New ‘Low-Cost, Tunable Window Tintings’ are on their Way

June 24th, 2015 by Casey Flores

While some businesses have difficulty deciding whether to recommend decorative, solar control or privacy film, academia has developed a way to incorporate all three into a single film.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC), in partnership with Hewlett Packard and EMD/Merk Research Labs, have developed “tunable window tintings,” in an effort to replace traditional architectural shades and assist in automotive privacy.

What it Does

The product can not only be dimmed from clear to shaded and change colors, but it also has the ability to go vary the light transmittance from clear to opaque, achieving privacy for the user as well.

The product can leave windows completely clear ...

The product can leave windows completely clear …

While the film has solar control properties, Jason Heikenfeld, UC professor of electrical engineering and the man behind its development, is betting consumers will pay more for the aesthetics.

“You can sell the product to people who are interesting green product, but it’s not as compelling to the general consumer,” he says. “We think they will pay more for privacy control and light control.”

Heikenfeld says his creation is not only comparable to traditional window film performance, but offers more flexibility.

... or make a room darker ...

… or make a room darker …

“You can probably mimic the performance in existing film,” he says, though admits the film has not been tested for solar control properties. “You can get close to maximum clarity that you can get with the film, opacities and color tints that will match anything out there on the market says—though you can only choose two color options.

As for color choices and opacities, color tints will “match anything out there on the market,” Heikenfeld says, but users can only select two colors. “For example, you can choose amber and blue. If you mix those two, you get black. With amber, you have warm lighting and with blue you have cool lighting.”

... or it can go opaque to provide the user with privacy.

… or it can go opaque to provide the user with privacy.

What Tinters Think

Jason Zirpoli, owner of Applied Film Technology in Cheseapeake, Va., is excited about a product with so many capabilities—especially if the window film industry ends up installing it.

“I think it could be great,” he says. “The things that would prevent major market penetration would probably be cost in comparison with shades, and possible difficulty with installation depending on the technology.”

David Kratz, owner of Oklahoma City-based Adams Window Tinting, is interested in the product, but also has his doubts.

“Currently with switchable (electrochromic) films, there is only a one-year warranty and the product costs anywhere from $25-$78 per square foot,” he says. “Almost every architect who calls me wanting a switchable film changes his mind once he learns about the life span of it [so] it will be interesting to see the durability of this new product.”

The product can also switch colors, causing a room to experience a cool or warm lighting effect.

The product can also switch colors, causing a room to experience a cool or warm lighting effect.

Its Cost and Lifespan

According to a press release put out by UC, it was a “challenge” to keep the cost of the new material under $30 per square foot. Heikenfeld also says that the initial market for the film will be automotive and will have a 10-year lifespan in that application. For residential and commercial buildings, it will last 20 years, he says.

One of the researchers’ goals is to partner with window manufacturers to apply the film during the fabrication process—a goal that current window film manufactures have yet to accomplish.

Heikenfeld says the “roll-on coating” will also be sold as a retrofit and would be installed by certified “laminaters.” The product has now been turned over to a commercialization partner, the name of which is not being released at this time.

This article is from Focus on Film, the weekly e-newsletter that covers the latest news regarding window film and related products, including paint protection film. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Window Film magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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  1. This new development is very good and exciting news for a industry that has not had much innovation for a very long time. Bring it on as soon as possible and don’t leave me out.Leon Levy Klingshield South Africa

  2. I think this is a great idea but I like everyone else is skeptical whether this will work. I would like to see more demonstrations of this film in person to see how it really works to see if our company would be interested in selling it for you.

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