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Knowing when to use 3M™ Adhesives and Tapes to improve your product and process

Review the following questions and answers to help determine which types of adhesives may work best for your application.


Q. Can adhesives hold together the materials you want to join with the strength you need?

Some materials are harder to bond than others. But with 3M adhesive and tape technologies, even many materials once defined as “hard-to-bond,” such as low surface energy plastics, can be bonded with strength greater than the materials bonded. The list of potential substrates ranges from glass, wood, cardboard, and rubber to steel, concrete, foam, polycarbonate, and just about any other material you can name.

Strength can be readily matched to the substrate and stress characteristics to which the bond will be subjected. Most adhesives and tapes perform better when the primary stress is tensile or shear. In most industrial applications, however, a combination of stresses are involved that may include cleavage and peel.

Graph 1

Tensile is pull exerted equally over the entire joint. Pull direction is straight and away from the adhesive bond.

Shear is pull directed across the adhesive, forcing the substrates to slide over each other.

Cleavage is pull concentrated at one edge of the joint, exerting a prying force on the bond. The other edge of the joint is theoretically under zero stress.

Peel is concentrated along a thin line at the edge of the bond where one substrate is flexible. The line is the exact point where an adhesive would separate if the flexible surface were peeled away from its mating surface. Once peeling has begun, the stress line stays out in front of the advancing bond separation.

Q. Do you want to eliminate the stress concentration caused by spot welds, rivets, screws, or other mechanical fasteners and maintain surface integrity?

Adhesives distribute stress evenly over the entire bonded area. A rivet or screw hole in the substrate concentrates stress at the hole and can decrease physical properties of the substrate. With uniform stress distribution of adhesives and tapes, lighter, thinner materials can be used without concerns about distortion, splitting, or crazing at the mechanically fastened site. Elimination of holes in metal also reduces the chances for rust and corrosion.

Q. Would invisible fastening improve your products appearance?

3M adhesives and tapes are generally hidden between the bonded substrates. Surfaces stay smooth and clean for a more attractive appearance and less surface refinishing.

Q. Do you want to attach dissimilar substrates?

Laminates of dissimilar materials can often produce combinations superior in strength and performance to either substrate alone. The flexibility of many 3M adhesives and tapes compensates for differences in the coefficients of expansion between such materials as aluminum and wood.

Q. Will your part be subjected to vibration?

The viscoelasticity of many 3M adhesives and tapes improves resistance to vibration fatigue by imparting flexibility to a joint or bonded area.

Graph 3

Q. Is the design of your part right for adhesive bonding?

Adhesives perform better with some part configurations than with others. With the variety of 3M adhesive forms such as pastes, aerosol sprays, and tapes, you should be able to find an adhesive to meet the requirements of most parts that can be assembled with mechanical or fusion fastening. A spray adhesive would be effective, for example, to cover foam cushioning, but would not be a consideration for a part with a narrow bonding area. For cleaner, more efficient application, die-cut pressure sensitive adhesive foam tape can be precisely placed on smaller, irregularly-shaped bonding surfaces.

Q. Do you want to bond and simultaneously seal between the substrates?

With many adhesives and tapes, continuous contact between mating surfaces effectively bonds and seals against dirt, dust, water, and other environmental conditions.

Adhesives and tapes also provide a film barrier to reduce or prevent bimetallic corrosion that often occurs in bonding two different types of metal.

Graph 2

Q. Will your finished assembly be exposed to harsh environmental conditions?

Some adhesives do not hold well when exposed to very low or very high temperatures, high humidity, chemicals, or even water. Other adhesives are specially formulated to resist harsh environments.

Q. Do you need high speed bonding?

In some instances, adhesive bonding can be slow and require critical processing. Some epoxies, for example, require heat, pressure and fixturing to bond metal to metal in structural strength assemblies. With the wide range of 3M adhesives and tapes, however, a variety of open times are available. Depending on your end use requirements, you can select 3M pressure sensitive adhesives that bond on contact or a 3M two-part paste adhesive with open times ranging from 2 to 90 minutes. Repositionable formulations are also available for repeated openings and closings.

Q. Does your part need to be disassembled for maintenance or service?

When assembled with most adhesives or tapes, parts are generally difficult or virtually impossible to disassemble without damaging the part. As an exception, hot melt adhesives can be reheated and reused, but in most instances reuse would be messy and impractical. As already noted, repositionable adhesives are available, but application is restricted to lighter duty attachment or closure. Reclosable fasteners are a hybrid technology using mechanical fastening and pressure sensitive adhesive. The adhesive permanently bonds two reclosable mating strips to the substrates that need to be opened and closed. See pages 85 through 91 for details.

Q. Do you want to cut costs, increase production and simplify your operation?

With 3M adhesives and tapes, you can see cost reduction through reduced material requirements, weight reductions, and elimination of drilling, welding, screwing, finishing, and similar operations. In most cases, adhesives require minimal training. And many adhesives require little or no investment in major equipment.