Your Guide to the Different Types of Industrial Adhesives, Sealants, & Tapes
Need help choosing an adhesive?
Here's everything you need to know about how different industrial adhesives,
industrial sealants, and industrial tapes.
When you have a project that requires some sort of sticky material, how do you know what to get? Tape, adhesive, and sealants all have the same sticky properties. However, they are not interchangeable.
Chemists design adhesives to stick. So how do you know exactly which sticky product you need for the project at hand? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about industrial 3M adhesives, industrial sealants, and industrial tapes.
What Is Adhesive?
Adhesive materials have been around longer than you may think. Archeological evidence suggests that primitive people began using compound adhesive 70,000 years ago to affix stone tools to handles. Sticky suggests adhesive meaning we call anything that sticks to something else "adhesive."
In laymen's terms, an adhesive is anything we use to join things together by using attractive forces across two different surfaces. Manufacturers and engineers refer to the things joined together as adherents.
For something to be an adhesive, it has to work like a solid and a liquid. It must spread across a surface but then transform into a solid.
Three properties make things stick: temperature, pressure, and time.
At the right temperature and with enough time, the molecules of an adhesive will wet an adherent. Pressure and increased temperature will make the adherent stick even more quickly.
If the adhesive and adherents need the perfect temperature and molecular makeup to bond effectively. If an adhesive and adherent do not have the right thermodynamic sync, they just won't stick for very long.
This is why scotch tape cannot hold heavy pictures on a wall.
Now that you can answer the question, "What is adhesion?" you can examine the different types of adhesion that exist.
Adhesion depends on four different classifications:
Chemistry: What chemicals make up this particular adhesive? What exactly makes the adhesive product sticky?
Form: Is the adhesive product a tape, a sealant, or a liquid?
Type: What causes the adhesive to react? Is it a hot melt adhesive, a reactive hot melt adhesive, a thermoset adhesive, a pressure-sensitive adhesive, or a contact adhesive?
Load Bearing: How much weight can this adhesive withstand? Structural, semi-structural, and non-structural adhesives exist. Structural matters most as it needs to hold buildings together.
Types of 3M Adhesives
Three types of adhesive characterize the adhesive market:
structural, pressure-sensitive, and glass transition adhesives.
People use each type of adhesive for specific projects.
Structural adhesives include commonly used products like epoxies, some urethanes, cyanoacrylate, and acrylic adhesives. People use structural adhesives for structural purposes. Thus structural adhesives are relatively strong products.
Structural adhesives need to be able to hold heavy-duty products together. Semi-structural adhesives are those glues and adhesives that should hold things together, but if they fail, the result won't be as critical as if a structural adhesive failed. A non-structural adhesive exists just for artistic and aesthetic purposes.
Rubber cement is a great example of a structural adhesive.
You can find structural adhesives as pastes, liquids, supported films, and other films. These gasses produce little gas when they cure. This means the adhesive has a stronger chance of working if you keep it dry since moisture can cancel out its adhesive properties.
Pressure Sensitive Adhesives
Pressure-sensitive adhesives require a small amount of pressure to activate them. The pressure will wet the surface and bring the adherent and adhesive into close contact. A theory called van der Waals forces comes into play and explains how the adhesive works in this case.
Tape qualifies as a pressure-sensitive adhesive. Double-sided foam tape, regular tape, and labels all qualify as a pressure-sensitive adhesive used in a non-structural way.
Hot melts also qualify here. A hot melt is a solid that becomes a liquid when you heat it. it wets the surface and then cools into a solid.
A hot glue gun is a great example of a hot melt where the solid stick of glue becomes a liquid when heated and then turns back into a solid when cooled.
Pressure-sensitive adhesives include anaerobic adhesives as well. These are adhesives that are deprived of oxygen when a consumer cures them narrow spaces. Engineers will use them in mechanical engineer applications. They use them to keep bearings in place or to lock bolts.
Sometimes an engineer will cure the adhesive by using an ultraviolet light or electron beam.
Thermosetting Structural Adhesive
Thermosetting adhesive typically requires mixing. It typically comes in two parts that chemists have developed. When you mix the two parts, a chemical reaction takes place that creates the structural adhesive you need.
One-part forms of thermosetting adhesive do exist, but you have worked carefully with these to keep them at a low temperature before you need them.
Thermosetting adhesives come with a precise shelf life. If you do not use them before they expire, they could harden, and you could lose your adhesive. If your product has a long shelf life, be aware that it may take a long time to cure when you do get around to using it.
Glass Transition Temperature
The term glass transition temperature refers to the most important property of a polymer. This is the temperature at which the material transforms from hard and glassy material to a soft and rubbery material.
Thermosetting structural adhesives should have a glass transition temperature around 50 degrees celsius higher than the actual temperature at which you will use the material.
Silly putty is a great example. When you have it at room temperature, it flows. When you form it into a ball, it will bounce, and if you attempt to hit it with a hammer, it will shatter.
Your basic industrial adhesives, including 3M adhesives, will have these an appropriate glass transition temperature. This keeps the adhesive strong and reliable.
Types of Sealants
Much like adhesives, sealants can vary in form, uses, and quality.
Your best sealant is the one that best suits your purpose.
People most often use acrylic sealants for exterior use. They are not prone to shrinkage, and ultraviolet light does not affect their stability. Contractors who use acrylic sealants are quick to note they are not easy to apply.
Butyl sticks to several different adherents, but it has a stringy consistency which makes it difficult to apply. Butyl does not accommodate movements well, and as a result, many contractors do not use it for tricky building applications.
Consumers use water-based latex mostly in their homes. They can apply the adhesive easily, and it sticks to most surfaces. Plus, water-based latex is paintable, so a consumer can paint over it and make it blend into the material.
Latex does shrink. Thus it can pull away and create a gap.
Silicone works well for three reasons: it resists heat, moves and stretches easily, and it sticks well. It can also collect dirt and does not stain easily, which means a contractor typically needs to use primer over it if he wants to stain or paint it. Silicone sticks well to both glass and metal. It also costs more than other adhesives but can withstand weathering. Often consumers use it for weatherproofing or air sealing.
Even at low temperatures, polysulfide performs well. It doe not shrink easily or breakdown with ultraviolet exposure. Often contractors will use it for underwater applications.
Polysulfide also costs more than comparable sealants. It also tends to have higher levels of dangerous compounds or volatile organic compounds (VOC)s. It does have a significant life span of 10 to 20 years.
When you think of polyisobutylene, think of rubber, but with more durability. Polyisobultylenes can withstand a chemical attack because of their low permeability. Often consumers use these for insulating glazing units. Typically a factory will apply polyisobutylenes.
Contractors typically use polyurethane because it sticks so well to different surfaces and requires little preparation. It also resists scratches and other abrasive forces.
What Makes a Sealant Good?
No one sealant does the job every time. Each one has the properties that make it the best in a given situation. You need to consider the job and which sealant would work best for it.
1. Is it durable?
Companies often label a sealant with a specific life expectancy, but this is the expectancy under ideal conditions. Sealants rarely live in those conditions. Weather and wear-and-tear will wreak havoc and change the actual life expectancy.
The most durable 3m sealants, silicone sealants, will last up to 20 years. Acrylics and butyls often last no more than five years.
2. Does it have a reliable consistency?
You want a sealant with the right consistency for the job. For example, a pourable sealant will be fluid, and contractors use it on horizontal joints. It often self-levels. Thus contractors use pourable sealants on horizontal joints.
If you're working on a vertical joint, you want a non-sag sealant that is thicker and that does not run.
3. How hard is it?
Harder sealants resist damage, but they also do not flex well like a softer sealant. If your job requires flexibility, you need a softer sealant.
4. How does it handle exposure?
A good sealant will perform well even under extreme temperatures and moisture. A quality sealant like 3m construction sealants can typically handle the elements.
5. Does it flex?
Joints often move. You will need a sealant that can flex approximately 10 percent more or less than the current joint width. So a 28 mm joint can stretch or contract up to 23 mm without failing.
6. Does it stick?
Does the sealant stick well to your construction material? Look at the sealant to see what surfaces the manufacturer recommends for this particular sealant.
7. Can you stain it?
Many sealants have a component that stains the surface of whatever it touches. Even if the product claims to not stain, test it before you use it.
8. Does it have volatile content?
Most sealants have low volatile organic compounds in them, or VOC. some solvent-based sealants still have a decent level of chemicals that irritate lungs. Avoid these sealants.
9. How hard is it to apply?
You want a sealant that you can apply smoothly. You also want something that will cure quickly. Make sure you purchase a sealant that does cure since engineers design some sealants to not cure.
10. Will this break the bank?
Find industrial sealants you can afford. Remember that cost often correlates with quality. The higher the cost of a sealant, the more likely you have a quality sealant that does its job.
Types of Tape
Not all adhesive tapes are the same. This is why we do not wrap duct tape around a hockey stick handle. After all, duct tape isn't the same as hockey tape.
Industrial tape comes in three basic categories: adhesive tape, specialized types of tape, and non-adhesive tape.
People typically use non-adhesive tape and specialized strong tape for specific purposes. We use adhesive tapes for joining materials together.
You may wonder, exactly what do people use non-adhesive tape for? The uses vary from thread sealing to controlling static discharge to protecting labels.
Basic 3M tapes come in all different types as well.
Characteristics of Adhesive Tape
When it comes down to selecting the best type of industrial tape for your needs, it’s crucial to know exactly what type of tape you’re looking for, what you plan on using the tape for, as well as a few other factors such as the dimensions and physical properties that you’re looking for in an adhesive.
Types of Industrial Tape
Industrial tape falls into four categories: single-sided adhesive, double-sided adhesive, non-adhesive tape, and transfer tape.
Single-sided Adhesive Tape: This type of tape has one side coated with adhesive. People use this mostly for packaging and insulating.
Double-sided Adhesive Tape: This type of tape has adhesive material on both sides. You can use it to join two different materials together in a somewhat invisible way.
Non-adhesive Tape: This type of tape has no adhesive substance applied to it. It can still stick, though, once you place it. Teflon tape used in plumbing qualifies as a type of non-adhesive tape.
Transfer Tape: This type of tape consists of a thin adhesive film with no backing. You can transfer this type of tape to any dry surface after you peel away the release liner.
Chemistry and Content
Each industrial tape has a rating specific for its use. The rating will depend on how well the tape sticks to a specific surface. Know the type of surface you're going to use this tape on, and then look for the rating for that type of surface.
For example, a particular sticky tape may have a different rating for sticking to glass than it will for concrete.
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