What are the applications of Aluminium Composite Material?
Published on: 01/12/2023
Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), often referred to as Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) or aluminium sandwich panels, is a three-layer sandwich panel consisting of two pre-painted sheets of 0.3mm aluminium with a solid polyethylene (PE) core. It is neither a true plastic nor metal, it’s a composite i.e. a combination of two or more materials. ACM is also known by major brand names such as Dibond® or Alupanel®.
Available thicknesses of ACM vary between manufacturers – most supply 2mm, 3mm, 4mm and 6mm, however by far the most common thickness that most suppliers stock is 3mm. To provide a finish to the sheet that is suitable both indoor and outdoor, and used in a wide range of industries from digital print to architecture, the two aluminium surfaces are painted with a gloss or matte finish - typically a gloss finish on one side and matte on the other, in a variety of different colours and finishes. Hoarding grade ACM is also available which generally has a thinner aluminium skin and will commonly only be paint finished on one side.
Aluminium Composite Material is a relatively lightweight material with a m2 weighing under 4kgs, however it’s strong and rigid, boasts excellent dimensional stability, is easy to custom fabricate and is both weather and corrosion resistant with a 5-year guarantee for both internal and external applications. These properties and benefits make it the perfect choice for digital printing, interior design, signage, point of sale displays, retail fit outs and industrial furniture manufacturing. Alongside these industries, we’ve seen large demand using ACM for industrial machine control panels and surrounds due it low cost versus traditional aluminium or steel.
Aluminium Composite Material uses
ACM offers endless possibilities for interior design. It can be used for creating stunning feature walls, partitions, and ceilings. With a variety of colours, finishes, and textures available, ACM allows designers to achieve unique and eye-catching designs, enhancing the overall ambiance of a space.
The photo below shows an example, not only of using different colours and finishes, but also how Aluminium Composite Material can be bent and formed to make interesting design features.
Signage and Advertising
ACPs are commonly utilised in the signage industry. Their smooth surface provides an excellent backdrop for vibrant graphics and signage. ACPs are lightweight, strong and resistant to corrosion making them easy to transport and install and popular for indoor and outdoor signage, billboards, and hoardings.
ACPs find applications in the retail display and furniture industry, where they are used to create sleek and modern pieces. From tables and shelves to display stands and cabinets, ACPs offer durability, versatility, and a contemporary aesthetic. Retail stores, like the example below in Kent’s Bluewater, also utilise ACPs for creating visually appealing displays that attract customers.
Dibond® is widely used in industrial settings due to it's resistance to chemicals, corrosion, and fire. Aluminium Composite Material can be employed for cladding industrial buildings, manufacturing cleanrooms, and constructing laboratory cabinets. ACM provides a high level of protection, durability, and ease of maintenance in harsh environments, and is a frequently used material in commercial, healthcare, and educational laboratories, like this example from UK based Klick Furniture & Fit Out.
Why Multipanel UK?
At Simply Plastics we exclusively supply Aluminium Composite Material manufactured by Multipanel UK, which is known under the Alupanel brand name. We do so for a number of reasons:
- Location - Alupanel is manufactured here in Britain. This is of course great for UK Business and employment it's also significantly reduces the carbon footprint of transporting material from overseas. Multipanel UK is the ONLY Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) manufacturer in the UK.
- Size - with 53% growth in the period 2014-2017, Multipanel UK has become the world's largest aluminium composite panel (ACP) stockholder. This enables us to guarantee our ability to supply for projects of all sizes.
- Recycling - Alupanel sheets are manufactured with at least 80% recycled content
- Recycling - The Low Density Polyethelyne (LDPE) used to produce the core of Alupanel ACM is 100% recycled
- Aesthetics - Alupanel ACM is available in 20+ colours and finishes
Custom Aluminium Composite Panel fabrication
Aluminium Composite Material is a very versatile material for fabrication. It can be cut and routed into intricate shapes, and can also be bent and folded. Whilst often overlooked or dismissed, ACM is also a fantastic product for engraving - the engraving process removes the aluminium surface leaving the black polyethelyne core visible. We have two Multicam Apex 3R (3 Axis) routers, and a range of rotary Gravotech engraving machines which enable us to provide an extensive range of precision CNC routing and engraving services to our customers.
If you need our help or advice on custom finishing and CNC fabrication relating to any of your upcoming aluminium composite panel projects please contact us.
Both Dibond® and Alupanel® are just brand names of Aluminium Composite Material, which is also commonly referred to as ACM or Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP).
For many years the brand name Dibond® was synonymous with the material with many not realising that Dibond® was merely a brand name for ACM / ACP. Although Dibond is one of the better known brand names of ACM, today Multipanel UK is the largest stockist of ACM globally.
The answer to this question is not clear cut. Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) is a composite of two main materials, the outer skin which on most ACP is 0.3mm Aluminium and the inner core with is made from Low Density Polyethelyne (LDPE). This means that we have to consider how both of these materials react to laser cutting.
Aluminium can be laser cut however a high powered laser is required - typically 500+ watts is required to produce a clean cut on 3mm aluminium. On the other hand, Polyethelyne can be laser cut at a relatively low power, in-fact if Polyethelyne is laser cut with a high powered beam it does tend to warp and/or melt.
Therefore the power and temperature required to laser cut through the two primary materials in ACM are very different and this unfortunately makes laser cutting ACM virtually impossible. The power and heat required to laser cut aluminium will be so high that it will likely warp, melt or blow holes through the polyethelyne. Contrastly, if the laser is set to the low power levels required to laser cut polyethelyne it won't be anywhere near powerful enough to even mark the aluminium, let alone cut through it.
Brushed Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP), also often referred to as a 'Butler Finish', has a directional grain appearance 'brushed' into the aluminium. Traditionally the term 'Butler finish' refers to the result of regular cleaning and polishing of fine silverware. In thicker grade aluminiums and other metals, the brushed effect is created by mechanically abrading or brushing the substrate, however to acheive that same effect on Aluminium Composite the thin layers of aluminium are mechanically embossed.
Brushed Alupanel is a two sided material available in three variants, Copper/Black, Bronze/Gold and Aluminium/Silver.
Aluminium Composite Panel (ACP) can be cleaned with nothing more than warm soapy water and a non-abrasive cloth. It is important that alkaline, acidic and abrasive cleaning products are avoided as this can have an adverse effect on the coating.