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Quality Fabric Of The Month

High Visibility -- In Your Own Style

3M™ Scotchlite™ custom-cuttable, heat-settable reflective transfer film enables production of cost-effective, limited-edition high-visibility graphics to customize apparel and other textile products.

Janet Bealer Rodie, Managing Editor

S t. Paul, Minn.-based 3M -- manufacturer of Scotchlite™ Reflective Material, Thinsulate™ Insulation and a multiplicity of other products for industrial, commercial and consumer applications -- has added 5807 Custom Cuttable Transfer Film to its line of Scotchlite materials, enabling just-in-time production of one-of-a-kind or limited-edition high-visibility graphics for textile products at a cost equal to or lower than the cost of screen-printed graphics. Customized personal apparel -- including jogging, cycling and other sports- and activewear; backpacks and other outdoor gear; athletic and service uniforms; and occupational and first-responder safety gear can feature specially designed and placed patterns and logos that provide the wearer with high visibility for situations in which it is most important -- such as roads and construction areas from dusk until dawn -- while enhancing the look of those articles at the same time. With Halloween approaching, the reflective film could be used to add special detailing to a trick-or-treater’s costume and provide an extra safety factor as well.

The special school logo on this backpack, cut from 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material -- 5807 Custom Cuttable Transfer Film, provides visibility enhancement from dusk to dawn.

Conspicuity: A Matter Of Safety

Citing statistics from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 3M notes that annually, there are nearly 5,000 pedestrian fatalities and 71,000 injuries caused by traffic crashes, and 65 percent of the fatalities take place between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The company points out that clothing embellished with reflective materials, particularly when those materials can be seen from all angles, can provide conspicuity to help pedestrians stand out in dark environments. According to Dr. Tim J. Gardner, visibility and insulation solutions regulatory affairs manager, Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division, 3M, when designing optics to provide conspicuity on the road at night, it is necessary to consider that drivers primarily are paying attention to the road and may not initially be focused on a particular object in or alongside the road. “The operative distance at night for high visibility on a road is 500 to 750 feet,” he said.

The company also notes there are common misconceptions about the conspicuity of light-colored clothing at night. In fact, an ordinary white shirt, which has limited reflectivity, is very nearly as hard to see from a distance in the dark as a black shirt, as was shown recently during a nighttime demonstration at 3M’s test track outside of St. Paul. Even fluorescent materials, which have limited reflectivity but also re-emit absorbed short-wave light as longer-wave light, provide effective conspicuity only during daylight hours, dawn, dusk and stormy weather. Retroreflective materials, such as the Scotchlite reflective materials, provide conspicuity at dawn or dusk and at night, even from a distance, by reflecting light that is directed toward them -- as from a car’s headlights -- back toward the source and the driver of that car.

In the case of the 5807 custom-cuttable film, that retroreflectivity comes from 3M’s glass bead technology, by which tiny glass beads backed by aluminum reflect incoming light back to its source. The beads are set into a very thin, flexible polymer matrix that has a thermal transfer adhesive on the back. A clear liner protects the beaded surface during the heat-transfer process. The material tolerates very high temperatures; is durable to dry cleaning and industrial and home washing; and, according to 3M, typically will last beyond the expected life of the textile to which it is applied.

The film complies with retroreflectivity performance requirements of American National Standards Institute/International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) 107-2004 as well as Canadian, Australian and European high-visibility standards for safety apparel. Occupational apparel meeting ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 Class 2 or Class 3 standards complies with federal regulations governing the use of high-visibility garments in construction and transportation areas. Those regulations require 360° visibility for the materials plus placement of materials in movement locations, and revised regulations are being proposed that will allow some flexibility regarding the design of the reflective areas, Gardner said.

“The revised standards will still require the material to have 360° visibility, but it won’t have to just be solid stripes all the way around. You still have some geometric restrictions, but you can do some other things in terms of design and placement that you couldn’t do before,” he said. “It’s exciting to imagine what some creative and innovative garment makers are going to do with this.”

Fashion apparel and activewear that feature the custom-cuttable film can qualify for 3M’s 360° Enhanced Visibility program if the reflective designs can be seen from every angle in low-light or dark conditions. That program includes a special hangtag, woven labels and marketing support.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for custom garments -- whether consumer or recreation or whatever -- that aren’t going into regulated areas,” Gardner said.

3M’s Scotchlite 5807 custom-cuttable film features the company’s flexible retroreflective glass bead technology to reflect incoming light back to the source.

Benefits To Converters

3M reports the new film offers a number of benefits to converters, especially for runs of 35 or fewer articles. In-house graphic designers can create special logos or other designs using graphic software that is compatible with a plotter cutter. The design is cut into the film, and the extraneous film trim is removed. The cut-out design is then positioned on the article and laminated using a heat press, and the liner is removed. Because designs can be cut individually on demand, it is not necessary to maintain a large inventory of finished products, and because design and execution can be done in-house, the need to outsource is eliminated. In addition, in-house customization can help a business differentiate its products and services, and can lead to improved profitability.

The film can be applied to a range of fabrics including cotton, polyester, cotton/polyester blends, nylon, spandex/acrylic blends, spandex, knits, fleece and other fabrics.

Stahls’ ID Direct™ -- a St. Clair Shores, Mich.-based manufacturer and supplier of heat-transfer materials for apparel and textiles, and part of the GroupeSTAHL™ family of companies -- is an authorized US converter and distributor of 3M’s 5807 custom-cuttable transfer film. The company, a specialist in imprinted sportswear, offers the film by the yard on rolls, as CAD-CUT® custom-cut designs or as pre-positioned numbers and letters. The company also offers customers free access to the CadworxLIVE® Web-based design service; distributes cutters, blades and accessories; and manufactures heat presses.

For more information about 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material -- 5807 Custom Cuttable Transfer Film, contact Lori Wood 651-733-9781, lawood@mmm.com.
For more information about Stahls’ ID Direct™ CAT-CUT® Technology, contact Dave Wheatley 800-478-2457, Ext. 4378.

October 2009