Anyone who has been in marketing of any type over the last 20 years would never question the vast amount of technical changes that have impacted all industries. Computers, the Internet, forms of digitization, fiber optics that went on steroids, chemical and molecular medicine, and many more. Technology breakthroughs, especially at the manufacturing levels, have been amazing. Interestingly, window film has been right in pace with all of them.
It also seems that for those of us that are in the heart of window film, sometimes we might lose sight of how fast we have ridden the technology train in our own products. If we really look at the products offered 20 years ago, it’s easy to see the advancements.
One of those many film evolutions is transitional (photochromic) films. Many of us might be old enough to remember those prescription eyeglasses on the market that got darker in the sun and turned clear indoors or at night. So, this technology began several decades ago.
In our own launching of Veloce Innovation’s line of films, we had to take some hard looks at all the films we were going to market. Transitional films were on our list to analyze and decide upon in terms of timing.
Our own discussions and results were quite interesting. Like all issues and situations, there are pros and cons. Below is our conclusion which helped make our decision to hold off for a next generation of development. We at Veloce hope these results answer your questions on why we held back on releasing a technology we had embarked upon to launch.
The technology and its history:
Photochromic technology (photo refers to light and chromic to color) has been around since the 1960’s and is widely used in eyeglasses. The transition (change in light transmission) of the films allowed for more comfort in varying light conditions. The UV and visible light exposure changed the light transmission while the photochromic properties come from the addition of photochromic dyes and molecules. After absorbing the sunlight/UV, the molecules undergo a chemical process that causes them to change shape and absorb a significant percentage of the UV/visible light, i.e., they darken. These processes are reversible; once the UV/visible light go down, the photochromic compounds return to their transparent state. The technology was designed to respond to the short wavelengths of light from the sun. This is the reason that artificial indoor light does not affect the light transmission.
These films can transition from a lighter VLT to a darker VLT in under 60 seconds and the transition range can be from 5 VLT all the way up to 45 VLT, with the lighter VLT’s changing the most. The transition back from the darker VLT to lighter takes longer, 2 to 15 minutes and even longer in colder climates. Durability is measured through accelerated testing and cycle testing. When the molecular rings close (the film is in its transparent status in which the dyes are quite stable), but once opened after irradiated by sunlight (dark status), they are very vulnerable, and this is where the failure happens when they cannot close again. This degradation is heightened in hotter climates.
In comparing our technologies with others, we realized that most of the technologies we tested seem to be coming from China though we have seen claims of Germany, Japan and Europe. We have also seen claims of patents but did not find any related patent by any of the companies we see selling transitional films.
The Pros of Transition Films
- Without a doubt, the concept of transitional films to consumers is enormous. It’s got that magical touch…now you see it and now you don’t. The highly trend driven market will go for that in a minute once they see it in action. So, the market appeal is there.
- Transitional films can create an excellent approach to specific commercial settings. Those range from storefront retail to central business office spaces in specific markets.
- It can also offer great residential offerings to communities that have short sun cycles such as in the northern states where days can seem too short to homeowners that also want to stop the high solar hours.
- It’s simple to say that most of the pros of this film technology are on the marketability side. But after all, that’s an absolute must for any business offering products to buyers.
The Cons of Transitional Films
When we started digging a little deeper into this film technology, we began to see some warning flags for at least the current offerings and conditions. Those were:
- The claims being made about the transitional products on the market seemed to not line up with the facts of the technology when put to the real tests. Below is a table to summarize the points of inconsistency with just one of our researched products on the market. It just resembles something less that what dealers want to offer their customers.
|Claimed ||Actual||After min.QUVtest||Claimed ||After min. QUV test |
Loss of transition performance after accelerated test (QUV)
|Claimed ||Claimed |
|VLT ||VLT ||VLT ||Transition||Transition||By %||UV Rejection||thickness|
|35||34||37||10 VLT ||8 VLT ||20%||99||2 mil |
|50||49||56||20 VLT ||9 VLT ||55%||99||2 mil |
|75||68||76||25 VLT ||9 VLT ||64%||99||2 mil |
- On durability and longevity, our research included accelerated age testing. It showed that while most films on the market that we test, we simulate 2500 hours of effectiveness; in this case our testing showed a dramatic transition reduction (degradation) after just 1000 hours. While some tests may vary, our results gave us a clear feeling of consumer and dealer letdown should we at Veloce go that same technological route. The accelerated testing showed most of the samples had significant reductions in transitions after 1000 hours of testing. The current warranties being offered for these films range from 5 years to lifetime for the transition. We feel even 5 years is a long time to offer for the transition properties in the films we tested. Research showed that even eyeglass transition lenses (which spend a lot less time in the sun and have been around a lot longer than window films) claim to have a lifespan of 2-3 year max. Due to the size of that industry, the eyeglass lenses have had a lot more development than window films and even then, they don’t last beyond 2-3 years. Warranties also became an area of concern as we realized that an end customer is not going to remember the brand of film, they are going to remember you, the dealer, if something fails. Again, reliability was an issue.
- Durability is also sometimes claimed by cycle testing. Cycles are the numbers of time a molecule opens and closes. Even a claim of 5000 cycles is not very impressive based on the number of cycles that can take place in 1 day. The 5000 number may seem like a lot at first, but on a cloudy day, a film can go through 25 or more cycles!
- Finally, our own testing with instrumentations to measure VLT’s gave us more reasons for our decisions. The indoor to outdoor VLT tests and over some clear time frames just didn’t show positive results. We suggest you, assuming you are a window film marketer, do the same testing at your own location or home. (We mention how to do this, below).
Our Conclusion & Decision at Veloce
- While we at Veloce would love to offer our founding dealers the best transitional films in the market, it just seems that this technology is just not up to our standards to offer it to our partner dealers, at least not with the current construction. The “show and tell” nature of this technology sometimes camouflages its durability issues over time and we at Veloce had to remind ourselves that we are not in business for the short term and at some time in the near future our customers and their customers are going to be looking for someone to stand behind its durability issues and failures.
- We also want you to know that we are regularly testing new solutions for this technology with all our sources and experts. We are currently testing a construction with extra protective layers. When we feel we can offer all the pros with none of the cons mentioned above from our own research, we will proudly offer our partner dealers the best. But for now, our philosophy stands…no Veloce dealer should ever have to inherit shortfalls/warranty claims, to pass on in their own businesses to their customers. It has taken you a long time to build your reputation in your markets and we are not going to ruin that.
- Sometimes we can get pulled into, “the jones’ affect” of carrying technologies that others are carrying without doing our due diligence. Veloce’s focus was on making sure it did not fall into the same trap and we feel you should really do your own research too.
Try this test for yourself:
- Take your samples of these films.
- Buy a tint meter (https://www.edtm.com/index.php/tc1800-tint-chek-tint-meter) or any meter that measures VLT.
- With your samples, use the sample that transitions the most (e.g. 70 VLT), measure the VLT indoors where there is no sunlight and then take the sample outside and measure the VLT after 90 seconds of sun exposure. Note both the VLT’s.
- Next, take the sample that transitions the most and leave it in a place in your home or shop that gets the most sunlight.
- In 60 days, then 90 days, and finally 180 days, try the same tests both indoors and outdoors. Compare these numbers to the original quoted numbers by the supplier. If you see any changes, imagine what 12,18, or 24 months will be like and continue your testing longer.