A heat-activated adhesive is a type of adhesive, usually applied to a tape backing, that will not bond at normal temperatures. Instead, it becomes sticky in certain temperatures, wherein the adhesive chemicals are activated and can form a bond.
Heat-activated tapes are incredibly versatile and are used for bonding in many projects. Over the past three decades, Strouse has helped build multiple heat-activated adhesive products for various applications.
Today, we’re diving deep into the benefits, uses, and alternatives to heat-activated adhesives to clearly show you how and when they function.
What Is Heat Activated Adhesive?
As the name implies, heat-activated adhesive is a non-sticky adhesive that usually will not bond or adhere at normal temperatures. As part of its design, this adhesive only begins to bond when heated to a precise temperature.
Heat-activated adhesive films offer a lot of versatility in their design and application. They are industrial in scope and have grown extensively in popularity over the last few decades.
You should be aware of both thermoset and thermoplastic heat-activated materials, which are used depending on the situation. Thermoset materials are heated to the ideal temperature and permanently bond where they are, while thermoplastic materials can be melted and set multiple times. If you’re hoping for a permanent bond, thermoset is the way to go, but for a temporary application, you’ll want to choose thermoplastic.
When activated by a heat source, the adhesive goes through two stages:
- Phase one occurs within seconds of the heat activation process. Bonding occurs between the two objects, and the adhesive tape itself begins to cool after being heated.
- Phase two is carried out over the next few minutes. Once the adhesive has had a chance to cool down, the chemicals on the tape start crystallizing, significantly increasing the strength of the material bond.
Depending on the substrates you're bonding, heat-activated adhesives are also available in different configurations. A good heat-activated adhesive will bond surfaces to match your needs, whether it’s plastic, metal, wood, or another surface.
One of the significant benefits of using heat-activated adhesive is that it feels completely dry before being heated. There is no tackiness, and it doesn’t stick to itself, making it easy to work into cracks and crevices without hassle. The tape itself feels like paper and only becomes sticky under heated conditions.
Adhesive films use thin layers of specially designed bonding agents attached to a backing material, giving you, the user, a product that is equal parts easy to use and highly versatile.
Backings can have the adhesive coated on one or both sides. They might be treated with different concentrations of the same adhesive, making them more or less appropriate for other tasks.
Moreover, adhesive backings can be created from a range of materials. Depending on your needs and supplier, you might find any of the following as your heat-activated adhesive backing:
Heat-activated film also brings a range of unique and valuable traits to the table, including:
- resistance to aging and weathering
- improved shock resistance
- extreme flexibility and elasticity under various conditions
- incredibly high bonding strength
- resistance to chemicals and stability in high temperatures
- available in a range of thicknesses and designs
- the availability of electrically conductive variants
Depending on where you go, manufacturers build adhesives in a variety of grades. If you’re looking for an improved flammability rating and expecting more from your web grade, it’s possible to work with your adhesive converter to see if there's a material out there for you.
Heat Activated Applications
Using a combination of specially designed tapes and heat-activated adhesives, achieving excellent results in your design is possible.
With their high durability and weatherproof design, heat-activated tapes can bond to weather strip seals, making them a perfect addition to home repair toolkits and other sealing needs.
Heat-activated tape can also be worked into tight spacing, making it maneuverable and ready to be used in unpredictable places where problems might develop. This is a big selling point compared to pressure-sensitive tapes, which must be pressed into place and may stick to themselves.
Gaskets and other elastomeric materials made of heat-activated adhesive are highly beneficial to automotive and industrial applications.
With permanent solvent acrylic adhesive that prioritizes heating, there’s an extremely low initial tack. Due to the low initial tack, you can properly reposition the substrates you're working with before applying heat. That makes heat-activated adhesive perfect for delicate printing, display mounting, and insulation.
A heat-activated tape is a powerful tool when used on the following materials:
- fiber materials
Across the adhesive industry, what matters most isn't always the level of adhesive strength, but rather the ability to join a wide variety of materials.
With the proper heat-activated adhesive, you're making more of an engineering solution than anything else. These coatings actively adhere to hard-to-stick surfaces, making them ideal for repair work. When combined with their high-temperature rating, heat-resistant adhesives stand up well in harsh environments.
Additional Benefits Of Heat Activated Adhesive
Heat-activated adhesive tapes are primarily popular for their relatively high bonding strength. This is a strong bond often used for binding the tricky substrates other chemicals don't work on.
Improved chemical resistance is a significant advantage of using heat-activated adhesive. The crosslinking reaction that occurs while the thermoset adhesives are curing makes for a far more robust bonding structure you don't find elsewhere, and while pressure-sensitive and moisture films have their place, they can't compete when it comes to bonding strength.
Not only is it stronger than alternative adhesives, heat-activated adhesive also works on surfaces that other films aren't compatible with. Adhesion on these surfaces isn't usually an option, but heat films' added bonding strength and maneuverability give them a decisive edge. Look to heat activation for work involving the following materials:
- Aluminum foil
As a result of this compatibility, thermally activated adhesives are also used in a broader number of industries. Laminating, forming, and thermoplastic welding are all used for heat-activated tape. This is especially relevant to the textile industry, where heat-activated adhesives combine exceptionally well with various fabrics, which are used to make multiple high-performance composites, giving designers the necessary tools they need.
Textile designers have also incorporated heat-activated film into their waterproof garments, allowing them to seal their garments quicker and more efficiently than ever before. Combined with the fact that it is machine washable, it's a no-brainer why this would be popular in textile work.
Of course, the benefits of this kind of adhesive go much further. With a design that lends itself to induction curing and sealing, heat-activated tape is appropriate in high-pressure applications, shoring up leaks and curing surfaces quickly and easily.
Is Heat Activated Adhesive Right For Me?
When it comes down to choosing a suitable material, heat-activated adhesive is one of the most versatile, valuable options for joining substrates.
Yet, buying heat-activated adhesive for more minor work, arts and crafts, and casual adhesion around the house might be like bringing a grenade to a fistfight.
In terms of high-end, industrial joining, heat-activated adhesive is challenging to beat. Apply a piece of heat tape to a flat surface, and you're off to the races in minutes. More importantly, you can work that tape into a cramped space with awkward corners and apply it to any area you want.
Plus, the versatility cannot be understated. When you’re looking for a tight join that will stay together under high pressure and high heat or allow you to wash the material multiple times, this tape is used extensively. As a result, your primary consideration isn’t its bonding abilities but rather its price.
For instance, purchasing custom heat-activated tape might be costly if you want a one-time solution. However, it would serve its purpose beautifully for large-scale production.
Are you looking for more insights into heat-activation and other adhesive tape varieties? Get in touch with us, or check out some of our other expert blogs for everything you need and more:
Originally published: March 26, 2020