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ACM Panels: Aluminium Composite Panel Wall Systems Guide

ACM Panels: Aluminium Composite Panel Wall Systems Guide

Architects, designers, builders, and developers can use Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) panels and Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP) for interior and exterior building and signage applications.

ACM panel systems provide high strength, low weight, good dimensional stability, and a sleek, modern appearance. ACM panels are an aesthetically versatile and easy-to-install alternative to aluminum or wood sheets.

Read on to explore how ACM panels systems' many features, benefits, and applications can help you achieve the structural and aesthetic needs of your next building or signage project.

What is an Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) Panel?

ACM panels provide building owners and developers with a stylish and practical product that can be utilized for renovation and new construction projects.

Composition and Structure of ACM Panels

Aluminum composite material panels include two thin, pre-painted flat aluminum composite panels bound to a non-aluminum core center. Manufacturers combine natural fibers extracted from plants and animals with aluminum foil to produce an aluminum composite, which creates a more effective, robust, flexible, and aluminum composite than those made with synthetic fibers. Manufacturing the composite panel system involves a continuous lamination process of compacting the core between two aluminum sheets, then flattening the product and applying a protective coating.

Different Types of Core Materials Used in ACM Panels

Manufacturers offer two material choices for the core: Polyethylene (PE) and fire retardant cores.

  • PE cores offer a less expensive, lightweight option for buildings up to two stories tall.

  • While more costly, fire-retardant core ACM panels help meet the fire-retardant requirements for multi-story construction.

Surface Finishes and Coating Options Available for ACM Panels

ACM panels come in limitless color combinations, surface finishes, and thicknesses and allow routing, cutting, and roll-forming, which gives architects and designers endless aesthetic freedom.

Durability and Weather Resistance of ACM Panels

Several features of ACM panels make them long-lasting:

  • The fluorocarbon coatings of ACM panels make them resistant to extremely high temperatures, wear and tear, harsh weather, and pollution.

  • ACM panels' flexible plastic core prevents warping and distortion, which provides long-term durability, rigidity, and stiffness in any climate.

  • The non-corrosive nature of aluminum makes ACM panels ideal for external facades and signage.

  • High wind-resistant ACM panels with lighter weight make them suitable for signage and high-rise cladding.

  • Its resistance to humidity prevents water-related damage.

Advantages of ACP Wall Systems

The many benefits of ACP wall systems explains their growing popularity among designers, builders, and others in the construction industry. 

Lightweight Nature and Ease of Installation

An aluminum composite panel with a small-density core material only weighs about 2.5 lbs ft2 (0.11 kg m2) after installation, which makes them significantly lighter than other sheet metal panels, to provide several benefits:

  • Easy to transport and install

  • Lessens the wall framing and foundation load, which contributes to the structure's durability and longevity

  • Building components use less material for construction cost savings

High Strength and Structural Stability

The outer aluminum sheets of the ACM panels provide strength within the panel's core, to give it rigidity and achieve a high strength-to-weight ratio. In addition, the panel's dimensional stability maintains its shape and flatness against exposure to extreme temperature changes.

Versatility in Design and Aesthetic Appeal

ACM panels' design versatility and aesthetic appeal make them ideal for exterior claddings, interior walls, signage, and more:

  • Architects and designers can choose from nearly 40 colors or create a custom color to fit any project application.

  • Aluminum's plasticity and malleability give designers the flexibility in curving, finishing, and laser cutting to repeat decorative metal panels around an entire façade or wall system, cost-effectively.

  • Photocopying technology can replicate granite, wood grain, aluminum, copper, zinc, and stainless steel patterns, for a distinctive texture and high-quality pattern design on the ACP's surface.

  • Due to the continuous thermal composite production process, the high surface flatness of ACM panels gives ACM a flat and homogeneous appearance, which many architects appreciate.

  • Builders can easily cut ACM panels to fit any size, shape, or dimension, which makes them ideal for projects with difficult angles or tight spaces.

Fire Resistance and Safety Features

The IBC 2021 requires walls containing ACM panels to pass the NFPA 285, ASTM E84. and NFPA 268 fire rating tests.

U.S. manufacturers primarily offer ACM panels with a fire-retardant core in several thicknesses: 3-, 6-, and the most common and available 4-millimeter. The fire-retardant core consists of alumina trihydrate (ATH) or magnesium hydroxide (MDH) bound with a polymer base. The material's properties improve fire safety and help achieve code requirements, including NFPA 285, at no additional costs.

Low-Maintenance Requirements

The ACM panel's functional and decorative surface offers long-term color consistency, weather, termite, and sunlight resistance, excellent flatness, rigidity, and formability, making the product low maintenance to significantly lessen repair costs.

Thermal and Acoustic Insulation Properties

ACM panels reflect heat and light, which reduces the thermal loading on a building. In addition, using cool paint finishes can further increase the panel's reflectivity.

ACM panels provide a sound barrier by dampening vibrations, which limits sound transfer through the panel and controls noise pollution. 

Applications of ACP Wall Systems

Eye-catching, durable, and lightweight ACP wall systems are a practical solution for enhancing the exterior and interior spaces of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings.

Exterior Cladding and Façade Systems

For new and remodeling commercial, residential, and institutional construction, ACM panel exterior claddings and facades offer architects and builders a system that improves a building's integrity, aesthetics, and sustainability. Long-lasting ACM panel exterior cladding stands up to rain, wind, UV light, flying debris, and whatever else nature sends.

Interior Wall Panels and Partitions

Durable wall partition ACM panels for commercial and institutional buildings will withstand heavy wear and tear daily. In addition, ACM panels easily detach, for quick relocation as space needs change.

Signage and Advertising Boards

ACM panels can endure temperature changes and resist harsh weather impacts, which makes them ideal for outdoor signage. In addition, advertisers can customize ACM panels to fit their specific outdoor and indoor needs. ACM panels can also be utilized for indoor purposes like kiosks, point-of-purchase displays, and more.

Retail and Commercial Building Designs

An aluminum composite material can enhance a retail or commercial business's identity by customizing the company’s specific branding to its building’s exterior. ACM panels create a modern, clean, luxurious look that will draw customers, partners, and clients toward a retail or commercial building. Using ACM panels for interiors with intricate patterns and designs can inspire creativity. Furthermore, fire-resistant, durable ACM panels mitigate expensive repairs and maintenance.

Industrial and Institutional Structures

ACM panels installed on industrial (warehouses, data centers, manufacturing. etc.) and institutional buildings (schools, churches, libraries, hospitals. etc.) can create attractive, low-maintenance, and robust structures that can withstand the heavy daily use. In addition, ACM panels enhance the building's safety by not emitting toxic gasses and providing the highest fire protection.

Considerations for ACP Wall System Selection

Like all building product and method choices, architects, designers, and contractors must consider codes, environmental impacts, budget, durability, and long-term maintenance and repair expenses when choosing an ACP wall system.

Building Codes and Regulations

In the U.S., builders and architects must comply with the International Building Code (IBC) and the NFPA Building Construction and Safety Code, issued by the National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA). Architects, designers, and engineers can find the ACM panel code and regulations in the metal composite section of the 2021 IBC (section 1407).

Environmental Sustainability Factors

Sustainable ACM panels offer several environmentally-friendly features that can qualify for LEED credits and tax credits (depending on the state).

  • Manufacturers produce ACM panels with recycled aluminum and plastic core elements. In addition, builders can recycle ACM panels at the end of their life cycle.

  • Long-lasting, durable ACM panels limit the use of natural resources and the need for landfill space.

  • ACM panels do not emit harmful toxic gasses.

Budget and Cost Considerations

Installing aluminum composite panels ranges from $40-$55 per sq. ft., including materials and installation. However, the cost of ACM panels depends on the core type, color and finish, panel size, project complexity, panel size, and structural properties.

  • ACM fire-retardant panels cost more than panels with PE cores.

  • Applying a customized color, texture, or company logo to an ACM panel will increase the overall cost.

  • The aluminum composite panel's width, length, and thickness will impact the construction and transportation costs.

  • Structural properties of aluminum composite panels can affect the prices, like: including protective film over the panel installers remove after installation, adding primer, adhesive film, and service coating to the ACM panel, applying PDVF coating to protect against color fading, and design teams can specify coatings rigorously tested and rated by the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance’s rating, American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) 2605, which ensures the best resistance to ultraviolet (UV) degradation, corrosion, and chemical exposure.

Maintenance and Cleaning Requirements

Manufacturers pre-paint and pre-treat ACM panels with a protective layer to prevent corrosion and rust. In addition, ACM panels resist attacks from water, sunlight, termites, etc., which further reduces maintenance and repairs. Cleaning an ACM panel’s surface typically only requires water, soap, and a mild cleaner.

Impact Resistance and Long-Term Durability

Lightweight ACM panels offer many features that ensure their long-term durability.

  • ACM panels' fluorocarbon coatings make them resistant to extremely high temperatures, flying debris, wind, rain, sun, harsh weather, wear and tear, and pollution.

  • ACM panels offer dimensional stability and high tensile strength to resist damage when bending.

Future Trends and Innovations with ACP

A growing number in the building community are turning to aluminum composite panel technology for its continuing innovations towards improved fire-, UV-, and abrasion resistance, and enhanced aesthetics. Research predicts the ACP market size will hit $7.93 billion (USD) by 2031 at a CAGR of 6.8 percent between (2023–2031). Future trends and innovations in aluminum composite material panel technology aim to improve the quality and traits of signage boards and residential, commercial, and institutional building exterior and interior spaces.

Advances in ACM Panel Technology and Manufacturing Processes

  • Combining solar panels with aluminum composite panels will contribute towards net-zero-energy buildings, to save building owners money and energy and protect the environment.

  • Incorporating 3D designs with ACM panels will expand the limits of creativity, to enhance the aesthetic possibilities for architects and designers.

Emerging Design Trends and Possibilities

  • Smart machines allow for advanced cutting technology in laser and waterjet modes and enhance designers' abilities to customize and create more complex building designs.

  • Graphic designing and computer software will allow the exact matching of brand colors to ACM panels.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Initiatives in ACM Panel Industry

The future of designing and constructing buildings points towards incorporating sustainable and eco-friendly materials and methods as a matter of standard practice, like using ACM panels.

  • Building long-lasting, weather- and disaster-resistant structures with ACM panels contributes towards conserving the ecology.

  • Energy-efficient ACM panels reduce the need for heating and cooling systems, which lessens energy use and cost.

  • Manufacturers use recycled material to make reusable ACM panels.

  • ACM panels limit harmful toxins, lower habitat risk and help preserve and promote biodiversity in urban settings.

Acelab is the Gateway to Aluminium Composite Panel Wall Systems

ACM panels offer the building community a lightweight, easy-to-install, long-lasting, fire-resistant, and low-maintenance composite panel system for new and renovation retail, commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential construction projects and signage applications. In addition, ACM panels improve the thermal and acoustic properties and allow architects and designers extensive aesthetic versatility.

Installing ACM panels can help designers stay on budget, achieve building code and sustainability requirements, and create a durable, low-maintenance structure. The ongoing innovations of ACM panels point towards improving the safety and durability of future projects, making them a superior choice for enhancing aesthetics and creating sustainable structures.

Contact Acelab today for help designing and choosing the best, up-to-date products and building solutions to achieve your project’s design intent and maximize its success. Our cloud-based collaboration platform offers a range of data-driven tools and resources to research, compare, and select building products. We can save design teams significant time by streamlining their work and providing a centralized source of information and tools for building product research and specification tasks.