There has been a major shift in the rail market with OEMs and Maintenance companies making the move from paint to wrapping their passenger rail cars.

We are going to discuss five factors that should be considered for why there is a benefit to wrapping your rail cars instead of painting them.

1. Durability and performance

The first concern that most people ask is how durable is a film solution compared to paint? Will this product hold up to my washing cycles and maintain my brand image until the next periodic overhaul?

The answer is yes. 3M will work with you to provide our best solution for any substrate. Whether you are refurbishing an existing painted rail car or building a new coach, we have graphic films that will meet your requirements. 3M graphic film solutions are backed by our 3M™ MCS™ Warranty. The 3M™ MCS™ Warranty typically ranges on average 5 to 8 years depending on the geographical region with expected performance of up to 10 years for our premium film solutions. 3M conducts the testing to back up our comprehensive warranty to have you covered anywhere around the world. This is extremely important especially for the manufacturers that build or refurbish a rail car in one country, and it is operated in another. Your warranty coverage will follow your rail cars wherever you take them.

To protect your brand image, 3M offers many graphic protection solutions that provide your graphics with the long-lasting durability it requires. These protective films offer exceptional performance for UV protection to help prevent colors from fading and makes your rail car easier to clean. Additionally, these solutions offer anti-graffiti performance to make it easier to restore your rail car in case of a vandalism attack and are even tested for high speed rail cars as well.

When it comes to maintaining your exterior rail car appearance, 3M graphic solutions help keep your rail cars cleaner for a longer compared to typical paint. Some of our customers have noted that their 3M graphics solutions have extended their washing cycles from every 7 days to every 14 days. This means less water and detergent use and less need for sending your cars to the washing street.

2. Ease of implementation

The next concern is how easy is it to apply compared to paint and what happens if the rail car gets damaged?

3M graphics solutions can be easily implemented into your current workstream without the need for an investment in a paint booth or special equipment. The application of graphic films can be done directly on the manufacturing line or at the maintenance facility.

The way the graphic installation process works is to partner with 3M and one of our 3M Authorized Rail Partners which will help specify the best 3M graphic solution for your needs. These Authorized Rail Partners will work with you on a design and walk you through step by step to bring your concept to reality. They also have the printing, lamination, and installation capabilities to manufacture the graphics and have them installed on your rail car. The Authorized Rail Partners use 3M trained installers to complete your train wrap in a highly efficient manner.

By using film instead of paint, it allows you to streamline your manufacturing or maintenance process helping you get the rail cars up and running sooner.

In addition to the expertise of our rail partners, we have an Installation Package that is provided by the operator to make sure the installation is done to the highest level of quality. This installation package includes, a pre-installation inspection, an installation standard operating procedure, quality guidelines, post installation completion certificate and a maintenance bulletin for post installation guidance.

3. Rail industry regulations/standards

Being that the rail industry is highly regulated, 3M works hard to provide materials to help you comply with the industry norms for your region. We make sure our products have been tested to many normative standards in the industry. Whether you need fire, smoke, and toxicity testing related to standards like EN 45545-2 and NFPA 130 or VOC emission testing, we have you covered.

In addition to the industry norms, we can help support your specification process by conducting testing related to material performance.

We also know that like us, you have goals related to sustainability. Don’t fret, we have you covered. We offer solutions that are non-PVC and low VOC emitting that can help you along the way.

4. Cost

When considering whether to wrap a railcar versus painting them, cost is always a factor to think about. Do you have paint booth capabilities? Does the paint booth need to be recertified? How much time and labor are associated with this process? These are great questions to help you understand if it makes sense to wrap your rail cars.

3M can help you with this process. Through our ability to process map your current capabilities and evaluate them against a 3M film solution, you will be able to determine if wrapping makes sense for your project. The typical cost factors you should think about in considering wrapping a rail car are the material cost, preparation cost, design, and installation. Working with a 3M Authorized Rail Partner can walk you through this process to provide you an accurate price for these steps.

In some cases, the film materials cost may be higher, but these costs can be offset by the labor savings associated with this process. Each program is different, so 3M is here to help you better understand what this process will look like specifically for you.

5. Design capabilities

Brand image is extremely important to passenger experience. The trend in passenger experience is creating a rail car that the customer enjoys using. 3M graphic films can improve your passenger experience through eye catching designs that incorporate your city’s branding and other social messaging that you want to share with your customer. Whether it is your tried and true colors that your customer knows or a completely new design that helps capture the culture of the city or region, 3M graphic films can help you create this vision. 3M Authorized Rail Partners use the best 3M film solutions with long-lasting digital inks to create your unique look and feel. 3M also offers color matching to meet your brand standards to ensure consistency throughout your fleet. In addition to our colored films we offer reflective solutions for safety applications and different gloss levels for a more modern feel. 3M and our partners will help you take your design above and beyond the capabilities of paint and ensuring your customers experience is one to remember.

For more information about 3M film solutions for rail, visit the 3M Rail Solutions website.