What type of film would you use on a satellite?
If you're in the electrical trade, you've probably used polyimide tape before. You might know it under a different name, though: Kapton tape.
Polyimide tape, or Kapton tape, has many benefits when it comes to the electrical side of any given industry. Strouse has ample experience working with polyimide tape, so we know how it works and what it takes to ensure a successful product.
Before diving into production, you’ll learn more about polyimide tape and understand the factors you should consider.
POLYIMIDE TAPE VS. KAPTON TAPE
Polyimide tape and Kapton tape are essentially the same material, except Kapton is a type of polyimide tape.
Simply put, Kapton tape is a brand-name version of polyimide tape. Kapton tape is a type of polyimide tape, but it's far from the only one, although it might be the most popular variant used across industries.
What Is Polyimide Tape?
Polyimide tape is a vital tool in any electrician's toolbox. It's known for its extreme adhesion, gold and amber color, and powerful heat resistance.
Polyimide tape is one of the most heat-resistant adhesives available on the market. It performs at peak strength over a range of high temperatures without losing its adhesiveness or leaving leftover residue.
On top of that, polyimide tape has excellent chemical resistance and insulation properties. It's unaffected by acids or oils and keeps electrical components at a consistent temperature, which is why many industries use polyimide tape to ensure their electronics don't ignite or fall below the required temperature.
WHO USES POLYIMIDE TAPE?
Different professions use polyimide tape for its strength and heat resistance. Some of the most common careers and industries that use polyimide tape include:
- Automotive Technicians
- Spacecraft manufacturers
- Companies that use 3D printers
- Members of the construction industry
- The airplane industry
- Manufacturing industries across the board
Any profession that deals heavily with electronics will benefit from using polyimide tape. While some use it for insulation, others use it for its chemical resistance. However it's used, polyimide tape is considered unbeatable in many industries.
POLYIMIDE TAPE SPECIFICATIONS
For the sake of technicality, let's look at some of the specs of polyimide tape.
Polyimide tape generally has a thickness of about 0.095mm without the liner, and 0.1mm with it, making it one of the thinnest insulators ever.
The tape strength is about 200 kPa, with a dielectric strength of 6.5 kV. It uses a silicone adhesive to ensure the strongest stick. The adhesive strength comes in around 6N.
Polyimide films have a great shelf life. They last about 36 months after the date of manufacture when stored properly.
WHY IS POLYIMIDE TAPE SO EFFECTIVE?
Polyimide tapes are chemical-resistant, heat-resistant, flexible, and have high tensile strength. There are very few other substances that resist heat and polyimides.
Polyimide is popular because it comes in so many forms. Polyimides can be metalized, laminated, and can even be punch formed. That means you can make them into any shape you desire, increasing polyamide’s functionality across industries.
While polyimide is a powerful heat resistor, it can still burn. However, polyimide is self-extinguishing, making it even more desirable for specific industries. If polyimide catches fire, it quickly extinguishes itself, leaving only the surface level of the tape charred and making it safer than some alternatives.
WHY NOT USE POLYIMIDES IN EVERY INDUSTRY?
Considering how heat-resistant polyimide is, you might wonder why it isn't more prominent in even more industries or why houses and furniture aren't made from polyimides.
Simply put, polyimides are too expensive to use in everyday production. You would need many polyimides to effectively build a house or piece of furniture out of it, and the costs would climb incredibly high, making it unaffordable for everyday use.
What Is Kapton Tape?
Kapton tape is a type of polyimide tape developed by DuPont in the 1960s, around the time other polyimide tapes began gaining popularity.
As a type of polyimide tape, Kapton tape is heat and chemical resistant, strong, and available in very thin sheets. On top of that, it provides electrical insulation and has a low outgassing rate, making it great for high-vacuum applications.
WHAT MAKES KAPTON TAPE UNIQUE?
Like other polyimide tapes, Kapton tape is used for insulation, chemical resistance, and heat control, but other factors also make it unique.
Kapton tape has strong hydrogen bonds to the polar solvents from its manufacturing. These bonds are made at temperatures as high as 300°C, preparing the final product for high temperatures when applied.
In addition, Kapton polyimide film has excellent adhesion properties and leaves nothing behind when peeled off. It’s tough to puncture and can stick to challenging surfaces that other tapes and adhesives simply can't. Very little pressure is needed for a good stick, making the applicator's job much more manageable.
HOW HEAT RESISTANT IS KAPTON TAPE?
Kapton tape is one of the most heat-resistant tapes out there. But what’s the exact temperature range of its capabilities?
It's recommended that Kapton tape is used in temperatures ranging from -75°C to +260°C. However, Kapton tape has been tested and found to work under much more extreme temperatures. Kapton tape can be used in temperatures as low as -196°C to as high as 400°C!
Although Kapton tape can be used in these extreme temperatures, it's best to follow the material supplier's and manufacturer's recommendations. Even if unlikely, there’s always a chance of failure.
HOW CHEMICALLY RESISTANT IS KAPTON TAPE?
Whereas other insulators and tapes will dissolve and become useless when exposed to certain chemicals, Kapton tape won't. Kapton tape is very resistant to many oil, solvents, and acids. Its adhesiveness and insulating properties will not be affected when exposed to chemicals.
IS KAPTON TAPE CONDUCTIVE?
The conductivity of Kapton tape depends on the type and thickness. However, some Kapton tape can be used as thermally conductive polyimide film despite its insulating properties and excellent dielectric resistance.
Kapton Polyimide Tape: What is it Used For?
We've touched on a few industries where Kapton tape is applicable, but looking at the more specific uses will give you a clear idea of how it’s used. Here's a more in-depth look at the industries that use Kapton and other polyimide tapes.
Double sided Kapton tape is commonly used in commercial and military aircraft manufacturing.
The aircraft industry chooses Kapton tape for its strength, heat resistance, and weight. It's essential to keep building materials as light as possible when making an aircraft, and Kapton doesn't add much extra weight to the aircraft.
Polyimide tape is used in spaceships and satellites to keep certain systems running at a consistent temperature.
The New Horizons spacecraft, for example, used Kapton to keep it between 10°C and 30°C. The ship could travel more than 3 billion miles (i.e., to Pluto) thanks to Kapton, which ensures the electronic temperatures don't spike or lower, allowing the vessel to run without worry.
In an aluminized form, Kapton makes up the sunshield of the James Webb Space Telescope. However, many car manufacturers also use Kapton tape for insulation and general heat resistance.
Polyimide tape is used to wrap sensors, coils, diaphragms, and switches in seat heaters, ensuring the seat heaters stay at a set temperature and do not result in fires.
Kapton tape is also used all across electrical work, primarily as insulation. This includes capacitor and transformer insulation, coil insulation, and magnetic wire insulation. Kapton tape is also used during powder coatings as a temperature mask.
Anti-static polyimide tape is frequently used, as well. It's used in circuit board construction and other applications that produce abundant static electricity.
When a printing object moves around, it can lead to unsuccessful and deformed 3D prints. Kapton tape is used to 3D print objects by laying it out over the printing surface of the 3D printer to ensure the printed object doesn't shift around during the process.
Kapton and ABS, the material used in 3D printing, adhere together unlike anything else, making Kapton tape valuable for 3D printer manufacturing purposes.
Lastly, Kapton is frequently used for the window of X-ray machines.
Kapton experiences very low degradation from the effects of radiation. It can resist the high heat of the X-rays while allowing them to transmit. As a result, Kapton can be used in X-ray tubes and synchrotron light lines.
Where Can I Get Kapton Tape?
Finding Kapton tape is a matter of what you’re looking for.
It might be worth contacting a supplier if you’re searching for generic rolls to cut and apply by hand.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for cut pieces, customized lengths, or adhesively laminated Kapton tape, you’ll want to seek a manufacturer or adhesive converter who provides flexible material cutting services.
Manufacturers like Strouse will provide you with polyimide tape in just about any format you desire. This mostly applies to those who want their Kapton tape to be custom-fitted. Otherwise, you might choose to seek out a flexible material supplier directly.
If you’re interested in learning more about Kapton polyimide tape, you can find more information and specific tapes listed above. Otherwise, there’s info about insulating adhesives and material selection guides in our Learning Center.
Originally published: January 13, 2021