How Do I Choose an Adhesive?

Posted by Jason Christopher on 5/5/2023

How Do I Choose an Adhesive?

Choosing an adhesive for a project can be either overlooked or horribly overwhelming. Those overlooking adhesive selection and dismissing it as “glue is glue” may often face consequences down the road when performance falls short, and they must then scramble to find a suitable alternative late in the design phase, or even worse, for something already in production. Those who are overwhelmed have often received a bunch of samples and test and test until they find something acceptable. Not very methodical and not very efficient. So how do we get the right adhesive for the job?

The answers to application questions will help you dial in to the right product or select a few products to evaluate for best performance.

  1. Substrate - What are you trying to bond to? You want the answer to this to be as specific as possible. For instance, “plastic” does not help dial in an adhesive. Surfaces have different energies and will have a significant impact on which adhesive you choose. High surface energy substrates, like metals and some plastics, are relatively easy to bond to. Low surface energy substrates like other plastics need a different adhesive. Will plasticizers leach out from the surface? That requires another adhesive. Substrate is critical in choosing the correct adhesive.
  2. Texture - Are the surfaces smooth or rough? This will affect the thickness of the adhesive you choose. Thinner tapes can be used on smooth surfaces. The more texture, the thicker you may need to go. You want enough adhesive to be able to conform and contact the surface so you can maximize the bond. Speaking of conforming, a “softer” adhesive will conform better than a “firmer” adhesive. Something to keep in mind.
  3. Environmental Conditions - What will the bond be exposed to? Heat, cold, UV, solvents, etc. can influence the performance of the adhesive. If the bond will be exposed to these things, it needs to be considered to avoid failures down the road.
  4. Time - Are you looking for a temporary bond? Permanent? How long do you want it to last? As different adhesives have different aging properties, thinking about the length of time you want the bond to be in place will help narrow down your product options. 
  5. Existing Specifications - Is it related to Military, Automotive, Aerospace, Medical? Are there existing specs ruling over the part? Better to work with that information on the front end rather than bring it to the game late.
  6. Construction - Double coated tape typically comes in two different forms: adhesive transfer tape and double coated tape. The main difference between the two is adhesive transfer tape is adhesive throughout while double coated tape has a carrier in between layers of adhesive. 
    1. Adhesive Transfer Tape - is more conformable, has higher temperature resistance, is considered “permanent,” thinner.
    2. Double Coated Tape - improved “handleability,” can be more “removable,” thicker, easier dispensing, reinforces substrate.

This will give you a good starting point and the ability to dial in the most effective and efficient
adhesive for your application.

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