Textured films are not new to our industry, however in the last few years manufacturers have improved upon this technology to optimize it. Today film manufacturers—including Avery Dennison, 3M, Arlon, Hexis, Orafol, Kay Automotive, Ritrama and MACtac—have developed their own textured film product lines specifically targeting the wraps market.
For the most part, the films used today for the vehicle wrap market are cast films, and this holds true for textured wrap films as well. The term “cast” refers to the manufacturing process where the liquid vinyl mixture, known as organosol, is precisely metered or cast onto a moving web known as the casting sheet. It is then processed through a series of ovens, which allows for the evaporation of solvents in the mixture. When the solvents are evaporated, a solid “film” is left behind. The film is then wound up in large-diameter rolls for subsequent adhesive coating. The casting sheet determines the texture of the film. Because the vinyl is cast on the casting sheet in a relaxed state, this material offers very good dimensional stability. This process also allows the film to be very thin (standard cast PVC films are 2 mil), which helps with the conformability of the product. Textured films, however, end up being a little thicker, ranging from about 3.5 mil up to about 11 mil—depending on the film’s texture, color, and the manufacturer. It is important to note that the thicker the film is the less conformable it is likely to be. Installers should consult the technical literature for the films being used to determine the suitability of the film for their specific application.
Intricately textured films are ideal for partial wraps and accents like the alligator skin pattern film used on this coffee maker. (Image courtesy of Hexis)
Finishes & Colors
Textured films are available in a wide range of finishes and colors. Carbon fiber and brushed metal finishes are the most common and readily available from each of the manufacturers mentioned previously. Carbon fiber film is most widely available in white and black while the most popular color among the brushed metal finishes is silver. Other carbon fiber colors include blue, red, gold, brown and even a clear. Clear carbon fiber film can be used to give a carbon fiber appearance to a vehicle’s existing car color, and it has also been used as an overlaminate over printed films or over other colors of vinyl.
Many companies offer a range of additional textured finishes beyond carbon fiber and brushed metal. These finishes include Alligator, Cocoon, Crocodile, Dune, Emulsion, Hammered, Honeycomb, Leather, Ostrich, Sequin and Snake. You can find all of the colors and finishes offered by visiting the manufacturers’ websites.
Textured films can be used for full wraps; however this may not always be the most visually appealing look. According to Martin Kugler, corporate communications manager for Hexis, “Visually daring textures are best for partial wraps or accents. Optically smoother, less emphatic textures are better for full wraps and small objects that will be viewed up close,” he says.
This interesting python skin 3-D textured graphic film could be used as an interior accent film or as part of a unique vehicle wrap. (Image courtesy of Royal Covering Ltd.)
The small objects can be mirrors, spoilers or trim pieces on a vehicle, however applications with textured films are not limited to automotive wraps. These specialized films can also be used to wrap non-vehicle items such as computer tablets such as iPad, as well as cell phones, laptops and even refrigerators.
It may also be helpful to know that some textures, such as carbon fiber, that feature a repeating pattern may—when applied to a large horizontal surface and viewed under certain lighting conditions—exhibit a ghost raster pattern. The “raster pattern” may look like lines across the hood.
Care must be taken when heating and reheating the textured films. With textured films it is recommended to use a heat gun instead of a torch. A torch can heat the film too quickly and allow the film to be over stretched and thus distort the pattern. It can also permanently alter the appearance of the finish.
Proper stretching and heating of the film are essential to avoid creating visual imperfections, which can appear as dents, bends, stretch marks or kinks in the finish. Stretching the film in large sections can help avoid or minimize the creation of these imperfections. It is also important to use even tension when stretching.
Additionally, some finishes are easily scratched so it is a good idea to wear wrap gloves and use a buffer on the squeegee when working the film. This can be a squeegee that comes with the felt edge already applied, or you can apply your own felt buffer to a squeegee to protect the film.
When lining up film panels, do not use a grease pencil on textured films. The grease mark can easily become embedded in the film’s texture. The texture can get damaged when trying to remove the pencil mark. Instead, use masking tape to mark the film for alignment.
Care and Maintenance Tips
Because of their texture, textured films may get dirty more easily than smooth or gloss films. Textured films may therefore require more frequent cleaning. The cleaning may be more difficult for films exposed to a particularly dirty environment. It is recommended to protect the textured films from the elements when possible. This means parking in the shade during the day and keeping the vehicle in a covered parking space at night. Following these guidelines will help keep the film clean.
Some textured films such as carbon fiber that feature a repeating pattern may—when applied to a large horizontal surface and viewed under certain lighting conditions—exhibit a ghost raster pattern. The “raster pattern” may look like lines across the hood. (Image courtesy of Avery Dennison)
It is important to note that films applied to a vertical portion of the vehicle have a different durability than the non-vertical and horizontal areas. The definition of these surfaces is fairly standard among the manufacturers. The definition of vertical exposure would be ± 10° of vertical; a non-vertical exposure in an application would be where a film is applied to a surface that is 10-45° from vertical.
Not every manufacturer will specify durability for “non-vertical” applications; however most do provide a statement of durability for vertical and horizontal surface applications. Please refer to the film manufacturer’s technical data sheet or warranty for specifics.
In addition to the thickness variance, it is important to note that each manufacturer has their own special technology used to manufacture the textured films. For example, the carbon fiber film from one manufacturer may look the same as the carbon fiber from another, but the thickness of the film may be quite different. Please be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the performance expectations for each film. Each manufacturer will also provide specific installation guidelines for their films.