Protective film is a material that protects surfaces that are susceptible to damage: minor or moderate abrasions to scratches and more. One example is a vehicle. Protective film helps protect a car from daily wear and tear that comes with regular usage and other more uncommon damage.

Available in a variety of styles, each protective film is specifically designed for various applications, and they generally vary according to thickness, material, and adhesive strength.
Based on various combinations of these characteristics, these films can be appropriately used in a variety of scenarios to offer protection.

Top 5 Benefits of Protective Film:
1. Protection from scratches and abrasions
2. Protection against humidity and dirt
3. Resistance against cold or hot temperatures
4. UV resistance
5. Chemical resistance

Protective Film: A Brief History

One interesting thing about protective films is that they were originally developed with military applications in mind. Even back in the '60s, the U.S Department of Defense realized that their helicopter blades could not escape the damage caused by debris in the air. This problem eventually inspired the creation of a protective layer that was designed to be transparent, lightweight, and strong enough to prevent damage to the military equipment in use.

These protective layers, or “helicopter tape” as it was known as, eventually evolved to extend to modern-day vehicles. 3M was the original creator of the protective layers for the military.

Materials Used to Manufacture Protective Films

Here are a few specific types of materials, mostly plastic, that are commonly used to create protective film:

  • Low-density polythene films have enhanced elasticity and flexibility, and are generally low in weight
  • Polyvinyl chloride is sleek with relatively higher levels of elasticity, making it an ideal option for metal surface protection
  • Polypropylene is less elastic and holds firm even in higher temperatures
  • Polyolefin works exceptionally well with glass or painted metal, and certain variants are used for packaging
  • Co-extruded, low-density polythene provides a higher level of protection by using layering techniques
  • Paper is generally used to protect against very low-impact damage

Flexible material converting is complex! Get your questions answered in this  handy Q&A guide.

Protective Film Types

Surface Protective Film

A high-quality surface protective film can easily be applied and removed while providing a sleek finish to the surface it is used on. These films are specifically designed to add a layer of protection to vulnerable surfaces: glass, commercial glazing, plastic, stone, brick, granite, marble, and more.

Industries with a focus on manufacturing and distribution of packaged products generally find themselves with a need for this kind of protection. However, it then becomes difficult to cut these films into appropriate shapes to fit various surfaces. Additionally, one must also ensure minimal bubbling upon application, which often requires a professional’s expertise in surface protection films.

Protection Film for painted surfaces

Paint protection films generally have a higher resistance towards impact. Variants such as the clear bra or paint protection film (PPF) even have “self-healing” properties that allow them to return back to their natural shape after impact or abrasions.

These kinds of films are usually made from elastomeric polymer, providing elasticity to the film, plus they’re usually invisible, allowing for the object to maintain its aesthetic value while adding a level of protection. That’s why common uses include cell phones, electronics, cars, airplanes, and other equipment.

While PPF is not bulletproof, it does provide superior protection against rock chips and other environmental contaminants. Additionally, it is also chemical resistant, allowing you to wash or clean your equipment without fearing for the loss of adhesive or the inability to execute maintenance practices.

Protective Film Applications in Various Industries

Anything with a surface can be better protected because protective film applications are varied and nearly limitless. However, there are a few industries in which they offer the most value.


Aerospace engineering is constantly striving to create quieter, lighter, and damage-resistant equipment. Here, films are essential for prolonging longevity and enhancing the quality of these materials.


Electronics — mobile phones and other hardware — are susceptible to physical damage, particularly screen damage. There are a wide range of application possibilities for television manufacturing companies, electronic shipment companies, and other similar businesses.


In general, industries have wide applications for protective film and often require customized sizes to fit various pieces of equipment or newly manufactured products. End products can suffer plenty of damage on the commutes to distribution centers or warehouses.


From wheels and doors to fenders and bumpers, a car needs overall protection. Protective films are a fantastic way of achieving this without ruining the aesthetic appeal of the vehicle.


Medical devices are usually expensive and require a high level of maintenance to prevent metal corrosion. Adding a protective layer helps prevent premature wear and tear and keeps these machines running smoothly.


Protective films help ensure critical military equipment, weaponry, and machinery run efficiently. However, when it comes to defense, equipment likely requires more intense types of adhesive protection, in addition to the protective film.

Choose the Right Protective Film for Your Needs

To properly choose the right kind of film for your needs, you should consider the following elements:


It is counter-productive to install cheap film that is going to spoil within a few months. Instead, invest in a high-quality, branded film that offers durability.
This leads us perfectly into our next point.


Ensure that the product you are investing in has reputable customer care and good deals on warranty. Generally, a 3M PPF would provide up to ten years of warranty. This is excellent for equipment like cars that you are likely to use long term.


Now that you're aware of the role material plays in determining the quality of the film, ensure that you ask questions about it. At the very least, you should be able to get PPF that crosses all the basic requirements of being scratch-resistant, abrasion-resistant, and UV protected.
Of course, quality might also depend on the budget you have, but on the whole, it is not very difficult to get high quality for reasonable prices.


Application or installation of protective film can be a challenging task, especially when you have no experience. Ideally, you should hire an expert to do this to ensure that you avoid bubbles on the surface.

The Protective Film Installation Process

In general, Here’s what you can expect from successful protective film installation:

Clean The Surface

It’s essential to first remove dust and debris from the surface, which allows for smooth application and a snug fit. A surface not properly cleaned is likely to have air bubbles. Plus, debris underneath the film might weaken the barrier and reduce the longevity of the film. The surface must also be grease-free, so the adhesive sticks well to the surface.

Customize Cutting

Some vendors sell pre-cut pieces of film that can be applied directly to a clean surface. However, it’s wise to get a customized cut from an experienced converter for equipment or vehicles in more intricate systems.

Fit Properly

Fitting is the final step, during which the installer uses different procedures to ensure that the film sits snugly over the object or surface. Spray fitting is a popular choice to activate the glue or adhesive in a way that does not cause damage to the painted surface. This must be done in a clean environment to prevent dust from collecting on the clean surface again.

Two Additional Keys to Protective Film Success

No doubt, the quality of the film material largely determines if it’ll be effective for the task required. That said, there are two aspects of protective films that are especially important to remember.

First, partner with someone who understands material selection — the variety of sizes and degrees of thickness, with some offering multi-layered, stronger protection. The more complex the object, the higher the need for customization, the second vital aspect.

Modern-day advances in rotary die-cutting allow converters to achieve precise results even when dealing with highly specialized aircraft and other intricately designed objects. Application of protective film to complex objects requires its own set of expertise in working with heat guns, torches, plotters, spray fitting, and other installation techniques.

At Strouse, we pride ourselves on being able to deliver on every level. We know the materials available, we take the time to understand how they can be used, and we add our engineering expertise to create innovative solutions.

Request a quote or simply contact Strouse with your questions or comments about protective film. Want to learn more about flexible material converting? We have a guide that’s perfect for getting to know how a flexible material converting partner can understand and meet your needs.

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Scott Chambers

Written by Scott Chambers

As the VP of Marketing for Strouse, Scott oversees the content creation team and drives demand to the sales team. Scott graduated from Coastal Carolina with a degree in Business Management. He then attended the University of Baltimore School of Law, earned his JD, and passed the bar in 2016. In addition to marketing and business development, Scott serves as Strouse's In House Counsel. Scott is currently earning an MBA from Indiana University.

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