If you’ve seen smart window film, you already know how totally cool it is – but smart film is even cooler than you think.
In this article, we’ll discuss the facts on smart window film, including the science behind it and the right way to install it, so you can make sure the privacy window film installer you hire for your smart film project is a trustworthy expert.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive right in.
How the Heck Does Smart Window Film Work?
As you already know, smart film switches back and forth from being a white opaque window film to being completely clear, just with the tap of an app button – like so:
Pure magic, right?
Well, no. Pure technology.
As science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and smart film definitely fits in that science fiction “magic” category.
Here’s how it works:
- Smart film consists of thin sheets of PDLC (polymer dispersed liquid crystal).
- PDLC is made up of many thousands of liquid crystal droplets, which are dispersed across the film in a polymer.
- Without an electrical charge, the liquid crystal droplets randomly orient themselves across the polymer.
- In a random orientation, the droplets act a lot like the surface of a lake on a windy day.
- Think about it: When the wind hits the surface of the lake, the droplets of the lake randomly orient themselves in response to the wind…
- … and this random orientation ruffles the surface of the water and makes the surface of the lake opaque, so you can’t see through it to the lake floor.
- Similarly, when the liquid crystal droplets of the PDLC smart film are randomly oriented without an electrical charge, they turn the surface of the film opaque white, so you can’t see through it.
- Each of the liquid crystal droplets can (and do) move around when exposed to electricity.
- Specifically, when exposed to electricity, the droplets rearrange themselves into regimented patterns along parallel axes…
- …and in those regimented patterns, the rearranged droplets allow light to pass through them.
- In this pattern, the droplets are rearranged and stilled, much like how the surface of a calm lake becomes crystal clear, so you can see through it to the lake floor.
Pretty cool, right?
PDLC Smart Film vs. Electrochromic Smart Glass
Of course, PDLC smart film is only one method of transforming glass back and forth between a clear state and an opaque state. The other popular method of doing this is by using electrochromic smart glass – but electrochromic glass has a lot of drawbacks when used for commercial or decorative purposes.
First, let’s talk about how electrochromic glass works, and then it’ll be easier to understand why many business leaders choose smart film over smart glass for their commercial window tinting solution.
- Electrochromic smart glass consists of a microscopically thin electrochromic material that is sandwiched between two layers of glass.
- When electricity is applied to the electrochromic material, the material changes from transparent to opaque (or vice versa).
- Electrochromic glass transformation starts on the edges of the material and moves inward, ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes long for full transformation (depending on window size).
- In its opaque state, electrochromic smart glass can be blue, black, white, or other colors, but on large panes of glass, the color you choose may go through a few tint changes as it darkens from the edges to the center of the glass.
- This tint change is called the “iris effect.”
With that explanation, you can see why many business leaders choose PDLC smart film over electrochromic smart glass:
- PDLC smart window film becomes a uniform, frosted white when opaque, which is more desirable than variable tinting from the edges to the center of your glass.
- PDLC smart film switches from clear to opaque in an instant, whereas electrochromic film can take minutes to switch.
- PDLC smart film can be applied to existing glass, but electrochromic glass requires full glass replacement.
- If an electrical component fails in PDLC smart film, all you have to do is replace the film and get back to work. If an electrical component fails in electrochromic glass, you have to replace the entire glass window, door, or accent wall.
One benefit that electrochromic glass offers over PDLC smart film is that it only requires electricity for its transformation process. Once electrochromic glass is either clear or opaque, it can maintain that state indefinitely, without additional power.
In contrast, PDLC smart film is only clear while the electricity is on. If the power is turned off, smart film immediately becomes frosted privacy window film.
How to Install Smart Film So It Works Right and Looks Great
Now that you know how smart film changes from frosted privacy window film to crystal-clear visibility, and you understand why PDLC smart film is often a better choice for businesses than electrochromic glass, you need to know how to hire for a professional smart film installation job.
Here’s how to make sure your commercial window tinting smart film installer is an expert:
- They know how to “trim out” the smart film to hide wires.
Smart window film requires electricity, and electricity requires wiring. No one wants to see ugly wires around their glass windows, doors, or accent walls, so you need to make sure your installer has a plan to hide those wires. Experts will hide wires by customizing the colors of the wiremolds so they precisely match the adjacent window frames, and the installers will also use specific materials to hide the backside of the exposed wires, delivering an attractive, finished look to your smart film windows.
- They know how to install the wiring.
Window film experts typically aren’t electricians – yet it takes some electrical skill to properly install strong, long-lasting wiring, on a dedicated electrical circuit, so you can keep your PDLC smart film working for years. Make sure your installer has extensive smart film experience in a variety of settings because you don’t want them guessing on how to complete your installation.
- They know how to protect your investment
Edge sealing is a common practice among leading smart film installation experts, because edge sealing prevents water and other contaminants from getting between your film and your glass. Unsealed or exposed smart film edges can stress and wear out your smart film’s electrical components, and those unsealed edges can also cause film to buckle or become baggy. Ensure your installer has sealed the edges of your film, so you can maintain your investment.
Check out the video below to see how an expert smart window film installer keeps your smart film attractive and long lasting.
Get Your Smart Film Installed Properly with NGS
Make sure your smart film project is a success when you work with NGS.
As nationally recognized smart film experts, as well as the #1 Commercial Window Film Company in the U.S., NGS has the wide-ranging experience to ensure that your smart window film exceeds your expectations for beauty and high performance.
Not sure how to use smart film in your building or business? Check out these creative ideas!