ACP sheets are making the brands recognise their value in true sense by adding professional touch, besides bringing in the corporate look & feel.
Right from a simple name handwritten on a board or over a tin plate with some level of painting on it, the signage has continuously been passing through various stages of evolution. With innovation as a constant feature, the industry keeps giving new faces to its baby, each time using new material. Getting matured from the initial stages, last decade completely belonged to flex which gave signage an all new look with the usage of backlit and light boxes.
Recently, it has got another facelift when ACPs entered the fray bringing along all its attributes to get attached with any brand looking for a contemporary new look and feel. Wonder that ACP can contribute to creating attractive signage! Yes, It can. Besides offering a seamless look to the signage with the use of hairline joints while expanding the horizon of design detailing as desired, ACP sheets can be instrumental in creating various such possibilities like store fronts & LED signage.
In our efforts to explore how ACP manufacturers are feeling about this feast, we at Sign & POP World spoke to a few players including Timexbond, Eurobond, 4Mann Industries, Flexibond, Viva Composite, and Wonder Alu Board. Most of them consented that apart from the attributes attached to ACP, the ban on flex has opened the door for ACP sheets in the world of signage which makes it rule over the replacement market. However, the reasons are much more than simply replacement as to why brands have started embracing ACP sheets.
According to Suresh Gala, Director, 4Mann Industries Pvt. Ltd., ACP sheet was not known to the signage world till few years back. “It has come out forcefully because of the ban on flex that was imposed by some of the state governments. But then it received warm welcome by many blue-chip companies from sectors like automotive, banking, telecommunications, FMCG, etc. This is because ACP perfectly fits in the requirements of all these segments when it comes to branding or promotional activities.”
“Unlike flex, which doesn’t withstand heavy wind pressure and excessive weathering, ACP comes fail-proof for all these factors with life expectancy of more than a decade. Fixed with the help of screws, these modular fixtures allow easy installation as well as dismantling. It is far more stable than any other media. Slow but steady improvements help ACP win the race and now we can find it anywhere in the country. If any special colour is needed, it is now possible with ACP,” says Suresh.
Almost similar are the sentiments of Rishabh Mittal, Director, Wonder Alu Board Overseas, when it comes to usage of ACP in signage industry. “Basically, ACP is now being used in place of flex for creating signboards. This is because, ACP is durable and comes with longer life than any other media including flex. It doesn’t get damaged & weathered and can withstand harsh environmental condition while being installed in outdoors. Moreover, it is scrapped, recyclable, reusable, etc., which are adding further strength to its hold in newer applications like signage.”
Going forward, a common understanding of the current market evinces that 50-60% of the new projects in signage accounts for ACP, while rapidly increasing options of finishes and colours are pushing it further deep into the brand building exercise. The consumption pattern is simple as less use of ACP has been experienced for small stores, while the usage in high street storestouches a new high with each passing day. Adding to its popularity is its weatherproofing attribute which adds to the aesthetics & better finish to the signage thereby ensuring its safety.
“Now that time is changing and companies are becoming more aggressive towards their promotional activities, they want their respective brands to remain visible with their own identity of specific colour and style. They have started believing in brand building exercise because only then people would perceive their brand value. They don’t want to compromise on this front now which let them not to leave any stone unturned. And, here the importance of ACP goes up on the scale,” suggests Jinesh Gala, Director, Timexbond Industries Pvt. Ltd.
On the replacement market remark, Jinesh says, “Flex is being used at its own pace and place. It’s not the replacement market in full for ACP. No doubt, ACP has taken over a part of it. But flex is still leading the signage market especially in the outdoor hoardings in terms of demand and supply. It is too early to judge that ACP would take over flex as five years back no one was even imagining that ACP can be used in signage.”
Rajesh Patel, Director, Umiya Flexifoam Pvt. Ltd. gives a different perspective. According to him, innovation in signage is a continuous process, and is currently on its peak. “First, we had flex, which was followed by vinyl pasting, then backlit which later graduated to become light boxes, and then channel letters – metal or acrylic, which got decorated with the incorporation of LEDs into it. And for each of these applications, ACP is the base product without any other better option.”
Patel strongly believes that the way innovation is being incorporated and various products are being experimented in signage industry is just amazing. “The industry is not only witnessing but also embracing the change. For instance, in case of the contemporary as well as trendy channel letters, ACP has become a must. And, every corporate has understood the importance of ACP,” he says.
Mayank Jain, Director, Viva Composite Panel Pvt. Ltd. feels that it is the attributes of ACP that help it grab its market in the signage industry. “Being CNC compatible, ACP allows more accurate images or letters to be installed on any signboard. Rapid development in the illumination technology adds further glow to the fascia of any store or corporate building. In fact, the possibilities with ACP are endless for signage industry depending upon the willingness of the brands.This is also because ACP is resin-based and doesn’t get weathered besides being eco-friendly.
Insisting more on to the features, Amit Dubey, Brand Development Executive, Euro Panel Products Pvt. Ltd. opines that the usage of ACP has increased manifold in the signage industry. “This will go on touching new heights as the world advances. Mainly because, like other materials, ACP doesn’t release any toxic gas which makes it environment friendly. Further, variety of textures increases the possibility of creating n-number of ranges. Adding more to it is its features like durability, weather-resistant, fire-retardant, etc., which together has been making it a darling of corporates for brand building exercise.”
Aluminium Composite Panels
Aluminium composite panels are flat panels consisting of two thin coil-coated aluminium sheets bonded to a non-aluminium core. The core is commonly low-density polyethylene (PE), or a mix of low-density polyethylene and mineral material to exhibit fire retardant properties. The aluminium sheets can be coated with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), fluoropolymer resins (FEVE), or polyester paint. Aluminium can be painted in any colour which facilitates ACPs to be produced in a wide range of metallic and non-metallic colours as well as patterns that imitate other materials, such as wood or marble.
ACP’s flexibility, low weight, and easy forming and processing properties allow for innovative design with increased rigidity and durability. ACP has been used as a light-weight but very sturdy material in construction. Its application is not limited to external building cladding, but is also being used in partitions, false ceilings, machine coverings, container construction, etc. Nowadays, ACP is widely used in signage industry as an alternative to heavier, more expensive substrates.
Thickness ranges from 1mm to 8mm. For signage industry, 3mm and 4mm sheet is preferred depending upon the height of the installation. Since signages are mostly fixed at 10 feet or 20 feet height, 3mm thickness is appropriate. But if the height goes up, the thickness requirement of the sheet also got enhanced for withstanding the environmental pressure especially that of wind. Overall for all the ACP manufacturers, 20% of their supplies cater to signage industry.
Capacity & Network
According to Suresh, 4Mann Industries Pvt. Ltd. is in the ACP business since 2002 with its state-of-the-art manufacturing unit in Jammu in J&K. With an installed capacity of more than 3 million sqm per annum, the company ranks among the country’s top five ACP manufacturers. “We have a very strong network of more than 80 distributors and over 20,000 dealers spread across the length & breadth of the country. And to feed them timely, we have warehousing facility in almost each of the metro cities. Besides, we do our presence in overseas markets through our partners in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Uganda,” he informs.
Wonder Alu Board, an ISO 9001:2008 certified Company, boasts of its facility which is well-equipped with advanced machineries and has an installed capacity of 16 million sq. ft. per annum. “We are well-established and catering to the industry stakeholders for last one a half decade. We have seen the industry growing and new players jumping on to the bandwagon for grabbing their respective chunk in the pie. It was the time when ACP was majorly used in the front elevation of the building as cladding. Even today, 70% of our products are applied in the exterior of a building. Signage industry has embraced it much later, only a few years ago,” shares Mittal.
According to Jinesh, Timex bond is a brand synonymous with quality, durability and innovation. “We’re one of the initial manufacturers of ISO-certified Aluminium Composite Sheets in the country with an installed capacity of over 50 million sq ft. per annum, of which, 30-40% goes in signage industry.Overall, we have more than 10,000 dealers across the country, wherein 150 are premium ones, who deal in huge quantity of our ACP. And to support this network, we have warehousing facility on pan India basis. In almost all the states, we have company-owned warehouse which enable us to cater to the branding needs of any corporate house based in any city or any part of the country, especially when it comes to supply side of the solution.”
Flexibond is the ACP brand owned by Umiya Flexi foam Pvt. Ltd. which started its operation as manufacturer and exporter in 2003. “Our comprehensive range of quality products including ACPs, brush mirror-faced ACPs, and interior design ACPs has credited us with ISO 9001:2015 certifications. Our products have gained huge recognition in the market especially for aspects such as high durability, superior finishing, non-corrosive and easy installation. All these products are manufactured using finest quality raw materials with cutting edge technology as per latest industrial norms,” asserts Patel.
Jain insists that Viva is one of the leading and renowned brands in manufacturing of ACP in India. Established in the year 2003 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Viva has its manufacturing unit located at Umergaon in Gujarat featuring a perfect harmony of workmanship and state-of-the-art machineries. Equipped with 4 production lines with a total production capacity of seven million sqm per annum, it’s an ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 & CE-certified Company. “Our network comprises 18 company-owned warehouses and more than 500 dealers spread across the country,” he informs.
Eurobond is based in India for more than 12 years with its headquarter in Mumbai. “With an installed capacity of producing 40 million Sq ft per annum, our state-of-the-art facility at Umergaon in Gujarat efficiently caters to a global clientele and ensures fastest deliveries. We use Alloy 3003 which ensures high strength and increased life of our ACPs, besides making it high impact resistance and easy maintenance. Our quality procedures coupled with skilled engineering practices make us one of the leaders in aluminium fabrication and building materials company in India,” informs Dubey.
The ACP Industry
According to a report, the size of ACP industry in India stands close to Rs. 2,200 croreregistering a double digit growth rate annually. With around 45 manufacturing units across the country, the industry is majorly ruled over by the unorgainised sector, while the organised sector constitutes a small portion. Industry experts opined that the share of branded players was considerably low owing to the rampant unethical practices among the unorganised players. But thanks to the GST which has given a level playing field especially to the organised players. It was a much needed thrust for the implementation of standard business practices.
With presence of around a dozen of brands, without having their own manufacturing facility, the ACP market in India has been passing through a tough phase. “The ACP market is not yet up to the mark as many suppliers do not have their own manufacturing facility and are sourcing products from overseas manufacturers. This is not a good sign for the industry as we are feeling threatened. They keep feeding the market with their sub-standard products and by doing so they are not only hurting the sentiments of quality Indian manufacturers, but also playing with the belief of the customers,” suggests Mittal.
Dubey’s concern is also on the same line. “The market is getting flooded with low-priced ACPs which are nowadays being used in signage. This is not at all good for the industry as well for the brands.Standards need to be prevailed in order to restrict cheap quality players,” he says adding that Eurobond has come up with low-priced sub brand called Archer, especially to cater to this segment of the signage market. “Further, the government has made it a norm to use FR ACP in all the government projects,” he informs.
Why ACP in Signage?
The ACP industry uses plastic granules and aluminium coil as key raw materials that attract full input credit, hence, benefitting the manufacturers at max. They are looking for newer application areas and signage industry is one the extensions wherein it has become the need of the hour following which many retail brands and corporates have started embracing it with open arms. No doubt, it took time for companies to innovate in their branding activities. It’s a demand pull kind of a market where clients and not suppliers are the driving force.
“Although, ACP is comparatively expensive than flex and requires more time to get fabricated. But when it comes to brand building exercise, the corporates of today are not ready to compromise. This is because ACP provides very good corporate look for brand building, besides adding permanent colour to a brand which in turn is bringing better results in the form of brand recognition. Also, this is easy to use material, and doesn’t need heavy-skilled labour for fabrication purposes,” explains Jinesh as to why ACP is now preferred for creating signage.
Patel insists that the finish, standard warranty, and of course the attractiveness that it adds to the signboard is unmatched. “This is weather resistant, long lasting and durable. Almost all the ACP manufacturers are giving 10 years warranty on their respective products, while normallythe companies change their branding every four to five years.Also, if someone wants a particular ad for one month, it’s good to use flex, but anything more than this requires better quality signboards and ACP is the best for this,” he says.
The Growth Avenues
While sectors such as banking, petroleum, railways, airports, telecommunications, etc. have already accepted ACP for its brand building exercise, many other industries such as electrical & lighting, sanitaryware, pharmaceuticals, etc. are expected to join the league in time to come. This will further bring advantages to the signage section of the ACP sector, which is also very hopeful of its growth with enhanced thrust on speedy completion of projects from government as well as private sector.
Patel opines that the rapidly expanding commercial spaces, enhanced government activities for public facility structures like new airports, metro rails, railways, bus stands and public utility centres and expanding urbanization are only giving a boost to the prospects of ACP usage in coming years. “The application of ACP has been increasing with each passing day. This is why there are many new players coming in. It won’t be wrong to mention that the product is passing through a phase of a cash cow.”
Further boost in the demand side is expected from the innovation in new designs and addition of colours in the offerings. However, this product category relies heavily on brands’ approval which can be very well observed from the fact that many ACP manufacturers are catering to a few common but bigger brands. This can also be attributed to the fact that brands mostly prefer a local manufacturer/supplier for a particular geography which in turn can help them save on transportation.
“Future is very bright for ACP as many companies tries their luck and have been receiving good response. Since ACP changes the overall look by adding aesthetics, it is rapidly emerging as a very good option for outdoor signage. Now that ACP is playing a very important role, the future is certainly very productive and we expect that 50% of our entire ACP production should go in signage industry in two years from now,” says Jinesh.
“Future is great as the scope of improvement has no any defined limit. The growth and development activities are on. For instance, in construction market, the usage of ACP is aplenty. When it comes to potential markets, south and west are serving the best for us. The industries asking for ACP include Automobiles, Cell phones, Cars’ Showroom, big retail chains like Big Bazar, Shopper Stop, etc. We look forward to a brighter future in time to come,” echoes Jain.
Although many clients still do not prefer the usage of ACP in their projects due to a preconceived notion of the product being pricey besides being restricted on innovation front. But the case now is different as anyone can experience the retail designing sphere where the innovation with the ACP sheet is at its peak. This is forcing major ACP manufacturers in India to keep introducing new finishes and textures
Further, known for its high-quality and long lasting attributes, the preference of ACP is on top when it comes to signage applications. The shift from traditional signboard materials, such as flex, vinyl, acrylics, etc. can be very well observed which strongly suggests that the age of branding has revamped prompting many brands including big corporates to opt for ACPs in brand building activities through signage.
As per the industry report, the limited usage of ACP in signage can be attributed to the fact that majority of the Indian signage market is unorganised. This scenario is changing with time as the share of organised players is increasing slowly, which is a must for the systematic growth of the industry. Additionally, the advantages attached to ACP such as cost-effectiveness, flexibility, availability, user-friendliness, and easy on fabrication will certainly attract brands towards it in time to come.