When it comes to the manufacturing of acoustic panels, Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the gold standard. It’s the sturdy felt-like material we all know and love for its performance, aesthetics and durability. But what is it? Where is it manufactured? And how does it work? This edition of the Acoustic Influencer is devoted to exactly those questions.
Consider this your PET Explainer.
Why Acoustic Panels Work So Well?
Large-scale PET acoustic panel manufacturing is a relatively new sound-absorption solution born out of science that goes back to the 1940s. PET panels are produced from 100% recycled plastic materials (bottles, packaging, etc.) using a polymerization process that creates a resin. A combination of heat and pressure turns that resin into sheets of fibres used to produce acoustic panels. Those panels can then be modified to meet specific performance requirements.
PET is renowned for its sound-absorbing properties, but is also really durable, water and mold resistant, can be dyed and shaped to meet design needs and is easily cleanable. Acoustic panels made from PET don’t degrade and can be recycled into other products, making them even more eco-friendly. They are also hypoallergenic, odour-free and non-toxic.
Where is PET manufactured?
The majority is produced in East Asia — places like China and Taiwan — although Europe and North America are increasing their own manufacturing capabilities. The PET products McIntyre works with come from China via Vancouver.
How does PET work?
It’s quite fascinating, it’s a bit science-y. PET panels normally have multiple layers and thicknesses. They often include a dense core layer and outer layers with perforations, which help to create air gaps and porous surfaces.
When sound waves hit those gaps and surfaces, they bounce around, effectively trapping them. The energy created by that bouncing is converted into heat at a molecular level by internal friction. The louder the sound, the deeper into the panel it penetrates, further messing with the wave molecules and creating more heat. That all works to reduce any sound reflection and deadening the sound.
Thickness also plays a role. Thicker panels absorb lower frequencies. In an office setting, those include things like HVAC systems and servers, while thinner panels tackle high-frequency sounds like ringing phones and office equipment.
Of course, It goes without saying that the wrong panels in the wrong places won’t work well —
the type, location and placement are paramount. That’s where sound engineers working alongside installation experts (that’s us!) plays a huge role in overall effectiveness.
The Acoustic Influencer is 100% absorbent. Unlike PET panels, any noise created by our newsletter is heard (and appreciated). So, if you’ve got something to add, please comment and share.