The History of 3M Paint Protection Film (Clear Bra)

HISTORY OF 3M PAINT PROTECTION FILM (CLEAR BRA):

The automotive clear bra is a urethane film that can be applied to the impact areas of cars — such as the hood, side mirrors, doors, and bumpers — to protect their paint finishes from environmental hazards such as stone chips, bug impacts, and other road debris. Since it is completely transparent, the clear bra has the added benefit of not compromising a car’s appearance while it protects, unlike other paint protection systems.

CLEAR BRA ORIGIN IN MILITARY USE:

While clear bras are now prized by many automobile enthusiasts, the technology was originally conceived for a very different purpose. The film was developed by 3M for military use during the Vietnam War, where helicopter rotor blades frequently suffered damage from flying dust and debris, even on the most routine missions. This caused malfunctions and required costly overhauls of the blades.

By installing protective film over the blades, the U.S. military was able to save large amounts of time and money. The film would suffer damage instead of the blade, and the films could be replaced much more cheaply and easily than the rotor blades.

Because of their origin, these films have sometimes been referred to as “helicopter tape,” though with changes in their use, this term is becoming obsolete.

PAINT PROTECTION FILM EVOLVES INTO AUTOMOTIVE SECTOR:

The films continued to be used by the military long after Vietnam. They proved particularly useful in the harsh conditions and dust storms seen in Operation Desert Storm.

In the 1980s, people started to see the benefit urethane film could provide to virtually any high performance vehicle, and they began to see use outside the military. Specifically, racecar drivers began adding them to their cars to protect the finishes. This helped ensure peak performance for the cars in a sport where even the tiniest advantage is crucial.

CLEAR BRA BECOMES POPULAR ALTERNATIVE TO AUTO BRA:

By the ‘90s, companies had begun offering clear bra films to the average consumer. Paint protection film has achieved a high degree of popularity, especially among owners of luxury cars, for its ability to preserve the factory finish of a car without compromising looks. While early versions tended to yellow with age, clear bra films sold today do not suffer any such problems and should remain invisible indefinitely.

Invisible bras are also much more convenient than the alternatives. There is no need to remove the clear bras when the owner wants to wash or wax his or her car, and the films are UV transparent, meaning there will be no uneven fading of the paint job. Removal or replacement can be done easily without fear of damaging the paint beneath, as film adhesive is designed not to harm paint finishes.

Clear bra installers must be highly trained; it can take years to master the skill. The films usually come in pre-cut kits that make the installation process smoother. However, more skilled technicians can perform custom installations, which provide much better paint surface coverage.
New advancements in material science continue to improve the auto clear bra, and with protective film’s popularity increasing among car-lovers, the clear bra likely will continue to be a part of the automobile scene — albeit an invisible one — for many years to come.

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