How do you join two objects that can survive water damage, solvents, temperature extremes, and UV Light?
Permanent adhesion projects take on various formats and requirements. Yet, regardless of how well the surfaces match or mismatch, they must be bonded to hold for the long term so they don’t fall apart.
Strouse is steadfast in our commitment to helping customers discover the right material, and when VHB gets the job done, we dedicate ourselves to finding the best version for each project.
When you’re wondering which kind of VHB tapes work best for your application, this guide will demonstrate different options and how to match them to specific use cases.
3M VHB Double Sided Tape Products
3M VHB Tapes are double sided foam tapes that can contour to the shape of an object and seal for the long term. Made from high-performance acrylic adhesives, VHB tapes are often easy to work with and built to last.
The strength and durability of 3M VHB tapes come from their technology because their peel adhesion and tensile holding power are significantly higher than typical pressure-sensitive tapes. This cutting-edge formula allows for even greater flexibility than conventional double sided tapes.
One of the primary features of 3M VHB double sided tape is the variety of core constructions and adhesives. VHB tape is a resilient bonding solution for many different materials, and thousands of visible fasteners have been replaced with high-strength, double sided acrylic foam tapes that build strength over time.
UNIQUE BONDING TECHNOLOGY
The adhesive bond strength of VHB tape enables it to resist environmental elements. This technology can survive water damage, temperature extremes, and the effects of UV Light.
The powerful and durable bond also allows VHB tape to replace different mechanical fasteners. The acrylic core of the tape functions with an array of materials that allow the tape to behave like both a viscous liquid and an elastic solid.
The combination of viscous and elastic behavior is called viscoelasticity, and it’s an essential component for many tape applications.
The “visco” from viscous allows the adhesive to flow into the irregular portions of a surface to form a strong bond, while its “elasticity” empowers the tapes to absorb dynamic loads. Viscoelasticity accommodates the differential expansion between surfaces and distributes the load over the broadest area.
Tapes with high viscoelasticity can create more powerful adhesive bonds with a more consistent and sustainable ability to withstand stressful forces.
What are the Benefits of Using 3M VHB Tape Products?
Firstly, using 3M VHB tape allows for a clean ease of application. VHB application doesn’t require messier processes like drilling holes or dripping glue, so there’s no clean-up afterward.
3M VHB tape is also strong enough to use in place of rivets and small welds. You can apply it instead of unsightly spot welds, screw heads, or scratched nuts and bolts.
Another benefit of using 3M VHB tape is that you can apply it to glass, metals, wood, composites, and many plastics, depending on the adhesive.
Most VHB tapes adjust to the thermal expansion and contraction of the bonded parts. When stress is applied, the thin tape distributes the pressure evenly. Depending on the type of 3M VHB tape you use, it can significantly reduce vibrations and related noises.
Depending on the product, VHB elastic properties remain between -40°C and 90°C. With the ability to resist solvents and saltwater, this tape seals and bonds in all adverse and extreme environments.
LONG-TERM PROJECT SUCCESS
The history of VHB gives credence to its long-term aging resistance in demanding applications. The 3M VHB tape has a long history of success, dating back to the 1980s when much of the tape’s use was in construction, transportation, and signage.
In 1987, 3M VHB tape was used on the exterior cladding panels of a building in Newmarket, Auckland. The application was quick, leaving no mess behind. The durable acrylic chemistry of the VHB continued to hold steadily for an entire generation.
Adhesive durability depends on any project's specific application and working conditions. However, UV light has no significant effect on the VHB bond, nor do harsh environments negatively impact the tape.
In the past, several VHB testing areas were established to measure specific points of concern. The examples below have been tested and measured to validate the 3M VHB tape’s long-term durability.
Outdoor Weather Resistance
In Florida, 3M uses outdoor weathering decks to measure the impact of hot, moist air and high UV light on the bonds. Tape specialists use Arizona’s climate to measure extreme heat and high UV light.
The outcome over the long-term of these test areas shows retention of 100% bond strength after 2-5 years. In tangent to these examples, numerous other global locations are also used to capture various data points based on climate.
Fatigue and Vibration Testing
Bendix Automotive Proving Ground in Indiana was chosen to test fatigue and vibration measurements. A semi-truck with a sleeper cab was built with all exterior panels and doors taped to an underlying frame using 4950 VHB. The truck was driven 500,00km on the harsh durability track.
The VHB tape’s results against fatigue and vibration turned out better than some of the mechanical and weld parts. While the tape bonds were 100% intact, several of the welds and bolts, which were previously not being measured, failed and had to be rebuilt during the tests.
Solvent and Moisture Testing
3M VHB tape continues to prove itself as a seal against moisture and has also proven to prevent corrosion between dissimilar metals.
The splash tests that established these resistances included water, petrol, white spirits, motor oil, ammonia cleaner, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and isopropyl alcohol. Laboratory tests have also pitted tape bonds against saltwater. Ten years after submerging bonds in saltwater, the tests have shown no degradation.
The general 3M VHB tape application temperature range is 20ºC - 40ºC. However, each type has its own specifications based on testing and material composition.
These are the minimum application surface temperatures for 3M VHB tapes:
- 16°C: 4936, 4941, 4945, 4991
- 10°C: 4611, 4618, 4622, 4624, 4905, 4910, 4915, 4918, 4930, 4950, 4959, 5925, 5952, 5962, 9473
- 0°C: 4951, 4957 (high surface energy substrates only)
After securing the application, the lowest holding temperature can be -40°C.
If the tape is required to perform in highly frigid weather, you can review the technical bulletin “3M™ VHB™ Tape Cold Temperature Performance” (70-0707-3991-0) for additional information.
VHB Shelf Life
Tape stored on the shelf under cool and dry conditions is rated for a shelf-life of 24 months from its manufactured date.
The general ideal storage condition is 20°C with 50% relative humidity, but each VHB tape’s adhesive shelf life and ideal storage conditions in its uncut form can be found at the bottom of the product page.
When you’re working on a long-term project or using complex materials, you’ll want to plan with your converter to ensure the timeline considers the potential tape expiration date when placing your material order.
Which 3M VHB Tapes Should You Consider?
Several families of tapes are available within the 3M VHB tape products, each with its design considerations and properties. This list contains far from all 3M VHB tape options, but it might provide a starting point to consider your application and bonding materials.
The following samples will clarify the types of elements available for consideration in the decision-making process before purchase.
1. 3M VHB TAPE 5952 SUMMARY
Tape 5952 was manufactured following ISO 9001 standards. This black double-coated acrylic foam tape is thick at 0.045 in. (1.1 mm). The tape bonds to high, medium, and medium/low surface energy substrates.
The tape bonds to the following metals: aluminum, stainless steel, copper, zinc, tin, lead, and anodized aluminum. It also adheres to glass and numerous plastics and paints. This list includes powder paints.
There are charts available that cover the specific list of plastics. Each substrate is categorized within the chart by a high to low surface energy for adhesion purposes.
This family of 5952 tapes has conformable foam to make good contact between slightly mismatched substrates. Each product in this family of tapes has modified acrylic adhesive but varies in thickness, color, and liner type.
2. 3M VHB TAPE 4959 SUMMARY
Tape 4959 belongs to the 4950 family of tapes. The 4959 is ideal for attaching logos to appliances, decorative material, trim, nameplates and logos, electronic displays, panel frames, and can be used as a panel stiffener.
The white tape is 0.120 in. (3.0 mm), general-purpose adhesive. It has a firm acrylic foam core with a balance of strength and conformability. The tape consists of a durable acrylic adhesive with viscoelastic properties. The product is double sided foam tape.
3. 3M VHB TAPE 4611 SUMMARY
Tape 4611 belongs to the 4611 family of tapes. This dark gray tape is 0.045 in. (1.1 mil) and has high-temperature resistance. The tape is often used on metal substrates such as aluminum, galvanized steel, and stainless steel.
VHB 4611 is used for assembly before high-temperature paint ovens. Its thinner, lighter weight makes it ideal for dissimilar, decorative, and trim materials. It also has the strength to act as a stiffener or attach panels, nameplates, and logos.
4. 3M VHB TAPE 4950 SUMMARY
The 4950 belongs to the 4950 family of tapes. This white tape is 0.045 in. (1.1 mm) and features a sensitive adhesive that bonds on contact to provide immediate handling strength. This thin, general-purpose adhesive has a firm acrylic foam core. It keeps the surface smooth and is virtually invisible.
Applications can include decorative material and trim, nameplates and logos, panel to the frame, and stiffener to the panel.
5. 3M VHB TAPE - SPECIALTY TAPE 4910 SUMMARY
The 4910 tape belongs to the 4910 family of tapes. The clear tape is 0.040 in. (1.0 mm) and features a clear acrylic core. This family of tapes bonds well to high surface energy materials. Bonding in severe cold temperatures is challenging and must be evaluated by the user.
How Can You Choose the Right 3M VHB Tape?
Depending on the intended solution, people use different VHB tapes to combine certain surfaces.
Some VHB tapes are built for general purposes, while others have special features for specific solutions. These tapes are available for situations with high dynamic stress, applications to paints and plastics or plasticized vinyl, and conditions that require transparent tape.
Special tapes are available for work situations where the tape is used at 0° to 10°C, and there are special tapes for parts that withstand higher temperatures or are bonded before powder coating.
General-purpose tapes are ideal for interior and exterior industrial applications. Tapes with softer cores are well-suited for textured surfaces, and the general-purpose tapes work well when sealing is required.
FINDING THE RIGHT TAPE FOR THE RIGHT JOB
With so many VHB options available, searching for a material that suits your application can be intimidating. We’ve broken down some of your options into specific use cases.
When bonding paints and plastics, use VHB tapes 4941, 4991, 5925, 5952, 5962, or 4945. When connecting to dissimilar materials, the liner side of VHB tapes 4618, 4622, and 4624 has good adhesion to paints and plastics.
For surfaces with texture needing a more solid bond, use VHB tapes or 4941 or 4991.
For flexible vinyl, use only plasticizer resistant 4941, 4945, or 4991. When bonding to unlike materials, the liner side of 4618, 4622, and 4624 is also plasticizer resistant to vinyl.
CHOOSING BASED ON ADHESIVE ABILITIES
The most essential factor in choosing a tape is whether it can stick to your desired material.
All 3M VHB tapes adhere well to glass, metals, and high surface energy plastics, including acrylic, ABS, polycarbonate, PVC, polyester, Polyamide, Polyimide, Phenolic, and Noryl. Low surface energy plastics like PVA, EVA, polystyrene, acetal, and some paint, may require priming with 3M Tape Primer 94 or 3M VHB LSE.
Some surfaces require a level of abrasion. An abrasive surface begins with removing dirt or oxide from metals or paints. Next, you’d use palm or dual action sanders to create a finely abraded surface (approximately 180 to 320 grit scratch) to help adhesion.
CONSIDERING TAPE THICKNESS
The more precise the surfaces of the two materials being joined, the thinner the tape can be. The more mismatched or textured, the thicker the tape must be. The thickness should be up to 50% of the mismatch on an excellent bond.
When bonding large pieces of material, the material should be at most 2X the thickness of the tape. In other words, a 1.0 mm tape can bond a sheet of 2.0mm material.
The tape thickness to cover thermal expansion and contraction in a joint should be at most 3X the tape thickness. For instance, a 2.4 mm plastic sheet can be bonded to a metal using 1.1mm thick tape.
PLANNING TO USE THE CORRECT AMOUNT
If you plan the correct amount of adhesive per application by partnering with a converter to create precise strips or measuring out your material, you’ll end up with minimal waste and reduce the number of urgent re-orders.
For instance, when hanging a sign or a panel (about 1 kg) to a wall, the general amount of tape needed for safety is 430 mm for 12.7 mm wide tape, 290 mm for 19.0 mm wide tape, and 215 mm for 25.4 mm tape.
The amount of tape may vary from project to project based on the selected tape specifications. Still, when the material cost is planned and documented, you can use your current expenses to predict future growth.
What are the Different VHB Tapes Used For?
Numerous types of 3M VHB tapes are available to support each industry.
For example, many types of VHB adhesive are used within the automotive industry, including double sided tape and specific tapes for use with commercial vehicles. In addition, applications determine which tapes can be used.
There are tapes designed for high or low-temperature situations and tapes intended for instances of weatherproofing or waterproofing. Other VHB tapes are designed to pass significant strength tests. Some tapes will show 90% of their strength within seconds of application, and others will increase their strength over 72 hours.
All 3M VHB tape families offer specifications (datasheets) to review for your project before purchase. Many also include information on specific applications, yet, the number of applications grows faster than the lists can be updated.
Where Do You Find VHB Tape?
Whether replacing a fastener or bonding dissimilar and mismatched materials, there’s a tape solution for you. Regardless of your project's conditions, you can choose a tape uniquely designed to facilitate your needs. However, finding VHB tape depends on your application plans.
If you plan on ordering rolls of material and using them as they come, you might order them from 3M. Yet, if you have a design or a length in mind, are interested in automation, or plan on ordering tape rolls of specific sizes and specifications, you’ll want to order through a manufacturer to get the best possible cost with your project quantities.
Are you seeking a particular VHB tape size or specification for your product? Ask for a part evaluation or contact Strouse to figure out which ordering process makes the most sense for your project:
3M VHB tapes have maintained consistency from design to construction for an entire generation. Thousands of visible fasteners have been replaced with high-strength, double sided acrylic foam tapes that build strength over time. When you’re looking for a sturdy solution, consider collaborating to find a VHB tape that’s easily processable and suits the specifications of your project.
Originally published: April 7, 2021