by Craig B. Duncan
Originally developed to enhance energy efficiency, window films have continued to evolve as manufacturers respond to the needs of the marketplace. The huge growth in aftermarket sales for impact-resistant window films reflects an increased concern about protecting residential and commercial properties from both intruders and natural elements. Safety and security have become a top priority today as people look for ways to protect themselves and their property from weather-related damage.
Aftermarket, or retrofit, installation of safety film has been promoted directly to consumers, leaving little opportunity for window manufacturers to tap this expanding security-conscious marketuntil now.
Spurred by new building codes in coastal areas like South Florida, film manufacturers have now developed impact-resistant composites that are dry-laminated directly on glass during window manufacturing. Designed for use in insulating glass (IG) products, the film is bonded on to one of the interior glass surfaces by the window manufacturer prior to final assembly.
These security films can be incorporated into most residential or commercial window applications and IG units without affecting the integrity or durability of the seal. Once in place, the films prevent glass shards from flying out of the frame upon impact, reducing the risk of injury and damage to interior property, as well as preventing access for intruders.
Naturally, the most important question in determining whether or not to develop a product line featuring OEM security film is its impact-resistance performance and cost efficiency relative to competitive products, such as tempered glass and laminated glass.
We believe the new generation of OEM security films offers the same high impact resistance provided by tempered glass and laminated glass. For example, Safe-Gard® OEM film from Film Technologies International meets the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 1201, Category II and ANSI Z97.1 (Unlimited). It has also passed the Dade County Florida Small Missile Impact Test. In addition, it meets international tests including British Standards 6206 and 476, and DIN A1 and A3.
The high level of performance of these films is equal to or exceeds that of tempered glass and other security glass products. Glass laminated with these films wont shatter as regular or tempered glass does. OEM films are also superior to aftermarket installations because the film is secured between glass and frame during manufacturing which holds the glass inside the frame better upon impact.
But the best feature of OEM films is that they deliver this outstanding performance at a relatively affordable price. Even with the required investment in laminating equipment, it is usually less expensive for window manufacturers to use these products than either laminated glass or tempered glass. Purchasing windows that contain OEM film can be less costly than retrofit installations, making them attractive to consumers.
While performance and cost are top selling points for OEM films, they offer other advantages in todays competitive marketplace as well. These films block up to 99 percent of the suns harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, prolonging the life of interior furnishings. Solar versions are also available that can reject as much as 35 percent of the suns heat. In addition, because the film is applied by the window manufacturer, it is possible to totally customize products for individual customers.
Applying the film during the window manufacturing process has another big advantage. It places the window manufacturer in complete control of scheduling, production and pricing. Shipping costs and delays are eliminated. The finished product is much lighter than laminated glass, which makes it less costly to ship as well.
With so many benefits for both the window manufacturer and the consumer, products with OEM security films are gaining greater presence in the industry. This value-added option is especially appealing for vinyl replacement window manufacturers as it allows them to establish a true point-of-difference from their competitors. They can offer customers a premium product that is well worth the additional expense and upsell their consumers effectively.
In general, most builders consider the added cost of using IG windows with security film prohibitive because they usually do not want to take the time to sell the advantages of this upgrade to their customers. But as the demand for greater home and business security continues to escalate, upscale custom residential builders as well as commercial builders represent an excellent potential market.
It may take a while for the new construction industry to catch up with the replacement market, but as consumer awareness and impact-resistance codes continue to grow, products manufactured with security film composites will take their place as a top choice in the window and glass door markets.
Craig B. Duncan is national sales manager, OEM Products at Film Technologies International Inc., located in St. Petersbug, FL.
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