Paint Protection Film (PPF) is a thermoplastic urethane film applied to painted surfaces of a new or used car in order to protect the paint from stone chips, bug splatters, and minor abrasions. This film is also used on airplanes, RVs, cell phones, electronics, screens, motorcycles and many other areas. Paint Protection Film is OEM approved by virtually all car manufacturers. Paint protection film is commonly referred to as clear bra, clear film, clear paint film, PPF and other names.
Paint protection film is installed on a limited basis by manufacturers on various pieces of cars at the factory (e.g. the rear arches of Porsches). The film is generally installed by certified trained professionals who receive supplies from outside distributors and dealers. Some tinting and detail shops also offer this service.
The primary function of clear bra is to prevent rock chips in paint, scuffs, many types of vandalism and other scenarios that result in superficial damage to car paint.
Paint protection film is mostly installed on the forward facing portions of automobiles but may also be installed on as much as a full body of a vehicle for the maximum paint protection.
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Military Origins of Paint Protection Film
As with many other consumer products, paint protection films were first developed and used by the military. During the Vietnam War, helicopter rotor blades and other sensitive parts of military transports were often damaged by flying shrapnel and debris. In order to help protect these moving parts the US military asked 3M to come up with a solution that was both inconspicuous and low-weight.
The advantage of replaceable film over the replacement and repair of damaged rotor blades was immediately clear and its adoption was uncharacteristically quick for the US military. As a result, there are still people in the industry who refer to PPF as "helicopter tape" although this term is becoming less and less common as automotive applications have taken precedence.
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Adoption of PPF by Automotive Sector
Paint protection films use by the military has continued to the present day and 3M now makes a wide variety of aerospace and military films. With time, however, the automobile industry began to take note of the protective benefits of PPF and it was soon being employed by race car drivers despite the difficulty of working with the original films. According to Kathy Lam, marketing manager for the automotive division of 3M "The first films were thicker and less compliant, [because] their purpose was to help keep helicopter blades from eroding in the harsh, sandy environments to which they were exposed. Because the blades were flatter and less complex than automotive surfaces, they didn't demand a highly flexible, conformable film."
Contemporary Automotive Paint Protection Films
Today's automotive PPF is highly conformable and optically clear and is available in a variety of thicknesses (measured in mil in the US) and colors. Paint protection film has many different manufacturers/distributors present in the North American market. Some of the popular film manufacturer/distributors in North America are Prestige Film Technologies, Xpel, 3M, Suntek, CCL, Hexis and STEK. Training is not required to purchase Xpel, 3M, Suntek, CCL nor Hexis. Prestige Film Technologies will only sell to seasoned installers of PPF. As STEK is one of the more recent films to be sold in North America, it is not yet known if they require training or not to purchase.
Because installation of paint protection film has such a steep learning curve, typically requiring 3+ years of constant installation until offering a higher level of installations, most automobile owners look to expert installation facilities for the application of paint protection film.
Types of Installation Available
There are different styles of installation of PPF. Many installers do not own plotters. So they are forced to bulk install film from the roll. For installers with a plotter, they can use software designed to create a pattern to the shape of the panel the film is being installed on. It is possible to modify a plotter software pattern to suit the needs of an installer and/or their customer.
Two common references to installation-styles that are the popular are "pre-cut kit" and "custom installation". Depending on the installer one is speaking with, they may feel one is superior to the other. The highest skilled installers of PPF are ones that are versed in both styles and create a solution for their customer based upon the customer's needs. Much care must be taken in selecting your PPF installers due to the sensitive nature of using knives around paint. A poorly executed PPF installation will result in damage to the body of a vehicle.
In addition to installations performed in situ at the factory or by certified shops and dealerships, there are also a select number of vendors who sell pre-cut and vehicle specific paint protection kits, as well as individuals who sell these kits on online auction sites or other markets.
New developments in Removable, Eco-friendly and customizable coatings
A recent trend in paint protection is DIY and professional applications that are roller on, brush on, and spray on high-build films, that provide a rugged protective finish and are removable. One such product is PaintArmorDIY by ColorXlabs. This is a water-borne, ecological protective coating. Some advancements are 1) Removability 2) Infinite thickness adjustment and 3) Color matching to OEM Colors. A rugged, textured finish is the result, with capabilities to match any factory color. In the off-road industry, popularity of rugged bed liner coatings on body panels has been taking off. PaintArmorDIY is similar to textured surfaces like Line-X or Rhino Liner without as much roughness and easier to care for surface that remains removable.
Source of the article : Wikipedia