Working with Specialty Films

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Over the last several years, there has been an explosion in colored wrapping films. As time has passed, we have seen an evolution in the types of films that are being produced. Everything from matte black films to chrome, alligator, carbon fiber and color-changing/shade shift, metallic and glitters, to name a few.

Each year there are new and amazing vinyl materials being produced.

Dig in

With all the cool films to use, what do we do with them? Let’s dig in. First, make sure that you have current color charts. If you’re not sure, call and ask your distribution representative or contact the manufacturers. We can’t sell what we can’t show.

Second, each and every vinyl type and texture has unique installation and application criteria, so to be able to offer them, we must first understand what they are. Tech data sheets and installation guides are available on each of the manufacturer’s websites. Remember, knowledge is power, or at least it’s cheaper than doing it twice.

Textured films

Textured films like alligator, carbon fiber, leather, and brushed metal are multi-layered premium cast vinyl. These films can give your customers vehicle a unique look and feel. Sounds simple right? Not so much.

First, the installer needs to be careful because of the “multi-layered” technology. Because the film is not smooth, it must be installed with a little more care than your average cast film. Textured films are delicate because of the peaks and valleys in the vinyl, which give it the 3D look and feel, and this creates issues you need to be aware of.

When installing, the pre-heating and/or pre-stretching needs to be done with caution. The heat will affect the thinner layers of the vinyl first, which in turn will allow the film to stretch faster, which causes an already thin piece of film to become thinner, a “weak spot” if you will. Because of this, when you post-heat it, it’s more likely to split.

So when using textured films, use low heat for stretching. Post-heating should be done with a heat gun as opposed to a torch. In my opinion, a heat gun provides more even heat and is easier to control.

Color-change/shade-shift and glitter

Color-changing vinyl and vinyl with metallic flake pigments can give any color change wrap a unique look and increase the overall appeal. This vinyl is more conventional than the textured films, but it still needs a special hand when installing.

Each style of film has its own characteristics. This all has to do with the way the film is made and what is involved in its production. For example, Hexis Glitter has a top layer of laminate built into it. This protects the film from the environment.

When using any of these films, it is essential to pre-heat and stretch evenly to maintain the gloss surface. Also, the use of a soft edge squeegee is recommended. This will help to ensure the finished project to be flawless.

On a side note, if you do have any scratches or uneven surfaces, it is possible to remove them (90% of the time) by slightly heating the surface to 194 F using a heat gun.

Helpful hints

Clean the surface using this three-step process:

  • Degrease surface
  • Wipe down the entire vehicle with denatured alcohol
  • Wipe down the entire vehicle with a new microfiber cloth and 70% isopropyl alcohol

Pre-heat before stretching the film. Heat the area of film that you want to stretch to 104-122 F 86-104 F for carbon fiber) depending on the thickness of the film. You will see the vinyl become relaxed.

Post-heat after you have installed the vinyl and trimmed the excess. You need to heat the edges, and any other areas that have tension, to 176-194 F.  This will set the adhesive in place and erase the memory of the film.

Don’t forget the ambient temperature. Try to always install vinyl in an area with an ambient temperature of around 64-77 F and moderate humidity.

Use a temperature laser gun. Do some research to find the right one for you. The price is all over the place, and there are reasons for that.

Albert Hatfield

Albert Hatfield

Albert Hatfield is a certified Hexis trainer, and the owner of 5950 Wraps. He has been in the sign industry his entire life, and has been wrapping since 1998. Contact him at [email protected]

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