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For decades, engineers have had to deal with the downsides of many permanent bonding materials:

  • Screws, bolts, and mechanical fasteners significantly increase weight
  • Rivets punch through a material, are uneven, and create vulnerable stress points
  • Welding is time-consuming and disruptive in an otherwise efficient assembly process
  • Liquid and spray adhesives are tedious, time-consuming, and messy

We previously covered why 3M™ VHB™ (Very High Bonding) tape is a superior bonding solution. If you haven’t read that article, check it out. In short, if you’re considering a bonding solution for your application challenge, 3M VHB tape offers these significant benefits:

  • LIGHTWEIGHT — Light 3M VHB acrylic foam tape is available in many thicknesses and widths so that you can select the right material for your project.
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE — 10 times stronger than rivets, 3M VHB tape outperforms traditional bonding solutions, spreading the bond along the surface.
  • NO MESS — Many solutions (including liquid) require a messy primer that can leave finished products looking unsatisfactory. 3M VHB tapes are smooth and clean.
  • SAFE TO USE AND APPLY — Some primers expose employees to harsh chemicals, and their application slows down production.
  • VERSATILE AND EASILY DIE CUT — Its construction allows the material to be easily converted. Get 3M VHB die cuttable tape in custom shapes and sizes.

    Once you know that 3M VHB tape is a strong and reliable solution for your application, you need to know how to apply it consistently and efficiently. In this article, we’ll offer some application tips to optimize your process and reduce manual labor.

3M VHB Tape Application Tips

1. Surface Preparation — Cleaning

Any adhesive bonds better if the substrate surface is clean, saving time and problems down the road. Use a disposable towel or cloth and one of two solvents: 1) isopropyl alcohol solution (70% IPA, 30% water) for dust, dirt, and fingerprints; or 2) acetone for oily surfaces.

Steps:

  1. If there are tough spots, quickly pre-clean these

  2. Remove contaminants with the wet towel/cloth

  3. Wipe with a dry towel/cloth

2. Surface Preparation — Priming

In certain situations, priming and abrading (#3 below) can improve how the adhesive sticks to specific substrates: plastics, paints, and substrates with low surface energy. Simply put, the primer creates a new surface to improve adhesion.

Steps:

  1. Depending on the substrate, apply primer to the clean surface using:

    • a disposable towel followed by a dry towel

    • a dauber bottle followed by a dry towel

    • a foam brush

  2. Let dry before taping

3. Surface Preparation — Abrading

Abrasion is commonly used on surfaces with heavy levels of dirt or oxides, to create additional surface area, or to smooth a textured surface for improved contact.

Steps:

  1. Determine the abrasion needed:

    • for light abrasion, used a hand pad or an L-abrader tool

    • for powered abrasion, use a right-angle grinder or dual-action sander with a coated abrasive

  2. Clean the substrate after abrading; all debris should be removed from the bond area

4. Manual Tape Application

Determine the best application method for your situation by considering your specific application and production volume. Then use the right adhesive tape application equipment.

Steps (by hand):

  1. Place the tape at the edge of the surface, applying constant pressure (at least 15 lbs) as you lay it down to ensure good contact

  2. Remove the protective liner


Steps (by hand tape applicator):

  1. Same steps as above, but a hand-held applicator is used instead of bare hands

Steps (by push-through laminator):

  1. Push substrate pieces through the laminator

  2. Laminator applies tape and pressure

  3. Manually cut the tape between pieces

5. Automated Tape Application

There are two levels of automated application:

  1. For linear application, a machine tapes pieces that pass on a conveyor

  2. For complicated applications, a robot arm applies the tape in multiple locations on every piece; die-cut pieces and tape strips, for example

6. Applying Final Pressure

Applying pressure of greater than 15 psi across the width of the tape is required to achieve optimal “wet-out” or acceptable contact. A handheld pressure roller or J-roller can do the job.

7. Tape Removal

You may have to remove 3M VHB tape from a substrate because of an application error or repair.

Steps:

  1. Apply isopropyl alcohol to the bond’s edge; this lubricates the cutting tool and prevents rebonding of separated tape

  2. Using an oscillating tool, cut the tape ⅛” to ¼” deep at each pass

  3. Once components are separated, tape residue can be removed use the oscillating tool

  4. Use adhesive remover for any remaining residue: spray it on, let it soak, scrub with a hand pad, remove residue, wipe clean with a towel or cloth

Application Types and Converter Partnerships

3M VHB tape has become the go-to permanent bonding solution for applications in every industry. Automotive manufacturers rely on it to assemble vehicles. Medical device manufacturers choose it to bond critical components in product assembly. As the electronics industry continues to design lighter, thinner, and smaller products, 3M VHB tape delivers a lightweight permanent bond that doesn’t negatively impact product performance.

Design engineers are faced with challenges in every step of a project: strict deadlines, sourcing hundreds of materials/parts, tight budgets, numerous bonding options, etc. It can be overwhelming. That's why it's essential to work with a full service adhesive tape converter that focuses on making one choice easier: use 3M VHB tape.

Strouse converts 3M VHB tape to custom lengths, widths, sizes, shapes, and formats. Helping customers meet their application demands is good, yet it’s better to cut costs, improve performance, and create efficiencies in your assembly process. That’s what you can expect when you solve your challenges with Strouse.

Ready to learn more about flexible material converting? We’ve gathered common questions and answers that we’ve heard into one handy guide: Flexible Material Converting Q&A. Get your copy by clicking the box below.

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Scott Chambers

Written by Scott Chambers

Business Development Manager for Strouse Scott graduated from Coastal Carolina with a degree in Business Management. He then attended the University of Baltimore School of Law earning his JD in 2016. He passed the bar later that year, and he started working for Strouse in 2017. Scott is in charge of marketing and business development in addition to being Strouse's In House Counsel.

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