The History and Technology Behind PPF

The History and Technology Behind PPF

If you’re thinking about protecting your car from harsh winter weather, sun damage, and road salt, you’ve probably done some research. You’re comparing different kinds of protection you can purchase.

One of the types you’re considering is paint protection film. You’ve heard a bit about the benefits it can provide when it comes to protecting your vehicle’s paint job.

You’re wondering how it could offer all those benefits. What exactly is PPF, and how does it work? This guide takes a look at both the history and the technology behind PPF to give you a clearer understanding of how it works to protect your car.

Solving a Military Problem

Paint protection film was actually developed for a very different reason. During the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the US military had a big problem. Helicopters kept crashing, due to damaged rotor blades. The blades could be damaged by almost anything, from debris to trees.

The US Department of Defense asked 3M to develop a solution. They envisioned something that could be applied to the rotor blades to protect them from flying twigs, rocks, and other debris. The material, of course, also had to be lightweight.

3M developed an adhesive urethane material that could be applied to the blades on the choppers. The urethane protected the blades from all kinds of debris. It was also self-healing, which meant it could withstand being hit and chipped multiple times.

This original PPF was called “helicopter tape.”

The Automotive World Takes Notice

It wasn’t long before the automotive world was investigating 3M’s helicopter tape for their own uses. In the 1980s, NASCAR professionals realized the lightweight material could be applied to the nose cones of their cars.

The clear urethane layer provided better protection for the expensive decals that sponsors wanted painted on the front of the cars. As the stock cars raced around the track, they’d get hit with all kinds of debris, such as small rocks. That led to the paint and decals chipping, resulting in cars and advertisements that didn’t look so great by the time they rolled to Victory Lane.

Automotive enthusiasts were also eager to adopt this new technology. Prior to the adoption of paint protection film, many auto owners had tried to protect the front end of their cars with a material layer. This material—usually leather, vinyl, or another sturdy fabric—was strapped on to the nose of the car. Its purpose was to protect the paint underneath it from rocks, road salt, and more.

This was known as putting a “bra” on the car. PPF is sometimes called “clear bra,” because it serves the same function, but it’s invisible to the naked eye.

Improvements in PPF Technology

Today’s PPF is a far cry from 3M’s helicopter tape. Over the years, the technology behind it has been refined and perfected to provide better protection for vehicles.

PPF used for cars usually has three or four layers. The first layer is made of polyester, and it bonds to the vehicle’s surface. It’s sometimes called the “release layer.”

The next layer is an acrylic adhesive. It provides the durability of adhesion. That means PPF won’t unstick from your car and start flopping around or fall off.

The polyurethane layer makes up the bulk of the film. It’s what provides the depth and strength of the film, so you want a thick layer of polyurethane.

The final layer is usually clearcoat. Today’s PPF comes in a range of finishes, from clear to satin to matte. It also comes in different grades and thicknesses, and it can even be coloured.

Self-Healing Properties of PPF

Not all paint protection film is self-healing, but some of it is. That’s one of the major advantages of the material it’s made from.

Urethane is a polymer. It has elastic properties, which allow it to retain its shape after it’s been stretched. It’s this property that also allows the material to “heal” after it’s hit with debris.

When the source of the damage is removed, the material moves back to its natural state.

Keep in mind that only some PPFs are self-healing. This has to do with the material being used, not the brand. Many PPF brands offer both self-healing and non-healing PPF. Non-healing PPF is usually less expensive than self-healing, so always review the type of material you’re getting.

What Does PPF Protect Against?

Obviously, PPF protects against chips to your paint from debris like rocks, twigs, and road salt. Some are able to self-heal, thanks to the unique properties of the material.

What else can PPF do?

Urethane offers more than protection against chips. It also provides a protective layer between your car’s paint and damaging UV rays. That can help prevent fading.

The urethane coating also delivers protection from chemical reactions. Oxidizing agents are everywhere, and they can cause your paint to fade or even chip away as rust spots bubble up underneath. Other chemical agents could also cause damage to the paint and the car itself.

Urethane prevents these agents from ever reaching your paint job. It protects against the acid in bird droppings just as well as it protects against acid rain.

It can also help shield high-touch points on the car, such as door handles, which may get nicked or scratched otherwise. Finally, paint protection film makes it easier to wash your car and keep it looking great. An added ceramic coating makes your paint job even easier to maintain.

Go the Extra Mile for Your Car

Paint protection film has come a long way since it was first developed as “helicopter tape” by 3M. Today, there are plenty of brands offering many different types of PPF. All can help you protect your car’s paint job, but some do an even better job.

Ready to give your car’s paint job the protection it deserves? Get in touch with paint protection film specialists in Toronto and keep your car looking great.