Retroreflective Materials Test

Earlier this week we received a couple of samples of various retroreflective materials for use on our letters for CAFKA.

One material, the one on the roll, is a vinyl (3M Scotchlite Reflective White Vinyl), perhaps most famously used in the Bright Bike project, while the other is an industrial substrate (3M Engineer Grade White Prismatic Sheeting) used on municipal road safety signs.

I’ve been doing a variety of tests with a flash, the one above ¬†where it appears that the Scotchlite vinyl is brighter was taken with my DSLR with the body flash, but the lens I have on there blocks the flash in the lower part of the frame. Tests with photos from my iPhone seem to favour the Prismatic Sheeting.

We’re still examining the costs of each and we still need to do some more rigourous tests, but it’s amazingly helpful to be able to see these side by side (thanks Sarah!) The vinyl has an estimated 7-year service life, the prismatic sheeting is about 10-years. Not sure on the cost difference yet.

Thursday is catch-up night, so there should be lots to talk about. I know Hiba and Karlyn were working on a budget and I think a whole bunch of the crew met up on Monday to do some work. We’ll have to plan some really well-thought-out tests for these materials, in the outdoors, etc., to see how they fare in the weather. I put up a spec-sheet for both materials to our Dropbox. Anxious to figure out the best plan forward!

5 Replies to “Retroreflective Materials Test”

  1. I very much like the look of the material on the roll. The prismatic sheet seems to look too much like am industrial application, unless you want that. Though I think that aesthetic might be distracting from the concept. Because I think you want the viewer to consider or “reflect on” the installation space, rather than road signs and 3M tape, etc.

  2. Have you considered contacting 3M and seeing if they’ll cut you some kind of deal, or even donate to the project? Since they make both the materials you are considering anyway. Try the “Hey if we mention we’re using your product in this project, want to help us cut costs?” . I have no idea how pricey the materials will be, but may be worth a shot! (if you haven’t already!)


    1. Oh, and I haven’t got downtown yet for pics – work, school, weather….. but I will!

  3. Stephen, while the vinyl material on the roll is definitely more seamless and might provide a cleaner finish on the face of the letter, the distance of the letters from the viewer in the final installation location might make that a non-issue. It’s a different technology, and so, different levels of brightness, and costs, and installation processes, so lots to consider before we make a decision. I think there’s a conversation in there though, about just how instructive we make these letters. The seamless vinyl presents the possibility for some ‘magic’ behind the brightness, where the prismastic stuff will read as more familiar, again if it’s even legible from the distance at which it will be installed.

    Lauren, we tried to contact 3M, but they didn’t bite. Anxious to see the pictures, thanks!

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