Plastic body color film is slowly gaining traction with automotive manufacturers due to its ease of application and reduction of waste and emissions associated with traditional paint processes. Use of plastic paint film can reduce VOC emissions by up to 98%, according to RAO Associates.
Nippani Rao, President of RAO Associates, is a retired plastic body color film specialist at Chrysler.
Plastic body color film starts as a thick plastic sheet of color that is applied by thermoforming to an existing automobile part.
The process begins with a clear, thin sheet of plastic-based film 60 inches wide and 15,000 feet long. The film is fed through a mechanism that resembles a printing press. The machine applies a clear coat, a pigmented layer of colored paint and then an adhesive layer that bonds the film to the part when it is molded. The base film is then stripped away, leaving a flexible, durable, high-gloss coating.
Films won’t scratch as easily as paint and can even be moderately gouged without showing marks. Additionally, the film can be applied many different ways (to help fit various manufacturing process) including a low-VOC adhesive, and putting the film into the part mold and having it formed together in the injection molding process. The end product is higher in quality and reduces both VOC emissions and energy usage.
With its greater thickness than traditional paint, plastic body color film is more scratch and chip-resistant, as well as more resistant to UV fading and other environmental factors, allowing color to maintain a showroom shine longer than traditional paint.
Mold-in film color can be used in more traditional thermoplastic applications as well as more advanced plastic-reinforced carbon composite applications.