A Designers Guide to Aluminium Composite
If you’re just entering the graphic design industry, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of print materials out there. The truth is, graphic designers are faced with a lot of options when they’re ready to take their designs to print. And while more options mean more power, it’s important to understand the basics in order to choose the best material for your needs.
To help you better understand your options, we’re diving into our second print substrates 101, with a focus in this article on aluminium composite—AKA Dibond.
Maybe you’ve heard of Dibond, maybe you haven’t, but we’re here to get you up to speed with this highly durable material.
What is Dibond and How is it Made?
Dibond is the brand name of one of the top aluminium composite materials (ACM). Often used to create permanent high valued outdoor signs, this material consists of a plastic polyethylene core sandwiched between two aluminium sheets.
The combination of plastic and aluminium coating makes Dibond extremely durable and much more lightweight and shock-resistant than pure aluminium.
In addition, because this material is completely solid, it can easily be cut into intricate details without losing the integrity of the piece. This property makes Dibond a popular choice for signage designs that may require trimming after printing.
The generic name of Dibond is aluminium composite. However, because the brand has dominated the manufacturing of this material, many simply refer to this product as Dibond.
It was originally created more than 20 years ago by 3A Composites, which was known as Alcan Composites at the time. 3A also manufacture similar products using aluminium such as Hylite and KAPAtech.
They also manufacture the paper board we covered in this blog post about Dispa board printing. We wouldn’t recommend Dispa though for your new shop signage!
Dibond Usage in the Sign and Print Industry
Those in the graphic design industry will likely encounter Dibond when they are ready to take their project to print.
Dibond is one of the most popular outdoor signage materials, especially for signs that are intended to be permanent fixtures. Its varied uses include company logos, retail signs, directional signage and shopfitting.
Aluminium Dibond signs are ideal for mounting as they offer the flattest panels of any material. You’ll see Dibond being used in many exhibition displays. Next time you’re at the art gallery or museum, have a peek at what the prints are mounted to.
Further, because each aluminium composite panel is made up of plastic and thin aluminium sheets, Dibond is very lightweight and sturdy. In fact, the combination of these substrates is designed to withstand the outdoors, offering a waterproof and heat resistant surface that will not warp in the sun.
Some of the top uses of aluminium composite in the sign and print industry include:
- Long-term outdoor signs
- Typographic signs or projects with intricate details
- Expensive digital prints and graphics
- Mounted logos
- Retail signs
- Parking signs
- High-end real estate signs
- Creative projects
Outside of the sign and print industry, Dibond also has applications in decorative lighting, furniture construction, interior design, displays, and more.
Case studies on the durability of this material have shown it to be a top contender for those in need of a superior finished quality and weatherproof signage.
The Pros of Aluminium Composite
- Long-lasting and highly durable
- Protection from outdoor conditions like rain, snow, and the sun
- Can be cut easily without damaging the integrity of the sign
- Offers the flattest panel of any material, making this material ideal for mounted signs
- Visually appealing effect due to the multiple substrates
- Lightweight thanks to the plastic core
- More shock resistant than regular aluminium
- Does not warp in the heat
- Can protect expensive digital prints and graphics
The Cons of Aluminium Composite
- Different finishes can carry more expense
- Slightly less rigid than solid aluminium
Different Types of Dibond
As the first and leading manufacturer of aluminium composite material, Dibond has created a variety of products to suit any designer’s needs.
Some of the most popular Dibond products include:
Butler finish: Characterised by its shiny and polished surface. By adding a clear lacquer to the surface of the panel creates this effect.
Dibond Digital: This material is specially designed for maximum ink adhesion. This grade of Dibond can create truly striking digital prints, allowing your design to shine. If you’re interested in Dibond printing, this is likely the best option for you.
Dibond Décor: Characterised by its wood appearance. This is perfect for signs that call for a more rustic aesthetic.
Dibond Mirror: Featuring a glassy and reflective surface, this grade of Dibond offers a mirrored surface that is unbreakable and half the weight of a conventional mirror.
Dibond FR: This variety of Dibond features a mineral core, giving it the fire retardant classification.
Dibond Structure: If you want to give your sign a unique look, Dibond Structure offers a signature surface with unique finishes to the aluminium.
Dibond Eloxal: This material features an additional anodised coating making it much harder and more durable than the standard paint system.
Alternative Products to Dibond
Aluminium composite offers maximum durability and visual appeal, making it perfect for long lasting and important projects. However, the high quality of this material does come with an added cost and may not be the best choice for every job.
If you’re looking for alternatives, consider some of the following:
- very lightweight
- less expensive than Dibond
- recyclable Polypropylene
- suited for external use
Foam centred Board:
- ultra lightweight
- very inexpensive
- paper exterior
- suited for indoor use only
- less expensive than Dibond
- highly durable
- many different thicknesses
- suited for indoor or outdoor use
Each of these alternative products has their own pros and cons. It can simply boil down to your specific project needs.
We understand that there is a lot to consider when choosing the right signage material for your needs. If you need to run through options to find the ideal substrate for your project, get in touch on 01782 413789.
Looking for more substrate guides? Check out our post here on Correx and Correx printing.