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Architectural Cladding Panel System (Vitraclad)

Vitraclad panels are used in external cladding applications, on buildings where a low maintenance, durable, colour finish is required.

External cladding on Northbury School, London Internally, vitreous enamel is an ideal choice in high traffic areas where other less durable products may be prone to vandalism and wear as well in environments requiring ultra-hygienic and sterile conditions such as operating theatres, laboratories and production facilities (e.g. manufacturing of integrated circuits and pharmaceuticals).

In addition, panels can also be used as infill and spandrel panels in curtain and window wall systems.

Vitreous enamel is a versatile material with a number of unique properties, making it a wonderful medium that allows a designer to address most cladding conditions and requirements.

MRT Sengkang Station, Singapore In general, a cladding system can be broken down into three basic components:
  • The cladding panels.
  • A metal framework / substructure (in steel or aluminium), to provide flexibility and adjustment for the alignment of the panels during installation and to compensate for on site tolerances in the building work.
  • The joint between individual panels, where a variety of details are available based on the design requirements and performance criteria of the cladding system.
Although simple flat sheet panels can be used in specific applications and under certain conditions, the basic construction of a vitreous enamel panel consists of a front plate of vitreous enamelled steel, a core and a balancing backer.

In addition to improving the flatness of the panels, core materials provide additional structural strength, thermal insulation, acoustic insulation and can also add to the fire resistant properties to the panels.

A range of core materials are available depending on the panel type and the design requirements of the cladding system, e.g. Calcium Silicate and Aluminium Honeycomb, the availability of the latter for Vitraclad panels currently under development.

Core materials are compression bonded (laminated) to the inside face of the panels, using appropriate adhesives and equipment.

The balancing backer laminated to the rear of the core is in general manufactured from 0.5 mm galvanised mild steel or alternatively, should the rear side of the panels be visible, a wide range of finishes can be supplied for the internal face of the panels depending on the aesthetic design requirements.

Mural In respect of architectural applications, three basic Vitraclad panel types are available:
  • Light Gauge Panels (C-Type or Composite Panel) - Originally designed as infill panels, light gauge panels are also used in internal cladding and external fascia applications. Light gauge panels have a flush edge necessitating the introduction of extrusion edge covers and joints profiles. The thickness of the enamelling quality steel varies between 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm.
  • Heavy Gauge Panels (F-Type or Flanged Panel) - Used to create more complex profiles that include curves, corners and flat profiles, the panels are pre-fabricated to the required size and shape by cutting and notching steel sheets, bending the returns and flanges and finally welding and finishing off the corners prior to enamelling. Flanged panels have an integral return flange around the full perimeter of the panel and, although the flange depth can vary as a function of the panel size, it is considered good enamelling practice to use a single flange return depth of 35 / 40 mm or, preferably, a double flange return combination of 35 / 40 mm + 20 mm. The thickness of the enamelling quality steel is 1.5 mm and a variety of fixing and joint details can be offered to the designer depending on the application and the aesthetic parameters.
  • Heavy Gauge Sheets - Used principally in lining tunnels and curved soffits. Enamel steel sheets have a flush edge and firing holes are present to provide support points during the enamelling process - extrusion edge covers are therefore necessary at the joints and terminal ends. We can however supply enamelled sheets with no firing holes if required, by using micro tags to provide support points during the firing process. The thickness of the enamelling quality steel varies between 1.5 mm, 2.0 mm and 2.5 mm.
External cladding at night Vitraclad panels are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. In general, individual panels are manufactured with a maximum face width of 1200 mm on single return flange heavy gauge panels and heavy gauge sheets, or 1160 mm on double return flange heavy gauge panels and light gauge panels. The maximum length on all panels and sheets is 3000 mm, however the recommended maximum panel and sheet length is 2400 mm.

Steel sheet sizes, furnace aperture and panel shape can also provide limitations to the final panel dimensions and it is always advisable to involve Vitrex at the design stage of a project.

Vitraclad panels and sheets are manufactured in accordance with the European Standard EN 14431:2004 for ´´Vitreous and porcelain enamels – characteristics of the enamel coatings applied to steel panels intended for architecture``.

The standard was prepared by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and enjoys the status of National Standard in twenty-eight European countries including the United Kingdom, where it has replaced the original BS 3830 specification for ´´Vitreous enamelled steel building components``.

The new standard specifies the requirements for enamel-coated, cold rolled, heavy and light gauge steel panels intended for interior and exterior architectural use.

The standard also covers the functional and aesthetic characteristics and resistance to graffiti of these panels and related coatings as well as aspects such as the final thickness of the fired enamel, abrasion resistance, impact resistance, surface hardness, flatness, acid resistance, surface appearance, gloss and colour characteristics.