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Spring  2001

Getting TECHnical

The New Materials Explosion

by carl wagus


Historically, nationally-recognized American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) standards and specifications have played an important role in establishing a baseline of performance for new materials and providing a system of quality assurance for buyers, specifiers and fabricators as well as a reference point for national code organizations and local code officials. A high point of this effort was the landmark, material-neutral ANSI/AAMA/NWWDA 101/I.S. 2-97 standard encompassing aluminum, vinyl and wood products. AAMA foresaw that we would be challenged to continue to help bring a wide variety of new, advanced substrate profile materials and products to the marketplace by developing the specifications and test methods necessary to allow them to be evaluated on a level playing field.

The only thing we misjudged was how fast these advances would actually come on the scene. The pace of change has been truly stunning. Not only has materials technology made giant leaps, but the face of the industry itself is also changing. The supply of wood is becoming tighter and more expensive. Fabricators are consolidating and the European influence on (and in some cases ownership of) U.S. vinyl extruders has expedited the introduction of new technologies to the market. Additionally, the new materials are being applied to more than just windows and doors, thus enabling the development of new products.

Newer AAMA Specifications
Today, we find that several of the new materials we were anticipating for the future are on the market now. Evidence of their arrival is found in several new AAMA specifications released since April of 1998. These include:

Organic Coatings on Plastic Substrates (AAMA 613-98 and AAMA 615-00). These documents dramatically expand color selection and tests for bond strength, resistance to abrasion, humidity, detergents (cleaners) and mortar. These coatings will allow fabricators and buyers to match changing color palettes and expand into the light commercial market segments that depend on frequent distinctive color changes.

Reinforced Thermoplastic Profiles (AAMA 310-99). These provide more strength than unreinforced PVC and a lower coefficient of expansion along with higher heat resistance.
Fiberglass Reinforced Thermoset Profiles (305-2000). This material offers higher strength and a coefficient of expansion more compatible with the glazing.

ABS Capped Profiles (AAMA 304-98). The ABS system (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene[ABS] capped with an Acrylonitrile-Styrene-Acrylic [ASA] or ASA/PVC blend) delivers higher heat resistance for challenging climates and provides more color options.

Impending Standards
Additional standards are nearing completion for release later this year. These include:
Cellulosic Composites. Introduction of this standard will expand wood-polymer material beyond window and door profiles to other building products, such as decking.

Cellular PVC Window Profiles. These profiles offer the same low maintenance features as vinyl, but with the appearance and feel of wood. Cellular or foamed PVC also boasts better energy performance and greater rigidity. 

Laminated Coatings on PVC Profiles. Simulated woodgrain veneers provide homeowners with the look of wood on the interior and the low maintenance of vinyl on the exterior. The laminated material standard will ensure a durable bond, color hold and compatibility of the adhesive with the substrate. Look for foil laminates in the future.

Decking/Walking Surfaces and Guardrails. The new, low-maintenance decking surfaces are made from vinyl, polyethylene and other polymer composites.

Each of these profile materials offers special advantages for dealing with the performance challenges posed by climate, building design or consumer preferenceó and all have unique performance boundaries. Only through uniform, performance-based standards can these advantages and limitations be evaluated for each application. 

AAMA welcomes the challenge of continuing to offer an ever-larger and increasingly effective forum for bringing these materials successfully to market.

Carl Wagus serves as technical director of AAMA.


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