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Environmental Attributes of 3M™ Envision™ Products

Environmental Attributes of 3M™ Envision™ Products

At 3M, we evaluate many facets of the materials we use, allowing us to continuously improve the environmental, health, and safety implications of what we make. So, when 3M develops a new product, we ask several important questions before we begin:

  • How can we reduce the product's impact on the environment?
  • How will we distribute the product?
  • And how will the product ultimately be disposed of?

3M Commercial Graphics is changing the graphics world—again—with the new 3M™ Envision™ line. These new graphic materials from 3M offer leading-edge technology, best-in-class performance and an edge on sustainability.

This information addresses the most common questions we receive from our customers about the meaning of sustainability and 3M products.

3M™ Envision™ Products for Illuminated Signs

LED Technology

Power Savings Example of a Double-sided Sign Box Construction
Switching from a fluorescent to a LED backlit sign saves nearly 60% of a backlit sign's annual power consumption

LED lighting is widely accepted as one of the most energy efficient lighting technologies available today.

3M is leading the way to help graphic manufacturers and sign builders embrace the future of LED lighting by making it easy and practical to use LEDs. This includes the introduction of 3M™ Envision™ Translucent and Diffuser Films, which are specifically designed for use with LEDs.

In the past, to achieve the same brightness as fluorescent lighting, large numbers of LEDs needed to be installed in a sign box. As a result, the practicality of using LEDs outweighed its benefits. Now, with the higher light transmission properties of 3M™ Envision™ Translucent and Diffuser Films, you have the flexibility to achieve the same brightness using fewer LEDs or create a brighter sign without adding more LEDs. The choice is yours.

Advantages of LED Backlit Signage

  • Long-lasting LEDs have a useful lifetime of 50,000 hours or more without the hassle of changing a bulb (reference B).
  • Manufacturing LEDs has an overall lower environmental impact compared to the manufacture of fluorescent bulbs (reference C).
  • LEDs are mercury free. Using LEDs avoids environmental contamination of mercury from accidental breakage or improper disposal of fluorescent bulbs.
  • Using LEDs reduces the number of fluorescent lamps that need to be recycled. Recycling and reclaiming the mercury contained within the fluorescent lamp consumes a considerable amount of energy compared to the recycling of an LED (reference C).
Flexible Substrate

3M™ Envision™ Flexible Substrate FS-1 is designed to be decorated with cut vinyl or direct printed with solvent, UV or latex inks.

  • FS-1 provides nearly twice the light transmission¹
Color Translucent Films

3M™ Envision™ Translucent Film Series 3730 is available in an array of the standard and custom colors for creating rich, vibrant backlit graphics.

  • Increases light transmission by 25% or more without having to add additional LEDs²
  • Reduces the number of LEDs needed for an equivalent brightness by 20% or more²
Inkjet Printable Translucent Films

3M™ Envision™ Translucent Films IJ3730-50 and IJ3730-60 are designed for latex, UV and solvent inkjet printing to create colorful printed backlit graphics.

  • IJ3730-50: increases light transmission by 15% or more³
  • IJ3730-60: increases light transmission by 25% or more³
Diffuser Films

3M™ Envision™ Diffuser Films 3735-50 and 3735-60 are designed to create custom lighting effects for backlit applications, controlling the brightness and light distribution in a sign box without unwanted hot spots.

  • 3735-50: provides 50% light transmission
  • 3735-60: provides 60% light transmission

¹ Unprocessed 3M™ Envision™ Flexible Substrate FS-1 provides nearly twice the light transmission as unprocessed 3M™ Panagraphics™ III Wide Width Flexible Substrate.

² Most graphics using film series 3730 on diffuser film 3735-50 provide more light transmission than other graphics using film series 3630 on diffuser film 3635-30.

³ When compared to 3M™ Scotchcal™ Translucent Graphic Film IJ3630-20.

The recycling information shown is based on general guidelines; always contact your local municipality for specific recycling requirements and laws in your area. 3M does not endorse any particular LED manufacturer or supplier. The user is responsible for ensuring the LED layout meets all of its intended performance requirements. A significant reduction in LEDs may affect other performance factors of an illuminated sign, such as sign face uniformity, perceived brightness and visual impact. Refer to 3M Product Bulletins 3630/3730, IJ3630/3730 and Diffuser for detailed product characteristics and typical light transmission values.

B. U.S. Department of Energy: Solid-State Lighting – LED Basics
C. U.S. Department of Energy: Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy and Environmental Impacts of LED Lighting Products

Customer Case Studies

3M™ Envision™ Wrap Films

Elimination of Chemicals of Concern

The Problem with Chlorine and Other Halogens

"Chemicals of concern" can be chemicals widely used in the manufacturing of many products. They can be regulated or not, but are typically believed to pose a potential health or environmental concern.

Halogens, like fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine, have traditionally been used as the foundation of plastics. For example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) films are typically very stable, durable and long lasting. These are all highly desirable attributes for long-term graphic materials. As a point of reference, halogens are also found in flame retardants, like PBDE.

The issue with halogenated plastics occurs during disposal. If the material is incinerated, the halogen is freed from the plastic structure. During the incineration process, halogens, which are highly reactive, react with any available water (a byproduct of incineration) to form very strong acids, like HCl and HF. To prevent these byproducts from going into the atmosphere, the incineration stack must have special scrubbers that limit halogen release and also require certain chemicals to neutralize the material. These chemicals then become hazardous waste. Adding to the issues, the incineration of halogenated materials can be costly.

Trade-offs between a more environmentally friendly product and performance are becoming a thing of the past for 3M graphics customers. The new 3M™ Envision™ Print Wrap Film 480Cv3 and 3M™ Envision™ Gloss Wrap Overlaminate 8548G were designed to exclude certain chemicals of concern, without sacrificing high performance. In fact, these new products, which are non-PVC and do not contain any added chlorine or other halogens, exceed most current high performance characteristics.

So, just what does "no added chlorine or other halogens" really mean? It means that 3M has found a way to develop these products without intentionally adding certain chemicals of concern to them. It is important to understand, though, that trace amounts of certain chemicals may be found in the raw materials we use in amounts so miniscule they do not affect the safe use or disposal. Advances in analytical testing have enabled us to test materials at the part per million (ppm) and trillion (ppt) level. Testing at this level discovers trace amounts of chemicals that were never intentionally added to the product.

The Concern about Phthalates

You'll be glad to know that 3M's Envision Wrap Films are phthalate-free. Dialkyl ortho-phthalates, or just phthalates for short, are a family of chemicals traditionally used in the PVC industry as plasticizers to make films more flexible. This family of chemicals--especially DBP, BBP, DEHP, DINP, DNOP, and DIDP--is becoming more regulated globally due to potential health concerns associated with them. Although 3M graphic materials are intended for commercial and industrial markets, it is interesting to note that in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) regulates these phthalates in children's products. In the EU (European Union), several phthalates are listed as REACH Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).

We again stress that as with all chemicals, analytical testing may be able to show that trace amounts of phthalates are present. Any incidental, trace phthalates in our Envision Wrap Films would be below 100ppm. This is significantly lower than the regulated threshold of 0.1% or 1000ppm for these chemicals per CPSIA and REACH SVHCs.

Decrease in Solvent Usage

Cast vinyl gets its name from the manufacturing process used to make these films. This process uses solvents, some of which are known to have environmental and health concerns. The new Envision Wrap Films are a high-performance non-PVC polymer, not a cast vinyl. During the 3M manufacturing process, we use 60% less solvent making film 480Cv3 and overlaminate 8548G when compared to the same amount of film IJ180Cv3* and overlaminate 8518* produced in the US. By decreasing our solvent usage, we are reducing the exposure to these chemicals by the workers at our manufacturing facility.

Bio-Based Materials

The 2002 US Farm Bill describes biobased products as commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that are composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials.

Many chemicals, including plastics, are primarily made from carbon. Although carbon is a very abundant element, graphic films are traditionally based on carbon from fossil fuels, like petroleum. By switching to using bio-based materials, the carbon is from a renewable resource rather than petroleum. Using ASTM D6866, you can date the carbon to determine what percentage of the material is bio-based versus petroleum-based. Both the Envision Wrap Films 480Cv3 and overlaminate 8548G, without the product liner, contain 10% or greater bio-based materials by weight, another step forward on our product sustainability journey.

*3M™ Controltac™ Graphic Film with Comply™ v3 Adhesive IJ180Cv3-10 and 3M™ Scotchcal™ Gloss Overlaminate 8518

Industry Recognition

The European Digital Press Association, an independent group with members in 23 European countries, annually recognizes the best in innovative technology within the digital printing market at the FESPA London tradeshow. In 2013, 3M Envision Print Wrap Film 480Cv3 was recognized as the "Best Environmental Substrate," only a few months after its European Launch. In its nomination of the product, the EDP called out several distinguishing factors of the wrap film, noting it was "a breakthrough in the market." The Association also highlighted the fact that there is no price barrier to adoption of the film, and that its coverage by the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty is seen as valuable by brand owners.

"This award supports 3M's reputation as the innovation leader in our industry – a leader who consistently brings new solutions to the market that enable our customers and the industry to grow," said Michael R. Kesti, Ph.D, Technical Director, 3M Commercial Graphics. "The best-in-class performance (conformability, durability and removability) of the new 3M Envision Print Wrap Films in a non-PVC format is a significant technology breakthrough, but more importantly, enables new applications and offers brand owners a more sustainable option for their graphic needs."

Colour References

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