Reflective tape is made in many general forms yet they all perform the same specific function: to increase low light visibility of the person or object to which it is attached.
In addition to general categories such as sheets, rolls, tape, strips, fabric and pinstripes, you will find specific types such as sew-on, iron-on, self sticking and thread.
Within these specific types of reflective tape you will find different grades of brightness, strength and durability as well as different degrees of flexibility and elasticity or stretch. Additional characteristics may include degrees of UV protection as well as degrees of durability in various weather conditions.
In going further from the general to the specific, you will find that each type of reflective tape is better suited for a particular application than another.
Another way that that reflective tape becomes more specific is through the process of cutting in into uniques shapes, reflective numbers and letters.
Lastly, there is also a specific category within reflective tape, where the color in normal daylight changes when light is reflected from it at night. The most famous example is black reflective tape. This type of reflective tape appears black in the daytime but reflects white at night.
You may also find that certain applications require a specific type of reflective tape or material that is spelled out in local, state, inter-state and even international regulations. These include traffic signs based upon traffic volume, trucking, railroad and outdoor working personnel regulations.
How Reflective Tape Brightness is Measured
There is a simple scientific ratio between the brightness of a surface and the distance at which it can be seen. According to 3M data, the brightness is measured by Ra units (cd/lux/m²) or candle power. White clothing is approximately 0.2 Ra while a reflective license plate's brightness level is approximately 50 Ra. And our reflective silver fabric tape is a whopping 10 times brighter at 500 Ra or candle power.
As this chart shows, with increasing brightness, sight distance also increases. As you can see, reflective materials allow for optimal visibility during low light level conditions. However, not all reflective materials are the same, as there are reflective materials available that range from 65-600 candle power. As a general rule, the brighter the better. However, individual situations call for different materials and it is sometimes true that one's focus should be on the brightness of reflective tape which is suitable for the situation at hand.