Materials and Chemicals

ETFE Transforms Sign Protection

16 April 2018

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Modern signage may have its roots in ancient Greece and Rome, but it’s doubtful that signs saw graffiti damage, stickers or any formidable threat in the early days. That’s no longer true. When graffiti vandals targeted two overhead highway signs on Interstate 35 in Kansas City, area taxpayers were hit with a $20,000 bill to replace them. Similarly, Seattle Public Utilities spent approximately $1 million in 2017 for graffiti enforcement, which included the removal of graffiti from buses, tunnels, park and rides and bus shelters, in addition to education and outreach.

Not all graffiti ends up on signs. Given the ubiquitous nature of corporate and municipal signage, sign surface protection from the elements, street artists and vandals is a necessity.

In addition to graffiti removal, there are several recognized challenges to ensuring long and useful sign life, including sufficient durability, the ability to survive extreme climate and non-stick features that repel adhesives, such as those found in stickers.

Figure 1. While not all graffiti ends up on signs, corporate and infrastructure signs and a variety of surfaces must be protected from the elements, street artists and vandals. Source: Saint-GobainFigure 1. While not all graffiti ends up on signs, corporate and infrastructure signs and a variety of surfaces must be protected from the elements, street artists and vandals. Source: Saint-Gobain

Saint-Gobain, using their unique formula of ethylene tetrafluorethylene (ETFE), works behind the scenes to mitigate the onslaught of abuse on signage. Saint-Gobain is responsible for manufacturing the broadest range of melt-processed fluoropolymer films globally, including ETFE.

What ETFE Offers

ETFE is a fluorine-based plastic used to deliver corrosion resistance and strength over a wide temperature range for a variety of applications, including signage. A polymer, ETFE is comprised of carbon, fluorine and hydrogen. It combines a high melting temperature with anti-ghosting properties, while its chemical structure and high tensile strength enable it to withstand substantial and repeated bouts of physical abuse during its long useful life.

Originally developed in the 1970s as a lightweight, heat-resistant film to serve the aerospace industry, ETFE represents an excellent technology that meets the stringent requirements and harsh environments typically found in signage. Additional features include:

  • ETFE film is durable, highly transparent and extremely lightweight. As the film is UV transparent, it will not yellow or structurally weaken over time.
  • ETFE is stress-crack, chemical, tear and weather resistant.
  • ETFE does not degrade when exposed to environmental pollution, UV light, harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures.
  • The polymer’s low surface energy makes it an excellent choice for release applications up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Materials, including paint, will not stick to the outside surface of the film.
  • Bondable characteristics for metalizing processes and adhesive coating. While the solution is non-stick when used as a surface protectant treatment, it effectively bonds to metal.
  • Deposits of dirt, dust and debris won’t stick and therefore are washed away by the rain, so that ETFE-based signs are essentially self-cleaning.

Why Saint-Gobain

In addition to imperviousness from adhesives and graffiti, Saint-Gobain film stands up to whatever is literally and figuratively thrown at it, including chemical exposure, high temperatures and the effects of long-term outdoor aging.

Meeting specifications for anti-graffiti or protective overlays for signs is only part of the story. Saint-Gobain is dedicated to furthering the transformational power of materials for global applications where very little is standard.

Although there are competitive ETFE solutions in the marketplace, Saint-Gobain enjoys the majority of ETFE sales as the recognized knowledge expert in the field. The company attributes its success to its people, which it considers its greatest asset as they provide expertise in polymer chemistry, materials processing and finished goods converting for both commercial and infrastructure signage. With a corporate history spanning more than 350 years, not only is Saint-Gobain one of the world’s oldest companies, it is also one of the most diverse, stable, supportive, innovative and responsive ETFE suppliers.

For more than 50 years, Saint-Gobain has been the recognized leader in precision coating technology. For sign protection, NORFILM™ and CHEMFILM™ are industry staples.

· Saint-Gobain NORFILM is a low surface energy top coating that is abrasion and chemically resistant, and offers excellent clarity and optical properties. NORFILM protects the film surface in many environments and enhances the appearance of the finished product.

· Saint-Gobain CHEMFILM meets the requirements for a broad range of environmental extremes, such as chemical exposure, high temperatures and long-term, outdoor-aging performance.

Optimal signage protection means employing Saint-Gobain products. Cleaning is easily done with a spray down or standard cleaning products. Damage is minimalized, so repair and replacement is rare. And the surface coating causes no damage to the sign itself.

Saint-Gobain customers work directly with individuals in research, engineering and operational departments to create solutions that exceed the most demanding expectations. The company has an exceptional reputation for product expertise and innovation. Saint-Gobain is widely recognized as a world leader in the development of multi-layer fluoropolymer solutions that combine outstanding surface protection performance and reliability.



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