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What is Cladding?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cladding is a process where one material covers another. This type of process is used with metals, optical fibers, construction projects and nuclear reactors. This term has different meanings, depending on the materials used and the accepted standards in each industry.

In metalworking, the process of cladding is used to bond together two metals that do not have similar properties. The only way to do this is through by extruding the metals using a die or by compressing them together in a high-pressure machine. Both processes require large, powerful machines and high heat. Coin mints use this process to create coins that are cheaper and have a longer useful life.

Optical fiber is used in telecommunications to transmit digital signals. Cladding involves the combination of multiple layers of material, at different levels of refractive index. The core materials responsible for the actual signal transmission have a higher refractive index than the surrounding materials, which are cheaper and therefore have a lower refractive index.

In construction, cladding is used to provide a layer of protection to the exterior of a building against the weather. The materials used may be a combination of metals, aluminum, or plastic. This material is most commonly installed around windows, doors, roofs, and chimneys. All these locations can provide an opportunity for rainwater to enter the home. The extra material provides another layer of insulation and protection where it is most likely to be needed.

Cladding installation is a special skill among roofers and roofing installation technicians. Incorrect installation can result in leaking windows and doors, water damage and the growth of mold. Correctly installed cladding adds value to a home, as it provides another protection system against water damage.

Each year, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors in England runs roofing competitions at the Skillbuild event. Teams of roofers from all over England compete in events to test the speed and quality of their installations and repairs on different types of roofs. The competition is highly publicized and the winning team receives a medal and trophy. These types of events reinforce the importance of construction skills and their impact on our quality of life.

In a nuclear reaction, the outer layer of the fuel rods is called the cladding. This material sits between the coolant and the nuclear fuel. It is designed to prevent radioactive elements from leaking into the coolant and contaminating it. This material is made from a corrosion resistant material with a low absorption rate.

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Discussion Comments
By BBSmith — On Jun 03, 2011

In the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, the fuel rod cladding temperatures exceeded 1200 degrees C and started allowing some fuel damage to occur but still, it was mostly contained. Those people knew what they were doing when they built those things -- but who could have predicted such dire circumstances?

The metal cladding used was a zirconium alloy which finally started failing and interacting with the water and releasing dangerous gas. It did its job for the most part until the tsunami destroyed almost all hope of keeping things cool enough.

By micah — On Jun 02, 2011

That is awesome that England runs competitions to demonstrate skill and quality! What an incredible way to instill pride in one's work! I bet people get a bit suspicious of those who don't participate; they'd be wondering why and wouldn't be as likely to hire them.

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