PVC and Glass Beads in Reflective Fabric

Published: 02nd February 2012
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From commercial and industrial settings to personal use, reflective tape has a large number of uses. There are many design methods, such as the sew on application and the application on slick surfaces like metal using strong time withstanding adhesives. Reflective tape can be used on anything- be it cars, buildings, poles, or even in professional work settings to protect workers and increase their visibility.

Although its used in many other areas, reflective tape has its own multi-billion dollar industry- high visibility clothing and personal protective equipment. Methods of applying the reflective tape range from sewing it on or by using a heat press with adhesive films that bond to the backing material found in most high visibility work ear.

Reflective technology first appeared in the early 20th century and was found on roadways, automobiles and bikes. They used retro-reflective backing material that contained small glass beads which caught the light and reflected it back to the light source. As time progressed, the technology moved forward. The production process became more refined, the beads became much smaller and allowed for a greater concentration and return of light. The decreased bead size allowed for the reflective tape to be able to be used on clothing.

Clothing can be covered in glass beads and results will happen; however, they won’t be the kind most people are looking for. When light would hit these beads, it would refract and scatter but it likely wouldn’t reflect- at least not in any great way. In order for this technology to be used efficiently on both clothing and vehicles, two types of reflective materials were created. These are adhesive reflective fabric and sew on reflective, each with multiple layers to gather light and reflect it. To make this technology effective, a base of PVC (which is a strong thermoplastic resin) is used and the small glass beads are embossed. They are then given multiple layers of metallic flake backing to reflect the light. This is similar to the coating found on the back of a mirror.

When glass beads are not used, manufacturers turn to microprisms when designing reflective tape. Microprisms are often favored because unlike glass beads, which are curved and only return about 30% of the light, they featured hard angles that return as much as 80% or more of light back toward the source. With any kind of reflective material, such as fire retardant reflective tape, the placement of microprisms is calculated carefully to offer the best coverage and return of light.

Sew on Vs. Adhesive- No matter where the reflective tape is used, whenever it uses adhesive backings, the bonding material is applied to the tape after the reflective material has been completely created. Once the bonding material or adhesive is applied, the reflective material is often stored by rolling it up like a roll of tape. Depending on the type of adhesive used, a manufacturer may line the adhesive side of the tape with non-stick paper to prevent damage to the other layers in the roll of tape.

The more popular sew on reflective tape has no adhesive backing. This is delivered in large rolls to a manufacturer. During their production process they can either precut or load the rolls into machines which cut the necessary lengths for individual garment lines. Sew on widely accepted over adhesive for clothing, particular rescue gear, because adhesive bonds don't stand up well to weather and high temperatures (such as fires).


Loxy is a leading supplier of reflective fabric, reflective trim , seam sealing tape and fire retardent reflective tape . We've made it a point to deliver quality materials for safety garment manufacturers for 40 years - that's why our partners trust in us, and that's why their customers love them. For garment quality that lasts, choose Loxy.

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