

Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP)

Has been a popular material for building facades as well as cladding for more than three decades. ACP consists of two high-strength aluminium sheets which sandwich a low density, insulating core. Hence, they are also known as sandwich panels or composites.

 

The original purpose behind their design and creation was to use it as a material for signage. However, today ACP find diverse applications like wall coverings, architectural claddings, interior decorations, false ceilings, etc.

 

So, below is the history and evolution of ACP and how it came to become one of the most important building materials used in various construction and architectural projects.

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Chapters

  1. The History of Aluminium Composite Panels
  2. ACP Brands through time
  3. The Change in Composition of Aluminium Composite Panels
  4. Evolution of Aluminium Composite Panels
  5. Key takeaways
  6. Options available to architects and contractors here in South Africa.
  7. Signage
  8. Exterior Cladding, Facades. B1 fire-resistant panels
  9. Exterior Cladding, Facades. A2 fire-resistant panels.
  10. Exterior Cladding, Facades. TRUE A2 fire resistant panels
  11. Conclusion

The History of Aluminium Composite Panels

The Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) was originally introduced as a joint invention between companies known as Alusingen and BASF in 1969.  Later Alusuisse bought Alusingen, which was eventually obtained by another international firm named Alcan (currently Rio Tinto) in 2000.

Despite its introduction in the 1960s, it was only until the mid-1980s that the mainstream architectural industry discovered the properties of ACP as a building material and started its extensive use. Moreover, the widespread use of ACP in commercial and residential buildings began in the early 1990s. It was then realised that it could reduce costs and enhance architectural performance.

ACP Brands through time

The first form of Aluminium Composite Panels that came into existence was marketed under the brand name ‘Alucobond®,’. The manufacturing process was patented by Alusingen for 20 years, between 1971 and 1991. The brand name (Aluminium – Composite — Bonding) was itself a representation of how the panel was made; by bonding the aluminium alloy to a composite material. It is for the same reason that the original aluminium composite panels were also known as Alucobond.

After the patent expired, many prominent names of the construction industry began the ACP manufacturing process. As a result, several significant brands emerged, like Alcoa (brand name Reynobond), Mitsubishi (brand name Alpolic), Etem (brand name Etalbond), etc.

The Change in Composition of Aluminium Composite Panels

Even though many ACP brands emerged, the product make up did not change. The significant changes occurred in the composition of the aluminium panels, which was modified based on the required features of the panel and their area of use.

However, when high-rise buildings got burnt due to the involvement of ACP, the flammable nature of its core material came to the fore. Since then, the core material has been altered to constitute non-flammable material with a low combustion risk.

The overall thickness of the panels used currently is in the range of 3-6 mm (0.12-0.24 in.), and that of the aluminium facings is in the range of 0.2- 0.8 mm (0.008- 0.032 in.) The insulated core has been developed from several different materials, but there are three general categories today in which every kind of core belongs.

 

 

Core Type

 

 

Paint Finish

Architectural Advantages

 

PE Cores – These cores are made of 100% polyethylene (PE) and are flammable.


FR Cores – These cores are made of a composite material containing a high percentage (70% to 90%) of mineral wool/ rock fiber/ rock wool, magnesium hydroxide, Alumina Trihydrate which are non-combustible and act as a fire retardant.


Aluminium Cores – These cores are either made of an aluminium honeycomb structure or solid aluminium.

To make them more suitable for various kinds of applications, ACPs have been developed with different types of paints and coatings, as shown below:

 

PE/FR Constructional/Architectural Panel sheets coated with PVDF resin, (XT/ High Durable) polyester paint.


Panel sheets coated with Nano PVDF.

Since the modifications carried out with the core and panel quality, several ACP products have launched which show many architectural advantages over other building materials, such as:

 

Higher strength to weight ratio

Lighter weight

Material flexibility and adaptability

Durability

Superior insulation features

 

Evolution of Aluminium Composite Panels

From being used for signage in the beginning to be a major architectural material, ACP has come a long way. Today, it finds applications in various projects and spaces, including Internal Partitions, Building Renovations, Curved Fascia’s, Container Constructions, Internal Wall Coverings, Architectural Claddings, Machine Coverings and many more.

Aluminium Composite Panels are one of the most used materials that dominate the facade industry. Due to its light-weight features, it is the substance of choice for building temporary elements like trade show structures. Blend Products supply high-quality Aluminium composite panels as per the building requirements. These include Aluminium core, FP core and PE core sandwich material that gives maximum structural integrity and fire hazard protection.

The use of Aluminium Composite Panels has evolved to such a level that many famous architectural marvels are extensively constructed from it. Some of them are Spaceship Earth in Orlando (U.S); L’Oreal Paris building in France; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; The Leipzig branch of German National Library; VanDusen Botanical Garden in Canada, etc.

Key takeaways

From a material dominated by a single company, Aluminium Composite Panels has evolved not only in its composition and manufacturers but also in its applications, making it one of the most used materials in the construction and architectural industry. With their lighter weight and fire-retardant properties, aluminium composite panels have been used so extensively that some modern cities are composed entirely of them, along with materials like glass and curtain wall.

Options available to architects and contractors here in South Africa.

Signage

Blend PE core

Recognised by its black core, this material is comprised of a Polyethene base core sandwiched by 0.2/0.2 or 0.3/0.3 Aluminium skin and finally coated with PE paint.  PE paint generally does not offer any outdoor guarantees. Some panels are supplied with PVDF paint offering and outdoor guarantee for 20 years. 

 

Pros – These panels are cost-effective and a diverse colour range is available from local suppliers. 

Cons – It is not suitable for interior design in type A buildings or where fire-resistant materials are required.  It is also not suitable for outdoor use. 

Applications – Signage, interior finishes (where non-fire rated materials are acceptable) 

 

Blend Products offer the following colour off the shelf in this material specification: White, Brushed Silver, Brushed copper, Black, Anodised Silver Matt Charcoal Grey. 

Charcoal Grey, Anthracite Grey, White and Black are offered with PVDF paint for outdoor use. 

Material costs are roughly R322.22 / m2 (this may vary between suppliers) 

Exterior Cladding, Facades. B1 fire-resistant panels

B1 Airybond:


Blend B1 AiryBond Recognised by its grey / white core this material is comprised of a Polyethene based core with mineral composites of 70 – 75% injected and mixed into the Polyethene to provide a fire-resistant attribute.  This fire resistance is classified as B1 in accordance with the EN13501-1 Euro standards. This material offers a 20 min burn delay in the event of a fire.  

This material retails for between R462.50 - R650 per meter squared for other suppliers. Blend retails this material off the shelf for R412.50 per meter squared. 

Sandwiching this B1 core is 0.5 / 0.5mm Aluminium skins with a PVDF paint makes this material suitable for outdoor and indoor application where a fire-resistant material is required.  PVDF paint provided a 20-year guarantee on this material. 

 

Pros – Fire resistant for 20min on its own, and is suitable for interior cladding and external facades and fascias, signage and more.  This material is available from local suppliers in most popular colours such as white, black, metallic grey, silver, champaign and anthracite grey. 

 

Cons - Standard colours available off-shelf are limited to popular colours. It is not suitable for building cladding on buildings taller than three stories high.

 

B1 Standard:

 

Blend B1 standard

Best recognised by its bright white colour core which shows slightly more pores than the polyethylene-based material.  This material is a newly developed material currently only supplied by Blend Products, has a PVC base with mineral composites of 70 – 75% injected and is mixed to provide a B1 fire-resistant material.

Sandwiching the B1 core are two skins of 0.5/0.5 and a PVDF paint finish which give a 20-year guarantee on the material. 

This material retails for R387.50 per meter squared.

Pros – Fire resistant for 20min on its own, suitable for interior cladding and external facades and fascias, signage and more.  This material is available from local suppliers in most popular colours such as white, black, metallic grey, silver, champaign and anthracite grey. 

This material is 1.5kg lighter per meter squared than the regular B1 polyethene-based material saving cost on transport and installation as well and making installation easier and more efficient. 

Cons - Standard colours available off-shelf are limited to popular colours. It is not suitable for building cladding on buildings taller than three stories high or type A buildings in accordance with the SANS 10400T. This material is currently only available from Blend Products. 

Exterior Cladding, Facades. A2 fire-resistant panels.

Blend A2 Mineral CoreBest recognised by its hard-stone core and white pore colour. This core is hard and brittle compared to the B1 cores. A Polyethylene based material with 90% mineral composite injected and mixed into the core substance provides this material with an A2 fire rating.

This intelligent material exhibits Endothermic reaction by absorbing heat when exposed to energy/heat. his chemical reaction re-aligns the molecules creating a new bond which releases moisture when exposed to oxygen, helping to delay the burn and compromising the panels integrity buying time for evacuation.  


Pricing on this material is between R550 - R650 per meter squared. 

 

Pros – This panel achieves an A2 fire rating in accordance with the EN13501-1.  The Endothermic chemical reaction can provide an extended evacuation time while the chemical reaction takes place.  It can be used on multi-storey facades and buildings as it achieves A2 fire rating. 

 

Cons – this material is the heaviest ACM options, requiring carbide tooling to machine panels. Panels can become compromised and combust after 30min of burn time.  

Exterior Cladding, Facades. TRUE A2 fire resistant panels

Blend Honey comb coreBest recognised by its corrugated aluminium core, his material is comprised 99.5% of Aluminium.  This material is not a new technology, however, it has been perfected and made more cost-effective. Supplied with a PVDF paint gives these panels a 20-year guarantee.  

 

Pricing on this material is R462.50 – R487.50

 

Pros – The cylindrical sphere embossing of the aluminium core provides this material with incredible strength to weight ratio making this material the most rigid, flat and lightest ASP (aluminium sandwich panel) currently available in the marketplace. This material achieves a TRUE A2 fire rating as it is comprised almost entirely of aluminium which give this panel the best result in fire-resistant testing.  In places such as Australia and New Zealand where ACP’s are banned due to their combustibility, this is the only ASP certified for use in building facades in these countries as it achieves true A2 rating.

 

This material is also more cost-effective than A2 stone-core with the endothermic reaction. It is approved for multi-storey buildings as it’s deemed to satisfy the A2 fire rating. 

 

Cons – This material is still new to the South African market so product awareness is the only downside to this material at present. The ASP is stronger, flatter, lighter, easier to work with more cost-effective and above all achieves TRUE A2 fire rating.

 

It is currently only supplied by Blend Products. 

Conclusion

Aluminium composite panels specifications and availability have evolved considerably over the last six years from the supply of only polyethylene-based material to an offering and mix between PE core for signage to B1 for outdoor cladding and A2 panels for multi-storey buildings. These materials are now all available to the South African market. However, there are not enough South African based suppliers pushing the boundaries in the ACP technologies or been as forward-thinking as Blend Products at the moment.  


Should you have any questions on the above, require any supporting documents or further information, please feel free to contact us directly. 

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