Like their namesake, sandwich panels are made up of several pieces that make up a single unit. Composed of three layers, any structure can be considered a sandwich panel as long as it has a low-density core, and two thin layers or sheets of material which can be bonded to both sides of the core. Used wherever high structural rigidity and low weight are needed, these components are commonly applied within aerospace apparatuses, turbines, automobiles, and watercraft.
Similar in function to I-beams used among construction and civil engineering projects to tackle multiple loads like shear and bending forces, the two outer layers composing a sandwich panel are designed to resist in-plane to compensate for lateral bending loads, while the core serves to resist shear loads. In addition, this also leads to improved bending stiffness while maintaining or reducing structural weight.
To fabricate a sandwich panel, its core must be assembled from a light, yet soft, material like RIP, mineral wool, and XPS (extruded polystyrene) or EPS (expanded polystyrene). From here, the chosen two exterior panels can be adhered to the core, sandwiching all parts together. However, depending on the intended use of the finished product, the material composing the exterior sheets can vary to best suit operational functions.
Working as a type of sandwich structured composite, a popular class of composite material, such panels provided a predetermined amount of strength, meaning that sandwich panels can be designed to suit numerous applications throughout industry verticals. For example, they are crucial for aircraft construction, serving as an essential component for enhancing vehicle performance while substantially reducing its overall weight, and you can easily find them within your everyday life, constructing the walls of your home or in packaging making up standard polypropylene and polypropylene honeycomb boards.
Common types of sandwich boards include 3D-printed biopolymer panels, structural insulated/insulating panels (SIP), and aluminum composite panels (ACP). Of these types, 3D-printed biopolymer panels are a more modern adaptation, allowing engineers to work with substances like natural and synthetic fibers to create complex sandwich panels. This method is currently being studied to create panels best suited for vibration and energy absorption. Regarding SIPs, they are what we commonly see making up the walls and insulation of buildings, while ACPs are frequently used as external cladding or facades for buildings, insulation, signage, and more.
Heavily used among construction projects, ACPs are particularly popular for their integration among partitions, false ceilings, signage, machine coverings, container construction, and various others. Lightweight and sturdy, the materials making up ACPs are made from an aluminum composite material (ACM), and often consist of two thin sheets of coil-coated aluminum. However, while abundant in infrastructure, the standard polyethylene core of ACP is known to be highly combustible, and strict regulations and codes of practice have been established to mitigate the chances of structural damage.
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