Both expanded metal and perforated metal are suitable for use in ventilation or drainage applications. Additionally, their integration of geometric patterns, makes both a popular aesthetic element added to various fixtures and structures.
Despite their similarities in function, these two metals are distinct; they require the use of different manufacturing methods, exhibit different characteristics, and have different best use cases. Understanding the differences between them is critical when selecting one or the other for an application.
In the following blog post, we provide an overview of how perforated and expanded metal differ, outlining how they’re manufactured, key characteristics, and ideal applications.
All About Expanded Metal
For ventilation and drainage products, expanded metal is a strong and cost-effective option.
Manufacturing Method for Expanded Metal
The key to expanded metal’s strength is in its manufacturing process. The first step is to perforate the sheet with a series of regular slits. Stretching the sheet after adding these openings creates the distinctive, repeating diamond pattern that distinguishes expanded metal from other material options. After the stretching process, some strands of metal may protrude slightly, but it’s possible to flatten these later on if necessary or desired.
There are two key advantages to this technique:
- It decreases the amount of material waste produced—therefore increasing material utilization—which translates to lower production costs.
- It creates materials with greater structural strength than that of materials with holes punched directly into them (i.e., perforated metal).
Key Characteristics of Expanded Metal
As indicated above, expanded metal retains its structural integrity better than perforated metal. In addition to this property, other key characteristics include low risk of unraveling (compared to woven mesh) and excellent conductivity.
Ideal Applications for Expanded Metal
When choosing to use expanded metal for an application, some of the key considerations include thickness and strand dimension, both of which depend on the structure’s requirements. It is available in a wide range of materials, mesh sizes (including near-transparent thickness), and pattern designs to suit different use cases.
Some of the most common applications for which expanded metal is ideal include:
- Animal flooring
- Architectural components
- Automotive racks
- Car grilles
- Catwalks and stairs
- Ceiling panels
- Chimney caps
- Machine guards
- Park and recreation equipment
- Patio furniture
- Speaker grilles
- Trailer flooring
- Waste receptacles
All About Perforated Metal
Perforated metal is the preferred choice for use in certain applications such as filtration equipment.
Manufacturing Method for Perforated Metal
Like expanded metal, perforated metal begins as a steel sheet. However, rather than slicing and stretching the sheet, a technician feeds the base material into a specialized machine that punches holes in a pre-defined pattern (typically either straight or staggered lines of holes). The machine usually leaves a thin section of metal around the perimeter unpunched to avoid compromising the material’s stability.
The perforation process does, by necessity, generate waste. While the excess metal can be recycled, doing so may increase the overall project cost. Manufacturing sheets with larger holes produces more material waste—resulting in higher production costs—so customers with such requirements should consider if expanded metal is a better fit for their budget.
Key Characteristics of Perforated Metal
Compared to expanded metal, perforated metal’s main advantage is its versatility. It is available in a broad selection of variations, with different material, hole gauge, hole size, and hole shape options.
Ideal Applications for Perforated Metal
As perforated metal is available in many different variants, it lends itself to use in a wide range of applications. Some examples include the following, although perforated metal applications are by no means limited to this list:
- Acoustical enclosures
- Architectural structures
- Electronic enclosures
- Farm equipment
- Grain dryers
- Home appliances
- HVAC equipment
- Lighting fixtures
- Pharmaceutical systems
- Speaker grilles
- Store displays and fixtures
Expanded and Perforated Metal Solutions From Metalex
At Metalex, we recognize the value of both expanded metal and perforated metal. As such, we maintain a broad selection of perforated metal materials and expanded metal products for our customers. Whichever material you need, our expert sales and engineering team will ensure you get the right product for your application and requirements.