“Aluminum composite panel took a hard hit”
CEO of Sadaf New Wall:

“Aluminum composite panel took a hard hit”

The consumption of aluminum composite panels has declined as its use in traditional and historical cities such as Isfahan was banned and construction declined. The technology of composite panels has significantly improved; they are produced with nanotechnology, with advantages such as light weight, visual appeal, easy cleaning, etc.; but municipalities do not give certificates to buildings with composite panels. Moreover, construction has come to a stop. The market of composite panels is shrinking. “The days of bustling markets for composite panels are gone; when the product was first introduced to the market, our output was sold on a daily basis. But now it takes six months to sell the output of one month,” said Asghar Marani, CEO of Sadaf New Wall. Another problem is the import of low-quality knock-offs; polyester composites known as PVDF composites are specifically made for indoors, but are imported and sold as outdoor composites.

Complaining that instead of embracing new technology and supporting composite panels, the government has restricted and even banned its use, Marani said: “Construction was already declining, when the market of composite panels came under further pressure (more so compared to other applications of aluminum foil) after the government banned the use of composites on the pretext that it would give buildings a “western” look and that other construction-related industries would go out of business.

Marani used Isfahan as an example to illustrate his point: “Residential buildings are not permitted to use composite panels; commercial buildings can use only up to 10% composite panels in their façade and up to 30% if they are located out of the city. In other cities, commercial buildings can use up to 50% composite panels. Moreover, airports don’t need permission from the municipality, so their façade is made entirely of composite panels. Only two years ago there were buildings with 90% of their façade made of composite panels.”

Marani believes that the use of composite panels has been banned due the popular support for it; one worker can install one thousand square kilometers in a week, while the tradition brick and stone façade takes two months and more workers. “This led to complaints from stoneworkers and other relevant industries. The government and the parliament worked together to ban the use of composite panels in residential buildings.”

Composite panels are far lighter-weight than stones and bricks.

“Bricks and stones in one square meter of façade weigh 100 kg, while the same area of composite weighs less than 10 kg.” Among the advantages of composite panels, Marani mentioned use of nanotechnology, better quality, easier cleaning with rain, and faster installation. “Composite panels were introduced in Iran 15 years ago and they were very popular until 2010; the market was booming.” He added that until 2010, there were 11 producers of composite panels in Iran. “Since 2011 when the use of composite panels was restricted, only one new producer has joined.”

Marani also talked about the difference between types of composite panels: “Polyester paint is for indoors, because it does not endure in the sun; the color fades after four or five years and it is completely wiped away after about seven or eight years. Outdoor composite panels must have a paint thickness of 30 μm and the aluminum must be between 0.3 and 0.4, otherwise the pain will just come off.

“If coated with a nano layer, it will not absorb dust and can easily be washed using with water.” He attributed the quality of the nano coating to the machines that paint-coat composite panels. “The foil is painted and then heated to 100°C; thus, it has a much longer life and is not damaged even under the 50°C of sunlight. Polyester, on the other hand, is heated to only 30°C and has lower resistance to heat.”

Marani went on to explain that in every stage of PVDF painting, the paint cannot be thicker than 8 μm and the final paint layer must be over 25 μm; thus, the PVDF process must be repeated at least three times. “Aluminum foiling painting machinery consists of three paint rolls with three furnaces in a line; the foil leaves the furnace, is cooled down, receives another layer of paint, and goes back in the furnace until it has three layers of paint. Polyester only has two stages of paint roll and heat treatment, so it’s not as durable. Aluminum composite consists of seven layers of PVDF, glue, 3mm polyethylene, glue, aluminum foil, and polyester paint; the layers create acoustic and thermal insulation. To glue the polyethylene layer on the aluminum foil, 80 μm glue is needed, which sticks to both the polyethylene layer and the foil.”

Marani pointed out that some producers use glue with 50-60 μm thickness: “This is not visible and no one tests the panels when buying, but when used in a heated environment, the sheet will scale.

Low-quality knock-offs are imported.

Some Iranian companies had imported sub-standard thin panels that were used outdoors; we contacted the foreign sellers to ask why they had sold such thin panels for outdoor use. They said that the buyers had not asked for outdoor panels and just insisted they wanted it to be cheap, so they sold them polyester panels.”

He explained that importers buy polyester panels, which are about 30% cheaper, and sell them as outdoor panels in Iran. “Polyester panels are for indoors only; they fade in the sun and are useless after 10 years.” He also explained how they were able to import sub-standard products: “Each container can hold 10,000 square meters of aluminum composite panels; they put about 50 square meters of high-quality panels in the front of the container. Samples for testing are taken from the front, so the whole load is approved and goes into the market.”

Marani has communicated this matter to the customs office, “They replied that no such products have been imported. We got data about trade and imports directly from Chinese factories.”

He reminded that there is no guarantee for the quality of imported products: “Most importers have a rented office and often change locations after a while. Moreover, they import a different brand each time, and no one can be held accountable if there are any problems. Domestic producers are striving to produce high-quality panels in order to maintain their market.”

Another form of fraud he mentioned is the use of thinner-than-standard foils. “We use about three kilograms of aluminum to produce one square meter of composite panels; some imported panels contain 400 grams of aluminum per square meter. The average buyer cannot detect the difference, because they add polyethylene to make up for the loss of aluminum thickness.”

Marani pointed out that the price of polyethylene is 10-15 thousand tomans, but it used to be only four thousand tomans. “They add half a kilogram of polyethylene and save two kilograms of aluminum, which costs 20 thousand tomans per kilogram.”

When asked if panels from all companies were of equal quality, he replied: “Painted and raw foil is available on the market, but some producers do not have good machinery for washing and cleaning foils; the foil does not stick well to the polyethylene.”

How is aluminum foil priced?

“The price of aluminum foil is 2,400 tomans higher than that of unwrought aluminum, but it used to be only 1,200 tomans higher. Laminated foils have different prices. Before the fluctuations of the dollar rate, polyester-coated foils were 1,500 tomans per square meter and PVDF foils were 3,000 tomans per square meter. I believe they are 3,000 and 6,000 tomans respectively now.” He complained that prices are in a way that producers find it uneconomical to operate honestly and have to sell higher than the market prices, but then no one will buy.

Aluminum foil produced in Iran is not of good quality.

“There are two companies that produce painted foil. I have bought from them twice, and their products are of terrible quality; the paint had scaled on the edges. Iranian-made aluminum foil is generally not of good quality. Yet that doesn’t mean all foreign products are good.”

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