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Industrial Adhesives & Tapes


Consumer preferences, manufacturing challenges driving aesthetics in transportation vehicles

 smooth trailer with aesthetics of 3M VHB Tape vs. rivets

In today's transportation vehicle market, consumer preferences and manufacturing challenges are creating the need for innovation in aesthetics. These trends affect a wide range of specialty vehicles, including cargo and horse trailers, truck boxes and emergency vehicles.

Consumers buying more smooth-sided vehicles

A two-year study of consumer buying habits in the US showed a ten percent increase in sales of cargo trailers manufactured with smooth, flat sides fastened with adhesives, rather than conventional, mechanical fasteners.* These statistics prove consumers are choosing vehicles with improved, contemporary aesthetics that also avoid problems such as quilting or buckling under sun exposure. These consumers will likely become repeat customers too, choosing new aesthetics and the benefits of improved durability and reduced noise for their future vehicles.

Manufacturers challenged by new materials and regulations

Meanwhile, manufacturers are facing challenges. These include the need to build lighter weight vehicles that will meet new government mandates for improved fuel economy. Vehicles also must be as strong, or stronger, than in the past. These factors can require changes to new substrates and composites, causing challenges in fastening or attaching to birdcage framing. Conventional bolts or rivets could damage these substrates and would not provide the aesthetics consumers are seeking.

3M™ VHB™ Tapes and "unconstrained design" provide new aesthetics and durability

optimizing smooth panel attachment with unconstrained construction

3M™ VHB™ Tapes eliminate the concentrated stress points of conventional, mechanical fasteners that can weaken with time and vibration. Attaching 3M™ VHB™ Tape using an "unconstrained design" also improves durability because the taped panels can expand and contract without constraint at top or bottom. This preferred method of panel attachment greatly reduces expansion forces on seams and helps ensure a long lasting bond while offering a smooth-sided appearance.

To compare 3M™ VHB™ Tapes and unconstrained design with conventional, mechanical fasteners, 3M sent two trailers to the Bosch Automotive Proving Grounds in South Bend, Indiana for testing by an independent team. The side panels on one trailer were attached with 3M™ VHB™ Tapes. Panels on the other test trailer were mechanically fastened.

  • Road condition durability testing: After testing over a simulated 100,000 miles of varying road conditions, the unconstrained panel construction held tight, preventing leaks, absorbing vibration and reducing noise while 33% of the mechanical fasteners were loose at 36,000 miles.

  • Leak durability testing: After the 100,000 mile road test, a pressure washer set at 3,200 PSI sprayed water over each seam of the smooth-sided trailer manufactured with 3M™ VHB™ Tape. No leaks were detected.

  • Thermal cycling durability testing: After 36,000 miles, each trailer was placed in an environmental chamber and exposed repeatedly to temperature cycling. Heaters inside the enclosure radiated up to 190°F to simulate the sun's heat. Thirty cycles were repeated. Thermographic imaging results proved the unconstrained design remained strong, even in extreme heat.

Smooth-sided horse trailers demonstrate major reductions in noise and vibration

A common concern among horse owners is the stress their animals endure every time they are transported. Equine experts have found that vibration and noise inside a trailer can cause significant stress and fatigue to horses, leading to "shipping fever," colic, other health concerns and poor performance. The stress and discomfort also lead to long recovery times before an animal is ready for a show, race or other event. However, 3M researchers, working with engineers from several trailer manufacturers, developed an intriguing solution.

3M commissioned an independent scientific study to measure the actual noise and vibration reductions possible when trailers are built with 3M™ VHB™ Tapes. 3M hired Skip Hartman, an acoustics and vibration expert from, to compare a horse trailer made with 3M™ VHB™ Tape against a similar style trailer made with conventional mechanical fasteners. The study was designed to measure noise and vibration. The results showed the trailer manufactured with 3M™ VHB™ Tape was up to 41% quieter at highway speeds than the trailer that used traditional fastening technology. There was also a significant reduction in vibration in the trailer built with 3M™ VHB™ Tape, measured in this test at up to 30%. Veterinarian Dr. Justin Janssen, DMV, a board member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, says that

    "Horses are much more sensitive to noise than humans appreciate. Even a 5% to 10% decrease in noise would be very significant. For this study to show more than a 40% reduction in noise with 3M's product, that's phenomenal."

Select a 3M Design Solution

Innovative adhesives from 3M provide numerous options for meeting customer preferences in aesthetics as well as manufacturing challenges. 3M also helps customers identify their best design solutions through the 3M IATD TSR Program and the 3M IATD Design Solutions Program.

Try the 3M TSR Program

Using the 3M Technical Service Request (TSR) Program, a 3M representative will work with you on initial testing of an adhesive design solution. One or two best options will be identified then a sample of your substrate is brought to the 3M Laboratories and tested for stress or other factors the product will encounter. The 3M test results will help you select the best design solution for your manufacturing process and customer needs.

Work with 3M at your manufacturing plant through the 3M IATD Design Solutions Program: Using the 3M IATD Design Solutions Program, we identify a design solution then works side-by-side with you, at your manufacturing plant, to ensure your personnel are trained in the new manufacturing process. Follow-up visits and ongoing support are key parts of the program.

We are eager to work with you. Please to discuss your project or call: 1-800-362-3550.

*Bosch Durability Study of Unconstrained Design, Bosch Automotive Proving Grounds,
South Bend, Indiana, 2007 (Read Full PDF).

3M and VHB are trademarks of 3M Company.