We’re part of Auto Curators, based in Hampshire. As local PPF installers, we know that there is a lot of jargon floating around in our industry. In this article, we thought we’d share some terms you might come across when asking for PPF Installation and translate those for you. Read on for all the details.
Local PPF Installers in Hampshire – Translating the Jargon.
When we bulk install the film, usually over a large panel like a bonnet, we progressively stretch the film at all four corners to get rid of any gather in the material, any excess, until it looks as smooth as glass.
Not underwear! This is an American term for PPF; they call it ‘clear bra’. It was also a term for the black vinyl covers, made as a vehicle-specific sleeve, placed on the front edge of the bonnet to protect against stone chips.
Not beachwear! This term refers to a partial coverage install. It usually consists of the full front bumper, headlights, then either a 12, 18 or 24” deep piece of film on the leading edge of the bonnet and front wingtips.
As local PPF installers based in Hampshire, we use this device for cutting film from a pattern database. It’s essentially a printer with a knife instead of ink. A wide-format plotter feeds the PPF from a roll, back and forth through the rollers, whilst a motorised head moves back and forth across the machine, with a specially designed knife sticking out just enough to kiss-cut the material (meaning it cuts the top PPF sheet, but not the backing material it’s mounted on). This combination of movements allows it to ‘draw’ any shape we ask it to. We use a Graphtec Plotter, the best on the market because it can make curves and shapes extremely smoothly.
A carefully measured mix of soap with pure, de-ionised water. We spray slip onto the panel, and the film, to allow the material to be floated into place. Once placed correctly, we use a squeegee to force the slip out from under the film. This allows the adhesive to make firm contact with the paint and stay in place. A common soap for slip solution is Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, although we use a dedicated tint & PPF soap for consistency in our solution. We can adjust this mix according to heat and humidity and the panel’s requirements upon which it is being installed.
This is the opposite of slip! Another carefully mixed solution of de-ionised water and Isopropyl alcohol. We use it when we need to film to absolutely stick; for example, where we need to stretch the film away from the point to create tension, the tack solution will wash out the soap and increase the adhesive grab of the film.
PPF is made of many layers (exactly how many is something the manufacturers don’t share). The top layers have the ability to heal themselves if they sustain scratches. For example, if you were to catch a stray branch sticking out of a hedge, you might initially see the scratch on the film, but after a short while, it will disappear. It’s like magic!
The brand name for Xpel’s amazing satin finish PPF.
Manufacturers are increasingly expected to produce pattern databases. In the old days, your local PPF installers fitted everything in bulk. This was wasteful of film, arguably slower to install (more specifically, slower to finish), and required a cautious hand to trim the film without cutting through to the paint underneath. Xpel was a pioneer in this field and still leads the way. Their pattern designers get hold of as many cars as they can. They work with manufacturers such as Porsche and Land Rover before the public even see the cars to make patterns of each panel that can then be cut out of raw material by installers, using a plotter. This allows for much better use of material – less waste, and largely removes the need to put a knife anywhere near the paint.
Sometimes, making a pattern template isn’t feasible due to the size or shape of a panel. Or, it might be an older car that we’re asked to PPF, and patterns were never available. For example, we recently completed a complete bespoke install at our Hampshire premises. It was on a mid-90’s Nissan R33 GTR Skyline, for which no patterns exist. In this instance, we would carry out a bulk install, using a piece of material larger than the panel that needs covering and stretching the film over as best as possible. Slip solution would then be gradually squeegeed out, working out any complications on the way that might require a relief cut.
Unlike vinyl used for colour change wrapping, PPF doesn’t shrink when it’s heated up. This presents a challenge when tackling panels with complex curves, usually together with convex and concave surfaces in a small area. This is generally dealt with by stretching the PPF to get rid of excess material inside the curve. Vinyl could be heated and will shrink to fit the space.
However, overstretching PPF is a big problem. It can lead to visible marks in the film and the adhesive backing as it cracks. Also, if the film is stretched too much, it will become thin and weak. So, the answer, much like a tailor making clothes, is to make a strategic cut, or dart shape in the pattern, removing the material from where it will gather without stretching excessively. This sounds quite simple, but getting that right takes a lot of experience and skill in practice. The amazing design team at Xpel are masters of this.
If you are searching for local PPF installers contact us HERE. We’re based in Hampshire close to Basingtoke.