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Working With Carbon Fiber Films

The look and feel of carbon fiber wrap films have kept it at the top of the charts for many years. From its humble beginnings as an architectural film to the current derivations -- like straight fiber -- carbon fiber wrap films have grown and matured into one of the most widely used and recognized wraps in the industry. The distinct look of carbon fiber wrap films encourages application in countless settings to create a uniquely textured result.

 

Properties of Carbon Fiber Wrap Films

Carbon fiber wrap films are available in both cast and calendared options and tend to be thicker than other films due to the nature of the texture. While calendared options are available, most often cast options provide better conformability as well as removability.

Traditional carbon fiber wrap films are cast with a slight weave in the pattern to mimic real carbon fiber. For some installations, this weave pattern can be distracting and consequently less aesthetically pleasing. The development of straight fiber wrap films, like those in the 3M Wrap Film Series 1080, eliminate the weave pattern for a carbon fiber look without the potential distraction.

 

Applications for Carbon Fiber Wrap Films

While often associated with a color change wrap, carbon fiber wrap films are especially effective when used for commercial purposes. The idea behind any wrap is to attract attention, and the built-in texture of carbon fiber films reflects light in many different ways to create a one-of-a-kind look to whatever is being wrapped. Carbon fiber wrap films are perfect when used in combination with a printed wrap, or for use as an under layer for an embossed emblem.

Beyond giving unique looks to commercial wraps, carbon fiber wrap film lends a distinct, modern look to almost anything. Laptop computers, tool chests, doors, picture frames, refrigerators, instruments and game consoles are just a few of the many places customers have experimented with 3M Wrap Film Series 1080 in straight fiber and carbon fiber finishes. The films mimic real carbon fiber at a fraction of the cost.

 

Installing Carbon Fiber Wrap Films

Installing carbon fiber wrap films requires some additional attention to detail in order to avoid common pitfalls. However, professional installers will find installation similar to other cast wrap films with a few minor textural differences.

The film’s distinctive texture can cause directionality issues, which might be particularly evident when wrapping a 64” or larger vehicle hood. In those cases, solutions specific to carbon fiber wrap films can be beneficial. Consider splitting the hood in two and alternating the film’s direction in order to form a “V” pattern down the middle. 

Due to the pattern designed into these films, improper application techniques tend to show more readily. Consequently, proper stretching and heating are essential to avoid creating visual imperfections. These can appear as dents, bends, stretch marks or kinks in the finished wrap. Avoiding these issues begins by stretching large sections of the film, as stretching in smaller sections may cause a series of stretch marks at each location where stretching started and stopped. It’s also critical to use even tension while stretching carbon fiber wrap films to prevent any distortion to the film’s finish. Finally, using only a heat gun (never a torch), apply as little heat as necessary to stretch the film and avoid applying heat directly at the location where the film attaches.

With these tips in hand, carbon fiber wrap film installation follows the same best practices of many cast films:

 

  • After thoroughly cleaning the installation surface and drying with a lint-free towel, begin to heat and stretch the film to completely cover the surface area.
  • Using firm, even application pressure, overlap squeegee strokes to ensure all surface areas are adhered as a missed area can leave wrinkles and bubbles in the applied film.
  • Carefully cut the film at all seams in vehicle body panels, being sure not to scratch the paint. Seams on vehicles flex as the vehicle moves, and if they are not cut, the graphics will pull away from the seam.
  • Once the film is applied and all bubbles and wrinkles have been smoothed, re-squeegee all edges and overlaps to ensure good adhesion.

 

Cleaning and Maintenance

Cleaning carbon fiber wrap films is a little more difficult than smooth films. Due to its textured nature, waxes and polishes have a tendency to build-up in the grooves of the film. A simple solution of isopropyl alcohol and water (2:1 ratio) and a clean, lint-free towel will be effective in removing fingerprints, build-up and light surface blemishes. A household cleaner such as Simple Green used with a lint-free cloth is also an easy cleaning alternative. Surface scratches will disappear when exposed to the sunlight on warm days. Otherwise, surface scratches may be removed by using the same 2:1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water, or by heating the film surface with a heat gun (but not exceeding 225°F).

For vehicle installations, difficult contaminants such as bug splatter, bird droppings and tree sap require a careful cleaning approach. Begin by soaking them for several minutes with very hot, soapy water – then rinse thoroughly and dry. If further cleaning is still needed, consider testing a product like Meguiar’s Gold Class Bug and Tar Remover in an inconspicuous area to ensure no damage will be made to the wrap film. Most importantly, do not use rough scrubbing or abrasive tools, which will scratch the film beyond repair.

 

Summary

The demand for carbon fiber wrap films continues to grow. With the ability to install on everything from vehicles to refrigerators in commercial and consumer settings, carbon fiber wrap film offers a unique, eye-catching appearance that differentiates from paint and non-textured wraps. Carbon fiber films offer shops and their customers the opportunity to be anything but ordinary -- on the road, in their homes and just about anywhere else.