How to Choose a Clear Plastic Protective Film

How to Choose a Clear Plastic Protective Film

How to Choose a Clear Plastic Protective Film

If you are looking for a clear plastic protective film, you will undoubtedly find a ton of products during a Google search.  There are tons of manufacturers that make and distribute protective film.  When dealing with an industry as flooded as the protective film industry, you must be careful, take your time, and do your research.  There are plenty of companies that will sell you a product, even if they know it won’t work.  It can be a daunting task looking for a protective film for your surface protection problem.  Don’t be disheartened, just follow these steps:

Start with the Surface that Needs Protecting

It sounds like a no-brainer, but starting with the surface that needs protecting is the best first step you can take.  As I have said, there are a ton of protective films on the market, and there is most likely a film out there to protect whatever surface you need.  If it is bare steel, labels, windows, walls, or whatever, you can find a product that works well for your application.  When starting with the surface, you’re getting an adhesive that matches that surface’s unique bonding characteristics.  There are surfaces that are difficult to bond to, like low surface energy plastics, that need special adhesives to form a good bond.  Below is a chart of some surfaces which need special adhesive considerations.

Surface Type                                       Special Considerations for Optimal Bonding

Low Surface Energy Plastics –         Low surface energy adhesives or surface treatment prior to application.

Plasticized PVC-                                 Plasticizer resistant adhesive.

Rough surface –                                  Thick mass adhesives – 3 mil thick and up for improved gap filling.

Repainted surfaces-                           Lower-tack adhesives – Strong adhesives can lift off paint on repainted surfaces.

Powder Coated Paints-                     Low surface energy adhesives and thick mass adhesives if powder coat creates a rough surface.

Once you establish what your surface’s requirements are for good adhesive bonding, you can move on to finding a film for your specific application.

What does your Surface Need Protecting From?

Another easy question, but an extremely important one: from what does your film need to be protected?  There are a ton of applications that fall under the category “protective film”.  The solutions can range from short-term protection during shipping, to long-term protection from scratches and abrasions. There is no “one-size-fits-all” film in the protective film industry. You need a film, and the film must fit the job.  Most protective films on the market are thin (2-5 mils) and are designed for temporary protection during shipping/manufacturing. However, you can’t use a low-tack adhesive film for long-term applications and you can’t use a high-tack adhesive film for short-term applications.

Decide what you need the protective film to do.  Long-term or short-term?  Abrasions or scuffs?  Indoor or outdoor?  Once these questions are answered you are ready to do some research.

It’s time to dig.  Use the internet and search for products by using words like “protective film for (your surface here” and feel free to include words like “UV resistant” or “Heat resistant” to narrow your search results.  Find and contact companies that appear to have a product that will work for you.  Ask for samples and talk to the sales reps about what you are looking for.  They may have a product that is even better for you that you didn’t see.

Once you receive samples, it is time to test.  Testing is the most important step in finding a protective film, because it is where you decide which products fail and which products pass.  Make sure to test for all of your unique needs.  Some of the most demanding applications need to test for temperature resistance, UV resistance, adhesive confusion, and impact resistance.  Make sure the protective film passes any deal-breaker tests before moving on.

Research and Test

After all your testing is complete, you may have a few products that work for you.  My advice to you is- do not choose based on price, but on quality.  Sometimes the least expensive product will work best.  Most often though, the more expensive products will work best and you are left deciding between the less expensive or the better performing.  When in doubt, always choose the better performing.