Dibond - Superior Aluminium Composite Panel

Factors Affecting the Quality and Suitability Of Aluminium Composite Panel

There has been a lot of talk recently about Aluminium Composite Panel, one manufacturer even taking out advertising
space in trade publications to highlight the risks of using inferior brands of Aluminium Composite Panel so we thought we would
comment based on what we know about Aluminium Composites.

There are 3 basic components to an Aluminium Composite Panel as used in Sign, Screen and Digital applications. The first layer
is the painted finish. This must be designed for a purpose and applied to the correct thickness uniformly. Many cheaper brands of
Aluminium Composite Panel have an adequate coating on one side of the sheet, and a substandard coating on the opposite side.
This is fine if the coating itself is designed to be ink, paint and vinyl receptive, if it is durable, and if you are only using one side
of the sheet.

Our Dibond Digital is designed specifically for flat-bed digital printing and will accept a heavier coating of ink enabling a more
vibrant, more colour-correct print. Standard Dibond is designed to be folded and outdoor durable for 5-7 years or more
(guaranteed and proven over time). Both coatings are not available “off-the-shelf” to manufacturers of Aluminium Composite
Panel and are only found on 3A Composite products such as Alucobond, Dibond, Dilite and Dibond Digital.

The next layer is the Aluminium skin. Thicknesses range from 0.12mm to 0.5mm. The thicker the skin, the better, and the more
expensive. A 0.3mm skin is best for multiple folds, but a 0.2mm skin will fold if the core material is suitable, and the aluminium is of good quality. The skin can be either “virgin” or “recycled” aluminium. Obviously recycled aluminium seems like a very good idea - that is,
unless you plan to fold the sheet. Impurities and imperfections can cause the skin to crack when folded. Oxidisation can cause the
coating or the core to delaminate.

Finally, in the middle we have some sort of plastic core. Most Aluminium Composites feature a Polyethylene core bonded to the
aluminium skin with heat, kind of like a toasted sandwich. This can result in uneven adhesion across the sheet. Dibond and
Dilite use a patented and uncopyable “continuous bonding” process which guarantees even adhesion across the sheet.

Cores can again either be “virgin” or “recycled” Low-Density Polyethylene, or some percentage of each. The important factor is
UV stability. Some sheet will look fantastic, but installation with exposed edges will quickly break down the core or cause
excessive expansion and contraction resulting in ‘oil-canning’ and/or delamination. Given that one of the main advantages of
Aluminium Composite is it’s ability to remain flat and smooth across the whole sheet without ‘oil-canning’, you would have to
wonder about the economy of using a sheet which will eventually oil-can in outdoor environments?

An illuminated sign with acrylic letters inserted into a routered Dibond
face (image courtesy of Sign-A-Rama Hobart)

This is one of the reasons that 3A Composites can produce very large sheets, such as 4m x 1.5m (which we now stock) - properly installed,
this sheet will look smooth and even over it’s entire area for many years.

It’s interesting to note that the plant that makes Dibond is almost completely automated, resulting in very low labour cost - the price difference isn't because the product is made using German labour! The price is a reflection of the quality of the materials and the genuine durability and suitability of the sheet for it's intended purpose - a smooth, strong sheet designed to last.