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Is aluminium composite a safe material for me to use or should I avoid it at all costs? Having completed a huge variety of projects using ACM's of all shapes and sizes our experience with composites have all been positive. A lightweight, affordable and easy to process material which replaces more conventional materials like timber or MDF.
Creating safe aluminium composite projects is a team effort; everyone working together to deliver a job which meets all the requirements. As fabricators it's our job to make sure that only quality materials are used. The information we are provided with needs to be carefully checked and any errors or potential problems highlighted and addressed before production starts. Your project is taken seriously and experienced eyes run through all the information you supply before any machinery is even powered up.
Sign and display applications
Sign grade aluminium composite is not a highly flammable material waiting to ignite at any moment. Surprisingly even sign grade ACM materials should have certification for fire rating, normally Class 1.
If we don't use aluminium composite for our sign & display projects what else could we use? Foamed PVC? Acrylic? Veneered MDF or Plywood? All these alternatives are flammable; in the case of PVC considerably more. If used correctly sign & display grade composites ought to pose no more danger than any other substrate, in some cases ACM is a better choice.
Cladding buildings with aluminium composite; this is a process covered by building regulations. When using aluminium composites for this kind of application it's important to follow the relevant regulations and ensure that composites are used in the proper way. Guidance can be sought locally from Building Control officers whilst experienced designers and architects have the expertise to ensure ACM is safely integrated into the construction process.
Cladding grade aluminium composites are normally a heavier product with greater amounts of aluminium and a higher grade of surface finish. There are different grades of cladding grade composite available, from standard versions through to the highest fire rated (FR) materials. Which ACM you use and how it integrates into the construction process should be decided at the design stage, if a high grade FR material is demanded then this is what must be used. Yes, the highest grade FR cladding composites are more expensive but this is because they cost more to manufacture.
You can also select other metals for your composite projects, Copper, Zinc and Stainless steel skinned versions of this material can all be supplied & processed. These alternative metals have different heat properties to aluminium.
Aluminium composite isn't designed as an insulation product; it's a weather proofing and exterior signage substrate. The most effective insulation materials use trapped air pockets to provide a thermal barrier; the way ACM is made precludes the addition of insulation properties.
Attaching insulation materials directly to aluminium composite may change it's fire rating properties. Bonding rigid materials to the back of ACM panels might alter the way it behaves in response to heat. These issues need careful consideration when planning how aluminium composites are going to be used. It may be a better idea to keep rain screening and insulation as two distinct systems.
In our experience the use of aluminium composites has presented us with no major problems or incidents.