If you belong to the construction or architecture sector, you will surely have heard of the aluminium composite panel and its great advantages and versatility when it comes to using it.
Although the aluminium composite panel is already an established product within the sector, not everyone knows in detail what it consists of, and that is why in this article we will look at aspects such as its composition, uses, finishes, advantages and properties.
What is aluminium composite?
First of all, let’s start with the basics, explaining the reason for its name and its composition.
An aluminium composite panel is a multi-layer panel consisting of two aluminium sheets, usually painted, bonded to a thermoplastic central core with different levels of charges through a process of core coextrusion and specific adhesives.
What is composite?
Composites are materials that are made up of a series of synthetic products that are mixed heterogeneously to form a single one with certain properties.
Their uses are very varied and we can find composites in industries as diverse as the surgical (dental fillings), military, automotive or construction.
By making the specific mixture of the products, we can achieve the properties that fit the need for the use of the material.
In the case of the central core of the aluminium composite panel, it is usually composed of polyethylene, to which mineral fillers are added to significantly improve its fire resistance. This makes it a material with excellent thermal and acoustic properties, as well as being lighter and more impact resistant than an equivalent aluminium-only sheet.
Aluminium is the third most abundant chemical element on the planet and the most common metal in the earth’s crust. This material is characterised by its lightness, weighing 2.7 g/cm3, which is one third the weight of materials such as iron. Another excellent characteristic is its natural resistance to corrosion. Aluminium is also ductile, flame retardant and 100% recyclable without loss of quality.
This metal is synonymous with long-lasting quality, as it stands the test of time with almost no wear, deformation or change under the influence of external factors. In addition, it requires almost no maintenance, so its durability is more than guaranteed.
It is also a sustainable material, as only 5% of the energy used in the production of primary aluminium is used in the production of recycled aluminium ingots, and a very small carbon footprint is generated.
Aluminium’s strength, lightness and durability make it an ideal material for construction and architecture, not only in profiles or certain aesthetic elements, but also as a strong and durable covering material.
In addition, aluminium’s strength makes it excellent for the production of all types of infrastructure. Moreover, because it perfectly combines lightness, flexibility, strength and conductivity, it has become one of the most widely used materials in the energy sector. Thanks to its excellent properties, today aluminium has found a place in production activities in all areas, from communications to electronics and beyond.
This material can be alloyed with other metals to improve some of its properties depending on its final use. The most commonly used alloys in architectural cladding are:
- 3000 series (3005/3015) – Main alloy is manganese, which gives better mechanical properties, higher ultimate load and yield strength and overall better machinability.
- 5000 series (5005) – Main alloy is magnesium, which gives excellent resistance to atmospheric corrosion, increased hardness and a better finish, ideal for surface treatments such as anodising.
What is a composite panel?
Now that we understand what composite is, the type of materials used and why, we can clearly define what an aluminium composite panel is.
It consists of a panel, usually 4 mm thick, up to 2 metres wide and in ample lengths for use in large facades, and is made up of two aluminium sheets containing a thermoplastic core with a mineral filler.
Although aluminium is a tough material in itself, its outer layer is usually further protected by a continuous multi-layer painting process with special paints that offer high resistance to corrosion, ageing, dirt adhesion, spray and graffiti, as well as a wide range of colour and finish options.
Finally, an aluminium composite panel can be easily machined and mounted on the facades of buildings, commercial spaces and anywhere else you can imagine.
Composite panel manufacturing
The composite panel is manufactured by extruding the filled polymer core, which is adhered and compacted to two aluminium coil sheets that are unwound at the same time and wrap the assembly. These coils are chemically pre-treated and painted in a continuous process on a special coil coating line.
During compaction and cooling of the core, the resulting sheet passes through a multitude of rollers to ensure surface and thickness uniformity, as well as mechanical cleaning systems for an optimum edge finish.
For storage and subsequent distribution, this composite sheet is cut into sheets of different sizes, according to the needs of each architectural project.
How to install the composite panel?
To install the composite panel on a façade, it is advisable to carry out a series of assemblies.
If we want to use it as an aluminium panel for ventilated façades, we will have to fix to the base wall a previous substructure in which the panels will be secured, and thus adapt to the building regulations.
The installation on the substructure can be done by riveting or screwing the panel pieces together, or in the form of suspended trays.
When properly organised, a ventilated façade installation does not involve too much difficulty, and once completed, it gives the building a quality finish, is easy to maintain and more energy efficient.
How to glue composite panel?
If necessary, we can glue the panel directly to the surface we need.
Although it is not the most advisable if we want to take advantage of all the properties of the material and comply with the regulations for facades, this option is sometimes used in highly durable signage, industry and many other uses. To do this, the panel must be glued using a special elastic adhesive that separates it from the base surface and corrects any possible differences in expansion between the two materials.
Advantages of the aluminium composite panel
The aluminium composite panel has many advantages when compared to other solutions on the market, such as sandwich panels, phenolic resin panels and even the more classic ones such as ceramic or natural stone.
And when we talk about other façade insulation solutions such as SATE, or when we compare it directly with façades without cladding, ventilated façades made with aluminium composite panels are the clear winners in terms of structural lightness, low maintenance costs and, above all, energy savings.
Let’s take a look at the most important advantages:
Versatile, quality design
The composite panel has a good surface finish, a variety of textures and colours and its formal freedom makes it suitable for a wide range of locations, buildings and aesthetics.
It also has a wide range of machining and installation options. The material can be cut, drilled, punched, stamped, milled, curved and bent with the most common adapted tools on the industry.
Excellent thermal and acoustic insulation
Another positive aspect is its thermal and acoustic insulation capacity. If we install a ventilated façade type installation, we will achieve thermal and acoustic insulation more in line with current energy efficiency and soundproofing specifications.
One of the best things about composite panels is that they can be non-flammable or non-flammable, so that they can meet the fire safety requirements of each country.
This is one of the most important aspects when you consider that the standards for building materials are getting stricter and stricter and that it can also save lives.
Lightweight and corrosion and shock resistant
Thanks to its combination of materials, it is light but at the same time strong, which makes it very easy to handle and assemble.
It is also highly protected against corrosion thanks to the available painted finishes, which can be adapted to all weather conditions.
Recyclable and long-lasting
Aluminium composite panels do not release any environmentally harmful substances at any time during their life cycle.
And the best thing is that after a long service life, they are fully recyclable and can be returned to the cycle of recycled materials.
Complies with current regulations and is easily adaptable
With the composite panel and a ventilated façade, the current energy and protection directives can be met without any problems.
In addition, manufacturers of this material can obtain country-specific building certifications, so that it can be used safely and efficiently in many more buildings.
Aluminium composite panel applications
The most common use is as a material for the installation of ventilated facades, which give the building a modern and functional appearance.
Other uses for which composite panels can also be used are:
- For cladding all types of facades.
- For interior spaces.
- For restoration and rehabilitation.
- For covering columns.
- Balcony cladding.
- Functional and aesthetic elements such as cantilevers and canopies.
- A multitude of industrial uses, such as in the automotive industry.
As you can see, the aluminium composite panel is a tremendously positive material when it comes to building envelopes. It is economical, lightweight, durable, recyclable and meets the highest specifications for protection and efficiency.