Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Can I lacquer or clear coat 3M™ Di-Noc™ Carbon Fibre Vinyl?

Several times each month we are asked if it is possible to apply a clear coat or lacquer to 3M Di-Noc Carbon Fibre Vinyl which has a textured finish much like a true dry carbon fibre.  The first option that comes to mind is to apply a clear vinyl on top of the carbon fibre vinyl but while this is possible the effect is poor as when the clear vinyl is applied on top it takes on the texture of the Di-Noc™ below giving an orange peel effect.

The next option is to apply a spray on lacquer but unfortunately this also takes on the textured finish on the first few coats.  If however you spend some time building up four or five coats the lacquer becomes flat and, assuming you are working with the Black Carbon Fibre Vinyl, gives the vinyl a deep gloss black shine.  This is the effect many people are looking for as it matches the look of carbon fibre parts that are commonly available on the market, typically body panels that are made from fibreglass and have a carbon fibre sheet laid on top before being lacquered.

If this is the look you wish to achieve with the 3M™ Di-Noc™ Carbon Fibre Vinyl it seems that it may be possible.  We are unable however to advise on the longevity or quality of the finish you can expect from this approach as the official guidance from 3M™ is a little sketchy - see below, nor are we a paint shop so lacquer is not something we're familiar with.  I suspect that 5 coats of lacquer may be quite brittle and as such might not stand up to the type of small impacts that would typically cause stone chips on a painted surface or small bumps that would cause a body panel to flex.  Interior use of lacquer and Di-Noc™ Carbon Fibre Vinyl could well be a safe bet though.  I have spoken to an employee of an Aston Martin / Jaguar dealership who claims they sent 50 cars away to have a number of dash panels wrapped and lacquered.  I can't imagine that a prestige car dealership would do this to brand new cars before selling them if there was any doubt as to the suitability of the products being used, however I've not seen any photos of this work and have only the employees word that the job was commissioned.

What do 3M say about clear coat?
Di-Noc Carbon Fibre can be clear coated with 3M Gloss Clear 1920 but the results may not meet your needs or expectations. We recommend testing and approving each type of film before specifying it in a job.

With that in mind it is our advice that anyone considering applying lacquer or clear coat to 3M™ Di-Noc™ Carbon Fibre Vinyl treats the job strictly as a test project to see what happens.  It's probably best to start small and work up to larger and maybe exterior panels.  If you can, seek advice from an experienced paint shop to find out what products are most likely to be suitable.  If you get 12 months out of the finished job hats off to you but be prepared for it all to go wrong.

Have you successfully lacquered 3M™ Di-Noc™ Carbon Fibre Vinyl?  If so we'd be interested to hear from you about the type of job and products used.  Even better if you have some photos.

Update 10 February 2011 - We sent some samples to a very high profile company last week and they have sent them to their paint shop to test clear coating the carbon vinyl. We will post another update when we hear back to show how they get on.

Update 28 March 2011 - Ok so I forgot to update this post in February.  The company we sent the Di-Noc™ samples to was the Renault F1 Team and the guy we were dealing with wanted to trial the vinyl to see if it would work as an easy carbon fibre look for a display board.  The sample was sent to the paint shop where it was hit with a coat of regular lacquer.  Our contact reports that the vinyl took on a deep gloss shine and looked really good.  Interestingly they also tested a cheap carbon fibre vinyl and when lacquered it took on a 'muddy' effect.

Since then we've heard from a few customers who had a go at clear coating the vinyl with some reporting good results but others that the vinyl looses it's detailed pattern.  Our conclusion is therefore that a professional painter should be capable of clear coating 3M Di-Noc Carbon Fibre Vinyl but if you want to do it yourself with a can of spray from your local parts store the result may not be what you are hoping for.

Update: New glossy carbon fibre vinyl from 3M™
If you want an easy way to get a gloss carbon fibre vinyl take a look at the new 3M™ Series 1080 Carbon Fibre Vinyl

Update November 2011 - We've heard about a black gloss carbon fibre vinyl in the 3M™ Di-Noc range but it seems like it may be a 3M™ USA product as 3M™ UK don't have it listed on their system.  We'll make some calls and see if we can find out more.