May 1, 2023
Aluminium cladding is found on many projects in the building industry. It requires low maintenance, is cost effective and is very durable. Its attributes make it ideal to be used as an exterior cladding system in the commercial and residential building industry and also as signage material too. We have teamed up with Tungsten & Tool Ltd, one of the leading cutting and routing specialists in New Zealand, and we are focused on our shared goal to nurture and get a clearer understanding of some challenging details when working with ACM. Below is the different recommendations for each panel type that we supply to the NZ market.
ACM (Aluminium Composite material) and ACP (Aluminium Composite Panel) are two words to describe one type of aluminium panel. ACM or ACP consists of 2 sheets of 0.5mm aluminium surrounding a 3mm core of insulating material.
The materials that typically make up an ACP panel core are polyethylene (PE) and mineral fibre. PE melts at relatively low temperatures and is highly flammable whereas mineral fibre cores often contain hydroxide, a non-combustible material designed to suppress fire spread. This is often known as FR (Fire Resistant) ACM.
ACM claddings with 100% PE cores have contributed to rapid fire propagation on international high-profile buildings such as Melbourne 2014 and Dubai in 2015.
In NZ before an ACM can be used on a building structure its fire propagation and combustibility properties must be defined to meet the NZ building code.
Typically, high percentage PE core ACM don’t meet the building code and are only suitable for signage material.
Caution should be taken when using and specifying ACM products on a building structure in order they comply with the building code. 100% PE core ACMs are less expensive and ok to be used as signage material.
Used a lot in the signage industry, the original ACM or Alucobond panel with PE core does bring its own challenges due to the softness of the materials in it and their low melting point.
Here’s an article where Tungsten & Tool Ltd discuss these challenges for routing signage ACM in more detail.
Here’s some of the common challenges:
Although the material is not hard when compared with materials like steel, the aluminium and mineral core in FR core ACM are extremely abrasive. The core is has mineral salts in the thermos material to help it to prevent the start and reduce the growth of a fire.
These mineral salts wear standard tungsten cutters away very quickly which is why you need to go to the PCD Diamond tipped cutters. Well proved here in NZ, these cutters cut the FR core ACM cleanly and last well.
View the tools from Tungsten & Tool Ltd – HERE.
ALP is two sheets of aluminium surrounding a pressed aluminium core. ALPs are known for their lightweight, rigidity, resistance to oil canning properties while maintaining a 99% or more aluminium composition. ALPs tend to pick up on where the solid aluminium falls short. It is less expensive than solid, unlikely to oil can, lightweight and fully compliant. While it has been widely used in Australia for a number of years, ALPs are rapidly becoming the preferred choice of aluminium cladding in New Zealand.
Routing Pressed Core ACM Cladding
This is successfully routed with single flute upcut cutters. The aluminium is not as gummy enabling a more standard single flute upcut aluminium cutter to be used. The harder aluminium forms a better chip which means that the spiral upcut extracts the swarf out of the cut well leading to less heat build up.
Same as the solid aluminium cladding above, this can be routed dry but a good lubricant will help the tool to cut more freely and last longer.
View the tools – HERE.
Recommended folding tools – HERE.