It’s All About the Surface in Tape Application

In the world of Pressure Sensitive Adhesives you have the opportunity to work with all types of surfaces. This is one of the challenges that makes my job so much fun! I enjoy working with individuals on projects where challenging substrates are being used. I really enjoy testing different tapes to see which will perform best and most of all, which tape will bring the desired results.I have worked with just about every substrate and just when I think I have seen it all, another challenge pops up. I have worked with glass, vinyl, aluminum, stainless steel, painted metals, acrylics as well as many other plastic surfaces. Some of my all-time favorite surfaces to work with are those low surface energy plastics such as polyethylene or even those difficult powder coated surfaces. Each of these surfaces or substrates has a unique challenge and some of those are more easily overcome than others.

With surfaces that are considered high surface energy, such as aluminum or stainless steel, you just have to ensure that the surface is clean. The tape is able to “wet” onto the surface very easily. For those surfaces that are in the category of low surface energy, one has to work a bit more. Why is that?Imagine the hood of a car. When that hood has been in the sun for too long or the finish isn’t in prime condition, what happens to rain water when it hits the surface? The water drop has the ability to spread out across the surface of the hood. This is a reflection of a high surface energy surface. If you see a hood with a fresh coat of wax, what happens? The water drop almost appears to ball up and starts to roll off the hood. This scenario represents a low surface energy. The adhesive on a piece of tape reacts in a similar way when introduced to the surface being bonded.

Most metal surfaces and some plastics respond well to the introduction of adhesive, but some do not. There are tapes that have an adhesive system specially formulated to adhere to low surface energies. However, there are some surfaces that have to be etched or heated to allow any wetting of an adhesive.Another challenge is how smooth or rough a surface may be. If you have a surface that has many “peaks and valleys” we will want to look at a tape that either has a heavy coat weight or a foam product that can “wet” into those peaks and valleys allowing for a broader bonded surface.