Growing up a Pennsylvanian in the 90s can lead you to pay keen attention to global trends that threaten American manufacturing dominance. Blame for why this happened aside, these trends were most pronounced in the Keystone state, resulting in de-industrialization, de-population and an overall decline in America’s talent pool and manufacturing prowess. I fear the same thing could happen on a microscale in paint protection film (PPF)—specifically color PPF—if American companies don’t get busy quickly.  

America Invented PPF 

PPF is an American invention. PPFMag columnist Mel Villalon explained in his latest piece that it was invented by the 3M Company for the military, to protect their helicopter wings. Since then, the product has been used mostly on cars—though some installers have found other creative applications (See: Spot the Opportunities in the Spring issue of PPFmag).  

Colorful Opportunities 

Color PPF takes these opportunities and multiplies them, allowing for full color-change on cars or boats, while also protecting the vehicle (something vinyl can’t do). Other opportunities allow for applying unique finishings on various surfaces.  

America is the innovation hub of the world—so why do so few of our industry’s top-tier companies offer color PPF? If they do, it tends to be offered in black only.  

A few brands laminate vinyl to TPU to make color PPF. Flexishield out of Phoenix is one of those. They first introduced their color PPF at SEMA in 2021. Then last year, they touted 80+ color options—an impressive spread. Since the base of most of these is vinyl, most of Flexishield’s products are dry-applied. This leaves me to wonder why American PPF-makers haven’t at least done that in order to give their dealers options while mastering the process of making fully colorized TPU.  

Flexishield showed off some of its 80+ color offerings at SEMA last year.

Wet-Applied Color 

Fully-dyed, wet-applied PPF does seem to be the goal. China-based NKODA and Nanolink have achieved this goal, offering several color options.  

“There’s nothing else like it,” says PPFMag blogger Gabe Fletcher, referencing Nanolink’s PPF.  

The product is made by replacing the clear pellets that normally get extruded into PPF with colored ones. This might explain why some American manufacturers have only launched black PPF—it’s hard to mess up black and the color is popular.

Adam Lawson, NKODA global marketing manager, says the China-made color PPF products weren’t launched hastily, though.  

“There is a lot of R&D involved,” he explains. “They’ve been doing PPF for ten years and color PPF for five.” 

After decades of growth, the Chinese have so much industrial capacity that they don’t know what to do with it—so they push the boundaries on already-existing technologies, hoping to simply make things that sell. This can result in them having a higher risk tolerance than American PPF manufacturers, many of which are ultimately responsible to shareholders. And Chinese manufacturers aren’t taking cheap risks. 

“To do a single run of the color film costs tens of thousands of dollars,” Lawson says. “You need a huge amount of capital and backing and then extrapolate that into a whole range of colors.” 

NKODA now offers 23 colors—all with a 12-year warranty.  

Nanolink offers 26 and Aatif Muneer, CEO of its U.S. operations, projects the company will have 30 in the lead-up to SEMA.

Nanolink’s Desert Sky PPF was the subject of a lot of buzz at SEMA, achieving a 3-color look depending on the viewer’s angle.

 

He says American manufacturers are late to the color PPF party. 

“We started R&D for color PPF three years ago,” he explains, but expects American manufacturers to catch up in six to 18 months. There were a few novel challenges in the manufacturing process unique to color PPF.  

“Issues like delamination and fading were holding back manufacturers,” Muneer says. “We are the only manufacturer who made big investments with TPU resin manufacturers and made color TPU resin to avoid this risk.” 

He also says they use color-stable ceramic pigments to protect against fading.   

Other Color 

Korea-based Sangbo also has Kaizer PPF, which comes in a decent range of colors, as well as designs like carbon fiber.  

Sangbo’s Kaizer PPF has different, unique designs in various colors.

Entrotech is another American PPF manufacturer that offers color PPF—though the options are limited in more ways than one. They are supplying AERO PPF only to Tesla for OEM applications. The film is currently not available outside of the Tesla network, though the company has previously made film for familiar PPF suppliers. There are eight color options on Tesla’s site for color PPF and it isn’t clear whether Entrotech’s PPF is made via laminating vinyl or is all TPU.  

I, too, think American manufacturers will catch up, but this is an innovation they could’ve—and should’ve—led on. Let’s not end up like Pennsylvania.  

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