Exploring Exterior Opportunities with 3M™ DI-NOC™ Architectural Film

By November 19, 20213M DI-NOC
3M DI-NOC applied on the exterior of a building

Does the idea of pushing visual design boundaries and using new and innovative materials excite you? Join us for another guest blog series, as the 3M™ DI-NOC™ Guru, Brent Williams, covers exterior design opportunities of 3M DI-NOC architectural film.

3M DI-NOC: Made for the Elements  

If you’ve read any of my recent blogs about DI-NOC, you’re familiar with some of the myriad amazing things it can do. But you may not be aware that it can frequently be used in exterior architectural finish applications. That’s right, you can install 3M DI-NOC in many exterior situations and it can withstand the harsh elements because it was designed for that purpose from day one. 

You may not realize that DI-NOC has been used as an exterior finishing material for nearly 75 years. By design, it was a finish used on the exterior of automobiles starting back in the mid-1940s. For nostalgia’s sake, 3M film was widely known for its use on “woody” vehicles like the Dodge Caravan and PT Cruiser… if you’ve ever seen one of those “woody” Caravans, you’re actually looking at DI-NOC in the application that it was first created for.

Since the last thing you want is something that isn’t going to weather well on the exterior of your automobile, 3M developed a specialized finish designed to accurately reproduce the glossy look of a lacquered wood aesthetic those early wood panels, albeit one that could withstand all the wear and tear of the open road. This film could hold up to anything the open road could throw at it: harsh weather conditions, automatic car washes, pesky flying gravel, pressure washers, and, of course, intense summer sun. 

From High-Gloss to Modern Day Finishes 

Today, these highly glossy lacquered finishes may look somewhat “plastic-y” or “fake,” but 3M specifically replicated these finish styles because the look of lacquered wood was very popular at the time the product was introduced. 

Now, 3M DI-NOC Architectural Finishes are available in a wide variety of surface finishes including matte finishes to resemble stone, metal designs, leather finishes, and many other materials, almost any material surface that you can think of.

Exterior Design: Thinking Outside-the-Building

​​For the longest time, the design world has been limited by its material choices on a building’s exterior. Traditional materiality choices force architects into specifying brick, stone, metals, or glass in almost every design. But specifying 3M DI-NOC Architectural Finishes allows designers the freedom to convert a metal structure or traditional storefront into a design element that was never physically possible before. 

The best example of this is finishing a traditional storefront with a wood finish, creating the very realistic look of oak timbers. If that material choice is too bland, how about something asymmetrical…like carbon fiber, CorTen steel, or nearly any material imaginable? If you wanted the entire facade of your building to be covered with a black carbon fiber finish, you can with 3M DI-NOC™! Now it is possible to create a previously impossible futuristic design that is functional, durable, and indistinguishable from the real material.  

Finally, Form First 

While architectural finishes are highly popular elsewhere across the globe, these finishes are still a new product here in the domestic market. Why? American architects typically follow traditional design constructs and traditional materials are plentiful and inexpensive. Dating back to Pre-World War II, it was taught that form should follow function in the conventional design sense. In Germany, the Bauhaus School was a big advocate of this mindset, teaching students to make their materials work for the desired function first and make it pretty later. With 3M DI-NOC, we’re changing the rules saying, a paradigm is a design construct waiting to be changed…and DI-NOC lets you, as a modern design professional, do just that.

Imagine looking at a free-standing church bell tower with thin arching legs that were six-inch thick surrounding the bell. Though these legs are designed to be slender and elegant, they also need to be strong, metal supports for the heavy and dynamic loads that a set of church bells create. By integrating 3M DI-NOC Architectural Finishes into the design process, you can create something that would be impossible with traditional materials, by finishing those metal legs supporting the structure in a completely realistic wood finish. By using this approach to material finishing, you can create the appearance of any structure being carved from wood without compromising its function or durability.

That’s what DI-NOC can do: make the impossible possible. 

The Revolution of Architectural Design 

As a designer, you will always be creatively limited if you try to stay inside the comfort zone of traditional materiality. The surface finish revolution that DI-NOC creates has already influenced the design world throughout Europe and Asia, and now the creative choice is yours. Do you seek to be on the bleeding edge of design, ahead of the curve in the US, implementing bold and boundary-breaking designs? This finishing system is an opportunity to throw out the old rule book that asks “what can this building look like with functional and material limitations?” and instead ask, “What can I envision today?”

Design Flexibility

Another incredible advantage of DI-NOC is that you can change or retrofit your exterior design effortlessly without major demolition, construction costs, or wasted materials. Just as easy as the product was to install, it can be removed for you to select a new aesthetic or uncover the original material as is. We see this frequently with stone in existing buildings. While stone finishes are “timeless”, we also know that styles change and finishes can, indeed, look dated. With 3M DI-NOC, it is possible to resurface stone to many other surface finishes yet allows for simple removal at a later date should the underlying substrate become “in style” once more. 

Consult with a 3M™ DI-NOC™ Expert

As with any other finishing material, there are good and not-so-good situations for integrating 3M DI-NOC into your design. To choose the best possible outcome for your project, consult with the experts at NGS. Interested in learning more about the uses of architectural film? Read our blog on the Four Reasons You Should Use Rapid Refinishing

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