Category Archive: Poly-Sonic

Why Polyester Felt is the Best Choice for Acoustic Insulation

In design, sound matters. The function of a space is not determined by its aesthetics only but also by the sounds it makes.

Decorative polyester felt panels

“Sound may be invisible or only unconsciously perceived, but that doesn’t make it any less an architectural material than wood, glass, concrete, stone or light.” – Michael Kimmelman.

Sound inextricably becomes attached to function. But because design begins first on paper, it isn’t until we inhabit a room that we determine how to relegate noise.

The growing popularity of decorative acoustic felt panel installation proves that balancing the acoustics of a space does not have to clash with its original design elements. Although it’s true one size does not fit all when it comes to acoustic treatment, polyester felt is proving to be the choice material for acoustic felt panels by the design industry.

What is PET?

PET recyclable plastics

Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is a thermoplastic polymer resin comprised of recycled transparent plastics. PET is frequently referred to as polyester in textile applications but retains its acronym PET regarding packaging, bottling, etc.

Polyester was first patented in the 1940s by Dupont chemists in Delaware, U.S.A, as a new textile fiber. It wasn’t until the 1970s that new technology made it possible to mold PET into bottles. Today, it is the number one recycled plastic worldwide.

PET is highly flexible in its natural state and therefore easily moldable for its end use depending upon how it is processed. Its applications as the number one recycled plastic range from food packaging and bottling to fabrics to thermoforming in manufacturing and automotive insulation.

The textile industry is a significant end-user of PET, making up about 60% of overall PET consumption.

What is Polyester Felt?

BIT Poly-Sonic Acoustic PET Felt panels

Polyester felt is made of recycled PET plastics, mostly water bottles or other single-use products. The recycled material is compressed and melted down until left with plastic flakes. The plastic bits are then remelted and extruded as fiber. This fiber is then used to produce rolls or sheets of PET textile material, similar in any felting process. It can contain anywhere from 0% to 100% recycled content. Not only is it sustainable, but it is fast becoming the premium choice for sound dampening performance in lieu of other traditional materials, like fiberglass.

Polyester felt’s lightweight durable nature (combined with an additional lower melting point ) create the ideal properties for acoustic felt panel design. Its capability to be easily cut, variety of color options, and limitless forms are making polyester acoustic panels part of the visual landscape in modern interior design.

Benefits of Using Polyester Felt in Acoustic Insulation

Polyester felt wall panels

When we design for sound, we are designing for experience. Before, implementing sound insulation into already existing spaces meant the only solution was to hang unattractive hanging baffles and deal with the eyesore.

Now, polyester felt delivers an appealing design in junction with high-functioning performance rates of acoustic insulation.

There is a symphony of reasons the design industry is choosing polyester felt over any other material; acoustically, environmentally, and aesthetically.

Excellent Acoustic Performance

While it is possible, it is challenging to include acoustic design into a space before it has been occupied. In most cases, sound is the last piece an architect will fit into the puzzle. Knowing how a room will be used and where the potential challenges will be for sound issues are essential pieces of the puzzle to negotiate when implementing acoustic solutions. The building layout may not be flexible, but the acoustic solutions can be.

Polyester acoustic felt soaks up ambient noise in a variety of forms. Do you need to mitigate noise in your office conference room? Consider hanging acoustic clouds strategically over spots where noise reflection is at its highest. Are your gym guests experiencing an overload of noise in a large open floor plan? Ceiling baffles would work best here, especially when dealing with higher ceilings.

Using polyester acoustic felt to your best advantage involves finding your key sources of noise and adopting different paneling styles to adapt to the parameters that will help aurally orient your space.

Appealing Function in Design

Polyester felt ceiling baffles

If, as Kimmerman claims, sound is as vital as wood is for building framing, how far can we take acoustic solutions? Structural possibilities with PET are far-reaching. Its flexible form can be bent, molded, and shaped to any design for an assortment of interior applications, including furniture and lighting fixtures. Designers can exercise creative freedom with a host of different color options and texture choices (dependent on manufacturing methods).

Felt itself is a nuanced fabric that works to your elemental design. You can play it safe and subtle, blending your acoustic felt panels into the background or creating statement pieces that accentuate your already developed design theme. Acoustic insulation can be as simple as under-carpeting or as intricate as 3D ceiling baffles.

Ultimately, polyester felt complements a space without compromising it.

The Sustainable Choice

Recyclable icon on phone

It is estimated that Americans alone throw away upwards of 35 billion plastic bottles a year. And subsequently, roughly 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans. But a major culprit of waste is the textile industry adding billions of pounds of waste to our landfills and depleting energy and water resources.

Reworking the end-use for so many single-use plastic products (and the proposed 95% of all textiles that do have the potential to be recycled), PET is the friendliest raw material in textile applications (among other industries) as well as the healthiest.

Polyester needle punch felt is manufactured without the demand for any chemical additives like glue or resin to bond the fibers. Furthermore, polyester felt does not give off VOCs or odors. This makes it safe for indoor use (able to meet building standards and certifications) while requiring fewer energy resources in the manufacturing process.

The amount of recycled content in PET material can vary from 0% to 100%, depending on the providing manufacturer’s specs and the customer’s desire for a “greener” source. It is not only recyclable at the end of its life but possibly reusable dependent on its modularity.

Designing for the Ears

Polyester felt decorative ceiling panels

The acoustic properties of a space have a significant impact on its residents. Managing unwanted noise by integrating acoustic solutions promotes your community’s overall wellness and health, whether it be at home or in your commercial office building.

In the acoustic design process, custom is the standard. Finding the best product for your project starts with making the quality choice of polyester felt. At BIT, we manufacture 100% polyester acoustic panels under our Poly-Sonic line. Each panel has a recycled content of at least 60% PET plastic and is made entirely in the US in our facilities.

Poly-Sonic acoustic felt provides fantastic sound quality that is available in any weight, thickness, or color necessary to meet your specialized products’ demands. We also provide rolled goods that can be molded into any form of acoustic panel solutions or used as a wrapping fabric for other soft-touch surfaces, so the design process is entirely yours.

PET felt hanging ceiling baffles

 

Acoustics should be a part of your building design, whether you choose to stay traditional or seek out artful installations. Contact us today to learn more about our Poly-Sonic line and how you can begin designing your space for both eyes and ears.

 

 

 

 

How Acoustic Panels Can Save Employee Productivity

The Modern Office

open office plan

The modern office is not governed by a geometric design. Its architectural simplification breaks down the walls of cubicles to invite an open and airy work environment. This stimulates office culture and promotes personal interaction. The landscape may be pleasing but this minimalist approach to the office space comes with its issues.

It was believed that a breakdown of cubicles would lead to genuine social interaction and collaboration. However, a lack of privacy has shown the opposite with avoided face time and more digital communication. But it is not just the lack of privacy that is plummeting employee productivity.  An unwanted side effect of fewer walls, higher ceilings, and minimal furnishings is a whole lot of noise.

 Noise Pollution in the Office

noise pollution

Noise is not just an everyday nuisance we can brush off. It’s an irritation that can affect our health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), any noise above 65 decibels (dB) is considered noise pollution and anything exceeding 75 dB becomes harmful.

Unwanted noise in the workplace can come from all sources.

  • Noise from AC and heating units, kitchen spaces, keyboards, and fax machines are all inevitable culprits of noise. Exterior noises as well, traffic outside of the buildings and car noises, are all unaccounted for in an open space plan.
  • The open office lacks the fundamentals of proper space planning like involving full or partial enclosures, as mentioned before. The “all in this together” environment for employees is an easy way of meaning no matter what, you are always in direct earshot of someone’s phone conversation or your table mate clicking his pen every ten seconds.
  • The lack of visual privacy is also cause for problems in the workplace. Although not necessarily auditory, constant visual contact with your peers makes it even more challenging to avoid any unwanted noise from overhead conversations, meetings, etc.
  • Sound bounces off of hard surfaces. In open office spaces with little walls and plastic or glass furnishings, it’s easier for sound to travel. There is a much higher tendency of echo and sound reverb in this type of environment. It creates a fluctuation in noise that can make everyday activities much more challenging to focus on.

Effects of Noise Pollution in the Office

Constant exposure to noise in the open office space is not healthy for intellectual focus and productivity nor is it good for our personal health.

woman stressed in office

  • Excessive levels of noise can cause stress by overstimulating the nervous system and consequently raising blood pressure and increasing heart rate. This also can lead to increased irritability as employees push to work through the noise.
  • With the range of noises overlapping in the workplace, attentional functions begin to deteriorate. There is even evidence to support that background noise can decrease cognitive functions like learning and memory.
  • Noise makes multitasking impossible. It becomes dangerously easy to fall off task with constant uninterrupted distractions. It will not just stunt work productivity but affect actual work performance.
  • When work performance suffers so does workplace motivation. Over 65% of people consider leaving their work due to noisy situations.
  • While headphones may seem like a simple solution, they can make things worse. Headphones are not the direct problem but the volume at which we listen and the duration of time we use them. Simply put, when sound waves reach your ears, your eardrum vibrates and sends those vibrations to the small bones of your inner ear. This travels on to your cochlea, a fluid-filled chamber that houses thousands of tiny hairs. The louder the sound, the louder the vibration of the cochlea and its hairy helpers. One can guess that over extended periods of time, the hair cells will become less sensitive. Headphones in the office may not cause permanent damage like being at a concert or working in a factory, but there is still a risk of causing hearing problems while masking the bigger issue in the workplace.

Redesigning Office Space with Acoustical Panels

How is it possible then to address the issue of noise in the workplace without compromising the integrity of an open office design? The solution: acoustic panels.

acoustic panel

Remember we stated before that noise travels; it reflects off surfaces and moves throughout the space creating overlaps and reflections of sounds. An acoustic panel is a sound-absorbing panel made from soft materials that reduce echo and reverberation helping to mitigate noise in a space. It limits sound travel and effectually clarifies sound, ultimately giving way to creating a more comfortable environment for an employee to work in.

 Acoustic Panels- Different Solutions in Different Forms

Acoustic absorbers can come in many forms and materials.

  • Nonwoven felts or woven fabrics (wool, cotton, etc.)
  • Polyester panels
  • Fiberglass panels wrapped with other fabrics
  • Cellulose-based materials wrapped with other fabrics

 

Style and Function

Controlling sound in the workplace does not have to sacrifice the style of the office layout. When determining how to achieve the best acoustic performance, consider these questions.

  • What is the room being used for?
  • What is the size/scope of the room?
  • What materials in the space are contributing to noise pollution? (glass, wood, plastic)
  • Office furnishings

wall with gray and white felt panels for acoustical insulation

Acoustic panel materials are available in different varieties of colors, shapes, and textures making them functional pieces of art (or even real art printed on an acoustic panel!). It can become a part of the company brand for its practical use that adds a personal and customizable touch through design. It’s always best to consult an acoustic consultant/architect to utilize sound absorbers to the best of your advantage and marry that with a great interior designer.

Where and How Acoustic Panels Can be Utilized In the Modern-Day Office

Acoustic Panel Dividers/ Wall Mounts

acoustic divider

Instead of reverting to the outdated life of cubicles, acoustic panels can be strategically placed to create quiet areas. Acoustic panels can also cover a larger surface area, like a wall, to get the biggest amount of area covered without encroaching in on the office space.

Acoustic Tiles

acoustic tiles

To the same effect, acoustic tiles can be used to cover an entire wall or portion of a wall in any fashion you see fit. Acoustic tiles are great for smaller spaces where the need to control noise is not as demanding as using an entire wall mount. They can be arranged in different patterns and styles, even creating subtle 3D effects on the walls. Decorative acoustic tiles can be subtle or enhance the design of your space by adding color and shape.

Acoustic Baffles

acoustic hanging baffles

Hanging acoustic baffles are great for treating larger spaces with higher ceilings. Baffles are typically installed in two or more directions and at varying depths to best capture sound in a space. They are also multifunctional and can be outfitted with lighting solutions.

Acoustic Clouds

acoustic cloud suspended

Acoustic clouds are suspended horizontally and come in a variety of sizes, styles, and shapes. These are best used to strategically place over areas to capture sound where it’s most needed.

Desk Dividers

acoustic desk divider

 

Acoustic workspace dividers provide privacy for a quiet personal workspace still engaged in an open work environment.  They can be mounted to desks or tables giving you infinite opportunities to customize the area as needed. And at a time like this, they are a perfect way of safely maintaining social distancing standards among employees in the office. Many desk dividers on the market are made of acrylic plastic (a clear or frosted material) that divides but only increases sound reflections. By using a felt polyester panel, you gain all the advantages of a physical divider with the extra benefit of acting as a sound absorber.

Office Privacy “Phone” Booth

acoustic privacy phone booth

A privacy “phone” booth can be assembled in any given area to give employees a designated space for focused work without any distraction from the outside. The acoustic properties reduce outside noise simultaneously keeping any conversation inside the phone booth for ultimate discretion. It’s a great opportunity for any employee to get away from the office without having to physically leave the office.

The Ultimate Benefits of Acoustic Panels

Noise is a global occupational hazard that does not have to go untreated.  Acoustic panels tick off all the boxes for reducing noise in an open office without cluttering the space. The benefits of acoustic panels

  • It creates a comfortable office space that employees will want to work in therefore upping employee performance and motivation.
  • Provide privacy for personal conversation and work without compromising the open office plan.
  • Reducing echo will take away sound interference that will better foster interpersonal communication and work without being distracted by other day-to-day office activities.
  • Avoid personal health-related issues like increased stress.
  • Take the opportunity to not only better the work-place environment but enhance the aesthetics of the space with decorative panels or baffles.

 

At Bouckaert Industrial Textiles, we are the leading supplier of nonwoven acoustical insulation materials including Poly-Sonic (our own brand of 100% polyester acoustic panels). We help acoustical consultants, interior designers, office managers, furniture companies and many others solve their acoustical issues.

How can we help you today?

How Are Polyester Acoustic Panels Made & How To Identify Quality Panels

Poly Sonic Thick Grey Ceiling Panels in Open Office Space

One of the hottest trends in office furniture and interior design is the rise of polyester (PET) acoustic panels. The use of these panels is growing significantly in markets such as construction, retrofits of existing offices, and other commercial and public spaces.

Over the past 3 years, polyester acoustic panels have seen a massive upsurge in demand. This is due, primarily, to their flexibility in color, form, and ease of use when compared to traditional fiberglass acoustic panels. Fiberglass panels can cause irritation and air contamination due to the chemicals they sometimes contain in their binders.

The industry has quickly adopted these panels whether being used as desk dividers, light fixtures, hanging sound baffles, wall-mounted art, or any number of other uses. But what exactly are polyester acoustic panels? How are they made? What should you look for in a quality product or a vendor? We answer all of these questions and more.

How are polyester acoustic panels made?

To understand the challenges that arise on the quality front, you first have to understand how polyester acoustic panels are made.

1. Define the desired outcome

The process to create a finished acoustical panel starts with determining what characteristics we want the finished panel to have. We can affect acoustical curves (NRC), stiffness, surface texture, or color by changing the fiber material or size, product density or thickness, or manufacturing processing of our finished panels. Each variable lets us dial in the ideal finished characteristics. Our standard Poly-Sonic panels are comprised of recycled polyester fiber and special lower melting point polyester fiber.

2. Manufacture the needle punch felt

Next, we start the manufacturing process. Every polyester acoustic panel starts out life as a nonwoven, needle punch felt. This felt is similar to the felt kids make craft projects out of, but much thicker and denser!

We begin by taking raw fiber and turning it into a “web”. We then build density and surface characteristics by adding batts and needling the material together. The repeated needling that the felt receives is one of the keys to creating a stiff panel while maintaining a super smooth-surfaced panel. From this process, we create a “master roll” of felt. For a more detailed description of how needle punch felt is made, check out this link.

Nonwoven production line carded web

3. Heat-setting

The felt moves to the heat-setting machinery following the creation of the master roll. This could be a mold for 3d shaped panels or some form of flat pressing system. This process changes the material from a roll of flexible felt to a stiff polyester acoustic panel.

When heat hits the polyester fibers, they melt and flow like a liquid thermo-plastic. Fibers like these are specially designed to have a low melt point. As this material cools, it turns back into plastic but is now spread throughout the felt, attached to all the fiber around it, and (with the assistance of the needling) creates the stiffness of the finished acoustic panel.

The heat-setting process is one of the most difficult to perfect. This is because the material will shrink three-dimensionally while being heated. And any imperfections in needling will create very obvious surface defects.

4. Cutting

The final manufacturing step is to cut the panels to their final dimensions or shape. Most architects and interior designers need tolerances of +/- 1/8th of an inch. Some elaborate designs require tighter than +/-1/16th of an inch. This would normally favor a die-cutting process but in many cases, the variety of shapes and rectangular dimensions needed would make this cost-prohibitive. Only with extremely precise cutting tools such as CNC machinery using oscillating blades, lasers, or waterjet cutting can near-perfect acoustical panels be cut every time.

What quality attributes should you look for when assessing polyester acoustic panels?

There are several factors to consider when determining whether a polyester acoustic panel is of top quality.

Uniformity

Is the first panel just like all the others and, also as important, is each individual polyester acoustic panel consistent within itself?

One of the key giveaways of an inconsistent process is that one panel does not look like the next. When dealing with large-scale projects, even minor consistency problems can stand out when looking from panel to panel or from one section of a panel to another. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the panel manufacturing process, it is impossible for panels to be exactly identical, but the closer they are, the better.

Blending

The distribution of colors in a panel is one of the first things to stand out. Many panels have a “heathered” look to them. This comes from blending two or more colors of fiber together. Do you see clumps color? Or is everything evenly spread out?

Thickness

Another one of the most noticeable attributes comes when comparing the thickness of different panels. When placing panels next to each other on a wall or in a line of desk dividers, check to see if the panels are of different thicknesses.

The thickness of each acoustic panel is one of the major drivers of its acoustical absorption capability. Thicker is better!

Stiffness

Many applications for acoustic panels, such as desk dividers, require very stiff panels. Make sure to check if the panels stiff enough for your use. Is each panel consistently stiff? This could be from one corner to another or from one surface side to another.

Many manufacturers struggle with getting enough heat all the way through the panels to fully activate the low-melt fiber. This is especially true on thicker panels. Often, an inferior panel will have a softer center and two harder surface faces when you look at the panel from the side. When this happens, the panels tend to not hold mounting bolts or hardware as well and also tend to collapse and bend easily when held from only one side. This usually destroys the panel by creating unwanted wrinkles on the surface.

Acoustic Certifications (ASTM C423)

Polyester acoustic panels have many uses, but as the name implies, “acoustic” tends to be the key attribute for many applications. All panels should have an NRC value, and most “standard” specifications will.

Where this gets tricky is when comparing panels from different vendors that look the same but have vastly different ASTM C423 results. Logic says that the higher number is better, right? Well, not quite…

There are different variations of the ASTM C423 test. These range from “A” mount where the acoustic panel is placed directly against a cement floor (and will have a lower NRC number) to “E Mount” where the panel is suspended several inches in the air (and the NRC number will be higher). It isn’t wrong for a vendor to use “E” mount test data, but make sure you compare apples to apples when comparing!

How acosutical panels are measured for sound absorption

As a secondary note for ASTM C423 testing that produces an NRC value, keep in mind that NRC is an average of performance at different frequencies. If you have specific acoustical profiles or sound frequencies that you need to target, then make sure you look at the charts to compare performance at your specific frequency.

Acoustical curve for NRC absorption values on PET acoustic panel

The acoustical curve of BIT’s Poly-Sonic 45 (9mm thick) acoustical panel using ASTM 423 A-mount. Note the different absorption coefficients at different frequencies. NRC: 0.30

Flame and Smoke Certifications (ASTM E84)

The ASTM E84 certification uses a combination of a flame spread and smoke generation test. It is one of the most important certifications for applications that are considered “building materials”. Depending on your application, you may not require this certification, but most suppliers will have their acoustic panels tested to this specification.

There are several results possible all resulting from the flame spread portion of the test. The generally accepted standard is “Class A” and, if your application requires this test then be sure to look for this.

One word of caution here, not all ASTM E84 tests or testing labs are equal. Many of our customers are wary of using unknown foreign laboratory results for good reason. We have heard some horror stories about vendor-provided laboratory results looking good but when independently tested their panels fail miserably.

Due to the moral values and legal penalties involved in failing this test, most of our customers will conduct their own testing using a US certified lab. We recommend that you do the same if you do not personally know the lab that conducted the testing.

What to look for in a vendor

Now that we have reviewed the critical parts of a quality panel, it is easier to identify what to look for (and what we strive to be!) in a vendor as well. For many customers, being able to provide a consistent, high-quality panel is paramount and all-encompassing. Other normal vendor characteristics to inquire about are minimum order quantities, lead times, and, of course, price. However, there are a few other factors to consider that not every PET acoustic panel vendor can provide.

First is the ability to customize. The market is becoming flooded with 9mm thick panels that look, feel, and perform pretty similarly. But your company might require a distinct acoustical performance curve, custom color options, or different thicknesses. Finding a supplier who can work with you to provide the exact product you need isn’t always needed, but be sure to review your requirements and make sure the company you are working with can handle them.

Another often overlooked aspect of vendor capability is someone you can build a relationship with. Maybe you are in a bind and need an order shipped early. Or you are stuck with a whole truckload of panels after a customer backed out of a deal. Is your vendor willing to take them back no questions asked? Finding a company that you can work with is often worth paying a bit more when they save you headaches down the road!

Bouckaert Industrial Textiles tries to meet all of our customer’s needs from minimum order quantities, to lead time, to price, to customization and relationship. Our Poly-Sonic polyester acoustic panels are designed and manufactured entirely in the USA.

Have questions or want to learn more about us? Contact us today!