Understanding Metal Composite Material, Installation, and Systems

Distinguishing quality and understanding warranties
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Sponsored by Metal Construction Association’s Metal Composite Material Alliance
By Jessica Jarrard

Distinguishing Between A Manufacturer and Fabricator

In the industry, the terms MCM manufacturer and MCM fabricator are often confused. There are, however, distinct differences between the two.

The MCM manufacturer is responsible for the process of bonding the skins and core together in a continuous process, creating the flat sheet.

The MCM fabricator is responsible for cutting, routing, folding, and otherwise processing the MCM to fabricate panels to be installed on the building. These fabricators can either have a proprietary installation system using aluminum extrusions or use a third party’s extrusion system.

In the manufacturing, fabrication, and installation process, there are many testing requirements that must be met along the way. Some pertain to the manufacturer, some to the fabricator, and certain tests can only be accomplished by a cooperation and coordination of the two. The manufacturer is responsible for anything related directly to the MCM sheet, including surface finishes and material fire performance. Testing pertaining to wind loads and water penetration generally applies to the fabricator, as the MCM is simply a transfer component moving wind load from one location to another. Some of the more extensive fire testing is a combination of manufacturer and fabricator performance since the MCM is a primary combustible element. The installation system allows the panel to maintain its position and has an impact on the direction of the flames.

Securing a Quality MCM Sheet Manufacturer

There are many MCM manufacturers across the globe, offering varying levels of quality and pricing options. When specifying MCM products, it is important to choose a quality manufacturer to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of occupants while also providing a long life for the building.

As previously discussed, the typical MCM manufacturing process is to extrude or place a core material between two skins of metal with some type of continuous bonding technology to keep the components together. These components are run through a series of heated rolls under a considerable amount of pressure, then each panel is cut to length. Various manufacturers have tried to create composite panels in a batch process; however, consistent visual appearance and bond strength between the core and the skins has generally been a limiting factor in production. Continuous panel production in a controlled factory environment has proven to be the most common practice to ensure a high-quality, consistent panel product. For the best results when specifying a manufacturer, ensure that the materials produced are manufactured using a continuous production process. Manufacturers should provide warranties on the finish quality, bond integrity, and appearance (flatness). Warranties will be discussed in more detail later in this article.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in December 2020

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