By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
Aluminum composite materials (ACM) and similar aluminum products are ideal for applications that require durability. These materials can be optimized to perform well on today’s wide format inkjet systems.
Frank Wu, sales, Eastsign International, points out that typically, ACM is a simple product that is composed by two aluminum layers on the top and bottom, while the middle layer is a low density polyethylene. The whole panel is flat and straight.
Features like thickness, gloss levels, colors, and sizes differentiate these products and help determine their use.
ACM and other aluminum products are durable and lightweight.
Marla Gomez, director of architectural building products, Nudo, says the material is very stable and can easily be custom altered in the field to clad over structures. Additionally, cutting and bending can be performed with a simple router and minimal training.
“ACM offers extreme flatness and consistency for very precise ink placement making it an excellent choice for digital printing. The durability and stability of ACM is unexcelled in the rigid print media category,” comments Chuck Kunze, director, product management and marketing, 3A Composites USA.
Wu believes that the ACM or aluminum panel is one of the most widely used metal building materials. This is attributed to the fact that it is lighter weight than stainless steel, copper, or other material, like stone.
He adds that it is long lasting, stronger, and tougher than wood or fabric.
Pricing is another consideration, which many feel is an advantage.
For example, Gomez believes the quality of the product and its diversity of applications at a reasonable price is unmatched.
Wu adds that it is typically cheaper than copper, stainless steel, and steel.
Because of its many advantages, ACM is utilized for a range of products.
The multitude of applications, design flexibility, various thicknesses, and the ability to use indoors and outdoors are factors that generate interest in ACM products for digital printing, according to Gomez.
Many factors drive its demand, including its use on new building projects, the signage industry, and even traffic boards. Wu says many industries find ACM products useful and relevant.
Kunze adds that the need for a high-quality, consistent, and lightweight product that will provide excellent printing results and can withstand extreme conditions without degrading pushes the demand for ACM.
While ACM is versatile and fairly easy to print onto, sometimes printing to mirrored surfaces can be a challenge.
Gomez says there are many combinations of printers and inks that allow an experienced technician to produce excellent results. He does admit that beginners may need to perform a cross-hatch test or bending and returns to get a thorough understanding of how their equipment and inks perform using ACM.
“It isn’t difficult to print to ACM as many printers already have a setting created, but we always recommend test printing before full-scale production,” suggests Kunze.
Aluminum-based materials like ACM provide a versatile medium for digitally printed output. In part two we highlight solutions on the market.
Nov2021, Digital Output