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The New Alternative to ACM

If you are looking for an alternative to ACM, the solution may come from the past.

Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) is a highly flexible, low cost alternative for project specific metal cladding. The application of ACM has become common-place, and it rightly holds a sizable share of the metal cladding market. At Protean, we believe ACM is ideal for retail and multi-family markets where expected return on investment is short, and the possibility of owner requested redesign for marketing purposes is more prevalent.

However, for civic, municipal, educational and other markets where a 20 year, 50 year or greater life cycle is desired, ACM may not be the best choice. As installations with ACM mature, the life-cycle limitations are becoming evident, especially when robust system engineering was not specified or enforced. And with recent events, concerns for the safety of ACM for high rise applications has come into question. There is no need to worry about a fire-rated core. NFPA-285 testing is not an issue with Aluminum Honeycomb because the core and components are NON-FLAMABLE.

When owners and architects consider alternatives to ACM, budget and life cycle are driving considerations. For budget constrained projects that do not have a long life expectancy, roll-formed metal or non-metallic materials are available. When life-cycle considerations are paramount, the tendency is to consider monolithic (aluminum) plate solutions. Aluminum plate is a viable alternative; however, the cost difference between aluminum plate and ACM can be significant.

Aluminum honeycomb may be the best alternative or a more cost effective solution that does not compromise life cycle. Aluminum honeycomb panels from Protean have been used in the architectural market since 1989. Aluminum honeycomb can also create REALLY BIG panels without extra stiffening for wind loads, etc. As a results, you can get PERFECTLY FLAT panels, something ACM and aluminum plate cannot achieve.

For mid- sized projects (3000 square feet of finished panels) or larger, ACM and aluminum honeycomb will likely be more cost effective than aluminum plate. Both panel systems use thin gauge aluminum for the outer face (0.020” typical for ACM, 0.040” typical for honeycomb). These thinner gauges of aluminum can be cost effectively coil coated to a wide array of colors. And there is almost no chance of ‘crazing’ when these thinner gauged materials are formed for making panel systems. Heavier gauge aluminum plate (0.125” typical, 0.080” common) is more frequently finished post fabrication. Although there are very reliable and robust finishing applications available (Kynar paint, anodization, etc.), the cost to finish fabricated panels is significantly more expensive and more time consuming.

Depending upon the application, aluminum honeycomb panels could cost 0 – 15% more than ACM panels. Whereas aluminum plate panels could cost 15% - 30% more than ACM.

Protean offers caulk joint (HC-100) and dry joint rainscreen style (HC-200) panels. To learn more about the best panel system for your project needs, please contact Protean Construction Products or a knowledgeable Protean Representative near you.