Kay films Audi TT

Specialized Adhesive Films

Andy Stonehouse is a Denver-based freelance writer who has been covering the automotive industry for more than ten years.

When an old-time car enthusiast complains that all of today’s automobiles look more or less the same, design-wise, there’s a bit of truth in that, especially when you’re trying to tell one modern four-door family sedan or SUV from another.

But color customization is becoming a bigger business as a result of all that similarity, and that’s a chance to turn even those nearly interchangeable contemporary cars into a very specific, one-of-a-kind offering, with far more consumers now interested in affordable and relatively easy ways to spruce up their rides.

That’s where the eye-popping glitz of specialty films has turned into a unique niche, offering an infinite variety of finishing treatments that can enhance or even radically transform the underlying paint job, yet also leave it intact.

Both high-gloss and matte-effect treatments have become very popular, as well as reflective, metal-flake or even textured films to thoroughly change up a car’s appearance.

What’s more, specialty films can also be used in a number of other venues, such as indoor façade films or retail window graphics – equally easy to install, but also simple to remove for changing sales campaigns.

Ryan Scislowicz, manager of business development and marketing with Lake Orion, Michigan’s Kay Automotive Graphics and Premium Marking Films, says color is definitely king in the specialty film market, and he’s increasingly seeing the kinds of treatments once reserved for custom car shows now appealing to more traditional automobile fans.

“The driving force behind the color change wrap industry is the constant introduction of new colors,” he says. “The growing trends within the industry and for KPMF include color-shifting films and matte chrome effect films.

One of the newest innovations in specialty film products, released at the recent WRAPSCon show, was KPMF’s Ultimate Black. Scislowicz says it offers expert installers a huge range of uses, especially as more consumers are looking for entirely blacked-out vehicles – a look so popular even carmakers such as Dodge and Chevrolet are offering it in their off-the-lot SUVs and cars.

“This film was introduced as an accent film for wrapping roofs and chrome deletes, and it offers the deepest high-gloss black in the industry and is also self-healing,” he says.

Scislowicz says the main difference between the new Ultimate Black product and a standard gloss black film is that the new product must be applied via a wet application, especially for large surfaces such as a vehicle roof.

“Beyond that, it installs much like PPF and offers the same benefits of self-healing and extended durability that paint protection does,” he adds.

Scislowicz says the other major trend is a huge spike in sales for iridescent color-shift and matte metal effect wrap films, such as its Iced Titanium series.

 “While we have been producing color-shifting vehicle wrap material for over a decade, the demand was never as high as its been in the past year,” he adds. “The matte metal effect films are seen to be a great alternative to the high costs of matte or satin chrome. The finish is perfectly smooth and most colors can easily pass as a matte chrome.”

Matt Meyer, marketing and sales coordinator with Plastiprint Sales Company in Lakewood, Colorado, says an exciting new attribute for specialty films comes in changes to the product itself, one that will definitely make installations an easier job.

“One of the latest and more popular innovations is the air-egress-patterned, adhesive-backed media,” Meyer says. “It has the air-egress dot pattern adhesive that allows air to escape through the pattern channels when applying it to surfaces so there are no bubbles at all.”

Meyer says ease of application is a crucial aspect to any specialty film and this is a change that will certainly make projects quick and easy, even for those who don’t have extensive experience in film projects.

John Phinn, Jr., head of sales with Fallsington, Penn.-based Griff Paper and Film, says his company has also added some flexibility for project size by focusing on new wider-format printable films, specifically geared to glass applications. They also produce printable labels that are suitable for roll-to-roll use, plus higher-density films geared for banners and even food packaging.

“We do mostly PVC rigid vinyl and we extrude it ourselves, so we can produce it clear or with liners on it – and there’s a wide variety of colors and patterns available,” he says.

If you’re an East Coast resident and you’ve seen Wawa convenience stores and their vehicles, that’s Griff’s products at work – with store display images and even delivery trucks outfitted with totally transparent films, minus the logos themselves.

Specialty films are also finding a home in other non-automotive applications, including underwater graphics at pools and water parks or resilient and colorful coatings for high-traffic floor graphics. Scislowicz says he’s had installers successfully transform living and working environments by using his products as an indoor façade film.
Meyer says he’s also finding additional interest in the PVC vinyl-free products, with those specialty films getting lots of traction for fade- and water-resistant window signage. Manufactured with a copolymer cling formula, building in micro-suction technology, installation is a snap and the films can easily be removed and reapplied multiple times – making it ideal for POP advertising, promotional items or decals.

Those products, made of polyester and polypropylene, also have no plasticizer and are recyclable, for customers concerned about eco-friendly solutions, as well. Master roll stock in widths up to 54” is also available for bigger jobs.

As an added bonus to the product, specialty films and their increased durability can indeed boost warranty coverage and add life to stock paint jobs.

“Our new exterior restyling films offer the same warranty as the rest of the range with exceptional horizontal durability, and products like Ultimate Black extend this warranty by as much as 100 percent due to their construction,” Scislowicz says.