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Around 6 million car accidents occur every year in the United States alone.

While not every one of these accidents may result in harm to you, most will definitely affect your car. With this in mind, you invest in car insurance - a smart idea no doubt. But what about all those scratches, the daily wear, the damaged surfaces?

How do you protect your car from those?

The answer - protective film. Among its various applications, it helps protect your car and other solid surfaces from the wear and tear that comes with usage. 

It comes in variants, each specifically designed for different uses. Let's explore what these applications are. 

What Is Protective Film?

Protective film is a kind of material that you can use to protect surfaces that are susceptible to damage. This kind of damage includes minor or moderate abrasions, scratches and more. These films 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 help prevent damage. 

One interesting about these 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, light-weight 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. 

What Kinds of Materials Are Used in the Manufacturing of these Films?

In a nutshell, the primary material used is generally some kind of plastic. Here are a few specific types of materials that are commonly used to create protective film:

  • Low-density polythene films have enhanced elasticity, flexibility and are generally low weight
  • Polyvinyl chloride is sleek with relatively higher levels of elasticity making it an ideal option for metal surface protection
  • Polypropelene 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

Now that you're familiar with the specific materials, we can move on to the various types of protective films there are.

Surface Protective Film

A good quality surface protective film is one that can be easily applied and removed while providing a sleek finish to the surface it is used on. They usually provide the following benefits upon applications:

  • UV resistance
  • Resistance against cold or hot temperatures
  • Protection against humidity and dirt
  • Protection from scratches and abrasions

These are commonly used in protecting commercial glazing systems, glass surfaces, plastic, stone, brick, granite, marble and more. These kinds of films are specifically designed to add a layer of protection to vulnerable surfaces. 

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 the expertise of a qualified professional

3M Paint Protection Film

The clear bra and other PPF variants are produced by the 3M company who were the original creators of the protective layers for the military. These paint protection films generally have a higher resistance towards impact. In fact, this is most commonly used for car protection, but can be used to protect other painted surfaces as well. 

Variants like the clear bra or paint protective 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, allowing more elasticity to the film. 

Common uses include protection for cellphones, electronics, cars, airplanes, and other equipment. They are usually invisible allowing for the object to maintain its aesthetic value while allowing for an added level of protection. Other variants may allow you to choose between matte or glossy finishes as per your needs and preferences. 

Particularly, the Scotchgard or clear bra style provides a clear film, whereas the Pro Series Matte comes in a silk matte finish. These can be applied anywhere and will prove effective, so long as it is applied by a qualified expert.

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

Protective Film for Cars and Other Vehicles

If you're one of those devoted car-men or women, an automotive paint protection film is a must-have for your car's surface. These handy films are exceptional at steering your vehicle away from unnecessary scratches or abrasions. 

In general, you can expect protection against the following problems for your car:

  • Bird droppings
  • Acid rain
  • Ultraviolet rays
  • Mineral deposits
  • Tree sap
  • Oil and water spots
  • Road salt
  • Rail dust
  • Industrial fallout
  • Oxidization
  • Bug or insect splatter
  • Metal corrosion
  • Dust

The barrier created is exceptionally strong and prevents water, soap or strong cleaning solvents from penetrating through the film. They are very different from sealants that provide only chemical or UV resistance with no added benefits of being scratch resistant.

Do keep in mind that the protection offered may vary depending on the brand you choose to buy from and the materials involved in making them. 

Achieving Customization for Your Vehicle

Perhaps the most significant change from the 1960s till now, is the noticeable increase in aesthetic value, along with the emphasis on customization. Protective car films are available in a variety of sizes each with varying degrees of thickness. Some are multi-layered, offering stronger protection. 

Most dealers also allow you to choose between clear films or colored films based on your preferences or specific requirements for your car. However, these films extend their protection to all kinds of vehicles besides cars. Particularly, these automotive adhesives go a long way in providing protection to airplane parts, and other airborne vehicles.

The more complex the object, the higher the need for customization. Luckily, modern-day advances in rotary die-cutting allow us to achieve very precise results even when dealing with highly specialized airplanes and other intricately designed objects. 

Additionally, there's also the matter of the application of protective film to the object. This, in turn, requires its own set of expertise in working with heat guns, torches, plotters, spray fitting, and other installation techniques.  

Applications of Protective Films

The applications of protective film are wide, varied and possibly limitless. Anything with a surface can be better protected. However, here are a few areas in which it offers the highest value.


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


Similarly, electronics like mobile phones and other hardware are very susceptible to damage. Screen protection, in particular, is one area of electronics where films are consistently used to prevent physical damage. You can imagine the wide possibilities of applications in television manufacturing companies, electronic shipment companies, and other similar businesses. 


Industries in general, 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.


Whether its wheels, doors, fenders or bumpers a car needs protection. These films are a fantastic way of achieving this without ruining the aesthetic appeal of the car. 


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


Adhesive films form a critical component in ensuring military equipment, weaponry and machinery run efficiently. However, when it comes to defense it is likely to require different types of adhesive protection, in addition to the protective film.

Choosing the Right Film for Your Needs

The next call to action is being able to choose the right kind of film for your needs. To be able to do this right, you need to consider the following elements.


It is counter-productive to install cheap film that is going to spoil within a few months. Instead, invest in 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 decent 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.

An Overview of the Installation Process

Film installation is the most important part of the process. In general, here's what you can expect.

Cleaning of the Surface

First, it is essential to remove dust and debris from the surface. This will allow for smooth application and a snug fit. Failure to properly clean the surface is likely to cause air bubbles. 

Additionally, debris underneath the film might even weaken the barrier and reduce the longevity of the film in use. The cleaner must also ensure that the surface is grease-free so that the adhesive sticks properly to the surface.

Customized Cutting

Now, some vendors sell pre-cut pieces of film that can then be applied directly to the clean surface. However, in more intricate systems, it might be more prudent to get a customized cut for your equipment or car. 


The final step, is, of course, the fitting. Here, the installer may use 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.

Looking for Good Quality Protective Films?

When it comes to protective film, good quality and experience are of utmost importance. You need to acquire quality material, and you require the expertise of someone who understands the art of installation and customization. 

At Strouse, we pride ourselves on being able to deliver on both ends. We know the materials out there, and we know how you are trying to use them, so we can deliver both a quality material and a solution die-cut for your project.

Get in touch with us with any requirement you've got and we'll send you a quote as soon as possible! Give your equipment the added protection it deserves. 

Sue Chambers

Written by Sue Chambers

As the CEO and President of Strouse Corporation, Sue Chambers is responsible for leading all facets of the business. Sue has a proven executive management track record and over 20 years of experience driving sales growth and operational innovation in the adhesive conversion industry. Sue possesses strong leadership, strategic vision, and savvy marketing skills. Sue has an MBA from Loyola University in Maryland. Since 1997 Sue Chambers joined Strouse and led the transformation into an enterprise-focused company while growing the company into a world leader in the innovative production of pressure-sensitive adhesive with revenue of over 20 million and growing. In the last three years, Strouse revenue has grown 62%; the number of employees has grown and continues to achieve and maintain ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certification. Strouse built a new production plant going from 40,000 to 62,500 square feet, increasing the production space by 50%. The building also can expand to 82,500 sq. Feet. Sue is active in the community serving on the Industrial Development Board presently and earning several business awards over the years. Most recently, 3M has recognized Strouse as a supplier of the year. She is also on the Dale Chambers Foundation board that raises money for local charities in the community.