MasterShield Paint Protection Film
More commonly known as PPF, a Paint Protection Film is applied to exposed parts of a vehicle in order to protect it from various types of damage, most notably from stone chips, bug splatters, knicks, scrapes, and other minor abrasions.
The PPF is able to protect surfaces from these types of damages because it is made of thermoplastic urethane film. It is commonly applied to cars but is also used on other vehicles and electronics that require the kind of protection it provides, such as airplanes, trucks, cell phones, among others.
While there are no restrictions with regard to the selling of PPF, it is normally purchased in bulk by dealerships and distributors when it comes to car applications, because the film requires certified trained professionals with access to specific tools and supplies. The film needs to be custom-cut and manually applied, which is beyond the capabilities of the average car owner.
Origins of PPF in the Military
Paint Protection Film was first developed for military use and was used during the Vietnam War for protecting sensitive parts of military transports, including helicopter rotor blades, from flying shrapnel and debris. The US military specifically contracted 3M to help develop the PPF, with an aim towards the development of a solution that is both lightweight and inconspicuous.
The Paint Protection Film in the Modern Automotive Industry
The PPF performed so well that the US military uncharacteristically adopted it fast, compared to other technologies that spend a long time in testing and prototyping phase. The film’s roots in military use are the reason why some people in the industry also refer to it as “helicopter tape,” although now that people are starting to use more and more of it on automotive applications, the term is starting to fall out of use.
With the Paint Protective Films making its way to aerospace use, it was only a matter of time until the automotive industry got wind and started adopting the technology. At first, the film was used primarily for race cars. The automotive industry initially encountered problems with the application, because the films were meant for helicopter blades that were relatively flat and less complex than automotive surfaces.
These days, contemporary PPFs are highly conformable and well-suited to the application in any type or make of car, though it requires manual installation and custom-cutting. The installation process is fairly difficult, requiring extensive training in order to avoid unsightly applications. High-level installations are offered by facilities, distributors, and dealerships for a price, usually employing trained staff that have at least 3+ years of experience in PPF installation.
Types of Installation
There is more than one way to install a paint protection film. Most installers don’t have access to expensive plotters, so they tend to bulk install the film straight from the roll. Those who have access to a plotter, on the other hand, are able to custom design a pattern using the software.
The installation styles are usually grouped under “pre-cut kits” and “custom installation.” Installers with a plotter usually do the former while installers who bulk install film from the roll do the latter. There is no clear distinction with regard to which style is superior. Rather, the quality will still depend on the installers. A poor installer will produce shoddy looking PPF installation regardless of what installation method they use.
New Developments: Removable and Eco-Friendly Coatings
One of the more recent trends in PPF is the DIY films that can be applied using a roller, a brush, or a spray. The main difference with these PPFs is that they look rugged, and are removable, but typically provide similar protection as traditional custom installed films. Additionally, these new DIY films are water-based, which makes them more eco-friendly.