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Quality of aluminum composite material

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by Jean Shimp, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. Jean Shimp

    Jean Shimp Member

    Oct 26, 2012
    jacksonville, fl
    I am noticing a 30% difference in cost between Grimco, Farco and Tubelite on aluminum composite 1/4" (6MM). So far I haven't noticed much difference in quality between the 3 different brands. I need to buy a sheet of 1/4" black and I don't mind paying more if the quality is better. Has anyone noticed any differences in the comparable quality of the products? Thanks.
  2. ddarlak

    ddarlak Trump Hater

    yes, some of them use thinner aluminum, but it is usually noted somewhere on the site or catalog.

    also could be that some had a container full they are selling before they were hit with tariffs and some bought after the tariffs...
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  3. signbrad

    signbrad Member

    Jun 15, 2014
    Kansas City
    There are always differences. There are always reasons why something is cheaper. Some of these will not be apparent by just looking at the stuff. And it is not always easy to research the reasons for the variation in price. Always assume lower quality whe the price is low. Never assume the products are the same.
    Production methods and cost of labor are factors.
    Materials vary and aluminum thickness is just one factor. There are also the core composition, the adhesive and the paint. These are all variables that can be manipulated to achieve a lower price point.

    Often these things do not matter for sign work. Sometimes they do. Experience may be the only real way to know. It's "buyer beware" to a great extent.

    A word about "Chinese versus non-Chinese" manufacturing. Don't be too quick to jump on the "Chinese is always junk" bandwagon. Where do you think your smart phones are made? Chinese manufacturing and technology are cutting-edge. They can do anything we can do. Anything. It is said that Chinese nuclear reactor technology is ten years ahead of the US. And that's just one example.
    But....if we want it cheap, they can make it cheap. They make whatever we want. Pressure from US buyers and distributors will always be accommodated. And they can supply things quicker than our factories can. They are more nimble. (cheap labor? Sure. Whatever. It doesn't matter. It is what it is for whatever reason).
    Steve Jobs reportedly told President Obama that US manufacturing could not meet his needs, but the Chinese could.

    In the paint world, price is usually an indicator of quality. Is it the same in the ACM world? Who knows for sure? Track what you use and how it performs. That's all I know to do. Asking the question on this forum is good. Poor quality goods usually are exposed with time.

    Brad in Kansas City
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  4. bannertime

    bannertime Very Active Member

    Sep 8, 2016
    A certain supplier does have significantly higher margins than some smaller suppliers. Many times we've gotten comparable prices by simply asking. So that $110 6mm ACM can come down to around $95 and possibly even less.

    There is a place for both the $130 boards and the $60 boards. You got a single use realtor site sign? Slap that cheap board up. They'll love it. You have a permanent or multi-use board, maybe move up to the nicer one. You can also let the customer decide. "Hey I've got two options here..."

    While they may look the same, I'm positive one of the differences is going to be shear and tensile strength of the HDPE. I've not looked at spec sheets to even confirm if they list that, but I may be interested enough to look for it now.

    Then the obvious difference is going to be the .10 - .20 mm aluminum.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
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  5. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

    Mar 12, 2005
    New England
    I haven't noticed any great differences when using it for flat panels. Those who bend it do, the cheaper grades crack and split.
    I know I worry about the manufacturer changing things without any real notice. The aluminum faced plywood was sold as a replacement for painted MDO
    and at first it was great. Then I started having failures, with new panels. Turns out they changed it and the warranty was changed to half what it had been.
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  6. equippaint

    equippaint Very Active Member

    Oct 10, 2014
    We've had bowing/twisting issues from different suppliers. We now usually use either .20 or .25 skin in 3mm from Tubelite and haven't had problems. I don't like thick skin haha
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
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  7. Martin Denton

    Martin Denton Member

    Aug 17, 2017
    Manchester, UK
    The main difference we have found in cheap versus quality acm is the routing quality, the cheap seems to leave some very rough edges whereas the quality you get a nice finish to the edges. We only ever use .3mm skin for routing but do use .15 mm skin for flat panels when up against it on cost ...
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