Have you ever stopped and thought to yourself, “Gee, I wonder if I should mount this painting with tape or just use nails as my bonding solution…”
Choosing a method might seem like a minor detail when you’re getting work done around the house, but when it comes to large-scale manufacturing projects, you’ll want to consider all your options.
As a flexible material converting company, Strouse works more closely with adhesive tape than mechanical fasteners. However, we're committed to providing unbiased information as you educate yourself on potential bonding solutions to fit your needs.
Hopefully, as you learn more, you'll understand your different options and which factors to consider when selecting a joining method for your project.
What are Mechanical Fasteners?
Mechanical fasteners are typically metal components that bind one surface to another.
Mechanical fasteners are rivets, screws, brackets, pins, and retaining rings, commonly seen in joining or mounting applications.
HOW ARE FASTENERS USED TO JOIN OBJECTS?
Fasteners can be temporary, semi-permanent, or permanent depending on the purpose of the application.
Permanent fasteners, such as rivets, are installed by placing the rivet in a hole and applying pressure to the other side to deform and lodge it in place.
Semi-permanent fasteners, like bolts, are combined with nuts and washers to create a tight, potentially removable bond between two surfaces.
Temporary fasteners, like screws, can be paired with brackets to support heavier applications, such as shelves, but removed later. However, using mechanical fasteners in applications like mounting will still result in surface damage to the wall.
As we discuss the pros and cons of using fasteners, consider whether your application needs a temporary solution or a longer-lasting alternative.
Pros and Cons of Using Mechanical Fasteners
Mechanical fasteners are powerful joining solutions, but they can be heavy and bulky, so they might not fit your application.
Let's dive into using mechanical fasteners so you can decide if they make sense based on your project.
PROS OF MECHANICAL FASTENERS
As you would expect, mechanical fasteners are one of the stronger ways to attach objects to a surface.
Many mechanical fasteners wedge into a surface, giving them a higher strength and making them unlikely to fall off naturally. Due to their power, fasteners have long-lasting abilities.
Mechanical fasteners can also resist movement (although over time they might loosen). Jostling a heavy application hanging on mechanical fasteners might not cause it to fall, but adhesives risk inching down the wall when exposed to considerable force.
Some mechanical fasteners are easy to disassemble, which is crucial for applications that require routine maintenance. Similarly, adhesive tape can be removable and lightweight, removable and medium-duty, or a permanent fixture that's difficult to remove. It simply depends on what type of adhesive you use for your application.
Because fasteners don't need time to form a bond, their joining effect is instantaneous. Full-strength joints result upon application, which might be a quick process depending on the type you're using and its application.
CONS OF MECHANICAL FASTENERS
Most mechanical fasteners require holes to function, and many fasteners (such as sharp-tipped screws) form their own.
However, puncturing damage caused by fastener application harms not only the aesthetic quality of the surface but its structural integrity as well. You also have to consider the added time spent lining up and punching out rows of holes for fasteners, which is typically more work and takes longer than wiping down a surface to apply double sided adhesive tape.
Mechanical fasteners are often made of metal, which makes them heavier and bulkier than adhesive alternatives. Carrying too much weight over time will leave their current fixtures misshapen.
The added weight of a mechanical fastener isn't the fastener itself but the mounting fixture as a whole. Screws secure larger metal brackets, which weigh the fixture down and warp the shape of the holes.
Changes in the shape of the holes leave spaces for moisture to enter and increase the chances of rusting or other forms of corrosion, like bi-metal corrosion between different metals, over time.
Lastly, using mechanical fasteners will establish fixed points of tension, leaving your surface vulnerable to breakage. Because of this, many people choose to use adhesive tape as an alternative.
What Are Adhesive Tapes?
Adhesive tapes are flexible materials that use bonding substrates to join objects and surfaces together.
While you're probably picturing everyday masking or duct tape in your head, the adhesive tapes we're discussing are heavy-duty double sided tapes that can endure similar amounts of tension.
HOW ARE ADHESIVE TAPES USED TO JOIN OBJECTS?
Adhesive tapes can be used to combine many different sizes and shapes of objects or materials, both flexible and solid.
You may have used adhesive tape to mount paintings or dry-erase boards. Still, many people aren't aware that flexible tapes can bond together trailer walls, attach fixtures to ceilings, or even hold a scooter together using their considerable strength.
Pros and Cons of Using Adhesive Tapes
Adhesive tapes can be strong, custom-made alternatives for bonding, but they also risk higher costs, expiration dates, and slippage due to environmental factors.
PROS OF ADHESIVE TAPES
One of the most significant benefits of using adhesive tape is the ability to customize.
Adhesive tape can be double sided, with different substrates on either side to achieve the maximum level of adhesion between surfaces.
Manufacturers and flexible material converters laminate adhesive tapes together to form double sided tape optimized for the exact surfaces you want to join.
The heads of mechanical fasteners are sometimes rounded, creating an uneven surface and posing geometric or aesthetic issues when multiple attachment layers are needed. Meanwhile, thin adhesive tapes can still reach high levels of strength if they have a powerful adhesive.
When using adhesive tape, you can extend the number of abilities a single application offers. For example, using closed cell foam tape can create a seal between two objects, preventing moisture infiltration.
Adhesive tape uses flexible materials like foam, which can expand or contract in a wide range of temperatures. These materials can also dampen shocks, sounds, and vibrations.
Finally, adhesive tape's lightweight nature makes it an appealing alternative to mechanical fasteners in a variety of industries. Instead of adding to a device's or surface's weight, most adhesive tapes have a considerably small impact.
CONS OF ADHESIVE TAPES
Adhesive tapes can be ineffective on certain surfaces without prior treatment. Converters often treat low surface energy (LSE) plastics using corona treatments to help them stick better.
In addition, adhesive tape users must ensure that they prepare surfaces during application to ensure a proper bond forms. Following the application procedure creates the best connection between adhesive and material, but failing to prepare a surface could result in bond failure.
Regarding adhesive tape application, it's also essential to consider the environment in which you're creating the bond. Depending on its composition, incredibly moist or humid conditions could affect your part's adhesive properties.
Adhesive tape has an adhesive shelf life, or expiration date, which is more similar to a best-by date for foods. Manufacturers and suppliers mark individual rolls with a recommended date to use the adhesive, yet many adhesives can continue functioning well within their limits far past the expiration date.
Adhesive tape off a roll isn't always expensive, but it begins to add up when you factor in the cost of custom design jobs. Of course, this depends on whether you want or need to customize your adhesive tape because, with the ease of automation, you could reduce spending on labor costs.
Should I Choose Mechanical Fasteners or Adhesive Tapes?
First of all, there are more than just two options.
Other alternatives have their own individual pros and cons as well. For instance, liquid adhesives are messy and challenging to work with unless your operators are fully trained to use them. Welding can be powerful, but it can also cause damage to your respective surfaces.
Are you interested in other alternatives?
After you've already considered your options and you come back to mechanical fasteners versus adhesive tapes, you should know it depends on your specific application and needs.
A mechanical fastener might be your best choice for a powerful application that might require maintenance or withstand movement. Likewise, fixing signs, logos, windows, or large panels could be the perfect opportunity for custom adhesive tape applications.
If you want to explore adhesive tapes further before making a decision, you can learn more about the different types here: