The biggest question when it comes to Paint Protection Film (PPF) is what is the difference between custom cut and machine cut. Machine cut and custom cut are, to simply put it, methods used to install PPF. There are pros and cons for either, mainly from the point of view of the installer as these imply different equipment costs and different labor times. The aspects presented in this article are limited to our personal opinion, although we will try to give the motives behind our chain of thought.
Coverage is probably the biggest talked about difference between the methods, but not the only one. But before we dive into that, we have to go back and point out how we got to where we are now in terms of the technology and tools available to the PPF industry. The methodology of hand cutting PPF on a vehicle has been born more out of necessity that out of preference. When the concept of Paint Protection Film came into being a few decades ago, pre-cut kits were not available in the large array as they are now. The idea and methodology of hand cutting PPF on a vehicle was, more or less, a direct copy from the window tinting industry, where hand cutting is exceptionally common. The biggest challenge, however, is that cutting on and around glass is entirely different than cutting on paint. One little mistake and you’ve opened up a can of worms that neither the installer nor the end customer wants to have. Plus let’s face it, a human cannot cut a straight circle or line as well as a machine. As time moved on, a lot of installers (especially newer ones without decades of experience) moved away from 100% hand cut and turned their focus on other methods such as precut / machine cut and custom cut. There is a lot less time spent on cutting and more time focused on the installation process.
With technology and tools now readily available to almost any installer, it comes down to skill and experience of getting the film on the car. An installer can just print a sheet for a fender or any other body panel, get it on the car and have the car be protected. There is no need to cut precise holes around sensors and the complicated areas are now a breeze. The issue of alignment was also removed because well the film only fits one way!
But what is the main issue? The edges – they are left completely exposed. Precut kits are fantastic for complicated areas and remove the risk of damage from cutting around the paint, however they do not offer the best kind of coverage. Precut films do not go all the way on flat planes such as doors, hoods, and other similar areas. Or worse, they go around emblems and badges leaving areas unprotected. What the large public is not aware of is the fact that there are well-trained PPF installers – like our team members, who are capable of designing particular patterns and/or altering the design of the standard pre-cut patterns in order to offer you a fully customized coverage of your pride and joy. This is the custom cut method that we use. It does take a fair bit of time, but with the exact know-how, we are able to articulate what and how much film is needed to perfectly cover the areas that the pre-cut kits fail to reach. Now this does require a few extra steps and a good amount of knowledge so experience is surely required or else the installer will be losing time and material.
Now we want to make it clear that not all edges need to be tucked! If the area isn’t large enough, the adhesive can’t stick and it can lift, collecting dirt, and looking like a long solid dirt line. Better than trying to get PPF to tuck, we install it as it should be and leave the line below trim on the flat surface. When this is done properly, the line will be aligned with the panel gaps and will be barely noticeable, if at all. These are common in concave areas or the corners of fenders near the headlight.
All in all, pre cuts are good, but custom cut is better. A proper installation of Paint Protection Film all relies on the craftsmanship of the installer. If you can get a quality film, installed by a quality installer that can wrap the right edges, that’s your best bet.
So, while you may pay a bit more for someone who has experience; you will have more assurance and peace of mind in their experience, they have the proper tools for any vehicle, knowing they won’t be prone to cutting corners, and their pride in their work governs the quality of their finished product — which is a moving business card for Mum Sports.