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Retro Reflective Tape Definition
Retro reflective tape is defined as a film that through the use of glass spheres or man made prisms, reflects light or radiation back to its source. Glass bead tapes reflect using microscopic glass beads that act as parabolas and direct light back to where it came from. Prismatic tapes use man made prisms or mirrors to collect light and send it back to its source. When a transparent color is applied to the surface of either tape the light that is reflected is colored.
Reflective and Retro-Reflective surfaces are often confused with each other. A surface that is Retro-reflective is always reflective but a surface that is reflective is not always retro-reflective. For example, a mirror is reflective but not retro-reflective.
(Note – retro-reflective tape is normally shortened to simply “reflective tape”.)
One of the most important features of retro reflective tape is its ability to collect light, change the color of that light and send it back to its source. That is why stops signs are visible at night in a red color. Yield signs are visible at night in a yellow color. And so on. Without this feature, night time driving would be different than it is now.
The types and colors of reflective tapes are mind boggling. The huge variety of applications are what create the need for all the different intensities, types and colors. For example, trucks need a bright red and white alternating dot tape that can be seen from thousands of feet away. Life vests need a super bright white tape that can be seen from even farther away. The life vest needs a sewable reflective tape whereas the truck does not. Stop signs in neighborhoods can basic affordable reflective tape that uses glass beads for reflectivity. However, street signs on interstates need a more expensive prismatic film. Distance is what dictates this necessity.
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Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida , Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 22 years of experience in the reflective safety business. Specializing in vehicle accident and rear end collision reduction through increased visibility.