Everything You Need to Know about Adhesive Converting

Your Guide to Foam Gaskets and Foam Gasket Tape

Posted by Sue Chambers May 8, 2020 12:00:33 PM

Any time a mechanism requires superior barrier and bonding features, gaskets are ideal. However, these handy devices are far from one-size-fits-all.

While many gaskets are comprised of flat materials such as paper, rubber, metal, silicone, felt, and neoprene, foam delivers impressive sealing capabilities that are important to know.

Today, we're taking a closer look at how foam gaskets work. We'll also share the details behind foam gasket tape and how it's applied. Read on to discover more about how these products are working together to change the gasketing industry for the better. 

What Are Foam Gaskets?

Foam is a well-loved material in the industrial manufacturing world, heralded for its features and functionalities. Specifically, the expansion properties it possesses make it ideal for a range of applications, including: 

  • Gasketing
  • Sealing
  • Cushioning
  • Mounting 
  • Insulating

You'll find foam used heavily in almost every mechanical or industrial industry, from the appliance and automotive niches to the medical and lighting sectors. 

Foam gaskets, in particular, are used between two hard surfaces to improve the characteristics of a given mechanism. Manufacturers rely on them to perform the following functions, among others:

  • Insulation
  • Cushioning
  • Weather Resistance
  • Noise reduction
  • Electrical absorption
  • Fluid restriction

Open Cell vs. Closed Cell Foam Gaskets

When considering which type of foam gasket is best for your application, it's important to know the difference between open cell and closed cell varieties.

In short, open cell foam gaskets are primarily used in applications where shock or vibration is present and reduction is required. Conversely, closed cell foam gaskets are normally used in applications susceptible to outdoor conditions. In this case, environmental sealing is required to protect the mechanism from the elements. 

Different Types of Foam Gasket Materials

You can find foam materials that possess a broad range of specifications in terms of hardness, thicknesses, hardness, density, and color. Not sure which kind you need? Next, let's take a look at a few of the most potential materials you can choose from when selecting your gaskets.

Silicone Foam

A silicone foam gasket begins as a low-viscosity liquid silicone. From there, manufacturers cast it on a liner and cure it through an inline oven. You can find silicone foam as a closed cell or open cell material. It's also available as a combination of both. 

Lightweight in density with optimal flame resistance, silicone foam also boasts a lower compression set than a typical silicone sponge. A few of the ways you can use this type of foam gasket include:

  • Within outdoor sealing enclosures
  • Within certain lighting enclosures
  • To protect devices against vibration
  • To protect and seal communications and electronics equipment
  • To protect devices from shock and heat

Regardless of the application you choose, these materials can come equipped with a high-temperature acrylic adhesive. They're also available in custom, die-cut designs. 

Polyurethane Foam

Polyurethane foam is open cell and flexible. More cost-effective than other materials on this list, it's also a cinch to cut. Its durability and design make it appropriate for a range of applications, including:

  • Dust and moisture sealing
  • Component cushioning
  • Thermal insulation
  • Acoustic insulation

You can find polyurethane foam in both fire retardant and anti-static forms. While it's normally available as a light, charcoal gray you can also request custom colors to fit your application. You can also affix pressure-sensitive adhesive backing and other special coatings onto these gaskets as required. 

Polyethylene Foam

Foam gaskets are also available in polyethylene form. While all polyethylene is closed cell, this foam is usually available in two configurations:

  • Expanded polyethylene foam
  • Cross-linked polyethylene foam

The expanded model is strong and resistant, acting as a formidable foe against both chemicals and grease. Naturally resistant to mold and mildew, it's used in a range of packaging applications. It's also vibration-resistant. 

The cross-linked model features polyethylene foam that has been chemically cross-linked.

Compared to traditional polyethylene foam, this type of material has a smoother, more uniform finish. It also has stronger physical and chemical properties. Gaskets made with cross-linked foam possess excellent mechanical and thermal insulation, as well as chemical resistance. 

You can find polyethylene foam in conductive, anti-static, and fire retardant forms. While it's usually available in black and white, custom colors are available. 

Urethane Foam

Urethane foam is a low-density and open cell material. It offers excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, as well as sealing, vibration resistance, energy absorption, and sound dampening. Due to their high level of resilience, these gasket seals will not break down as much over time.

This material is flexible and easy to fabricate and die cut. You'll most commonly find it in applications that undergo a substantial amount of wear and tear, including:

  • Automobiles
  • Appliances
  • Electronics
  • Industrial devices

Neoprene Foam

Closed cell neoprene foam is highly versatile. It tends to have a lower density than other materials, along with improved water absorption properties. This type of foam is soft, durable, and form-fitting.

As such, it's commonly used in applications that require strong thermal and moisture insulation.

What is Foam Tape?

Gasketing materials aren't required to be in traditional sheet form.

In many cases, narrow sealing tape is better suited for the application at hand. Just like a weatherstripping tape can help keep the heat and chill out of your home, foam tape can keep unwanted substances out of a given device or piece of equipment. 

You can use foam tape to create both permanent and removable bonds.

The former allows the tape to serve as an ideal alternative to metal screws and rivets. When you use tape instead of these mechanical fasteners, you can better distribute the stress load across the entire length of the tape, rather than concentrating it on the individual fastener. Foam tape is also lighter than those tools and less prone to age-related failure.

If you opt for removable foam tape, this resource can be used to temporarily mount or display an item that you intend to remove or reposition later. 

Gasketing With Foam Tape

In terms of gasketing, foam tape more than delivers.

You can find tape varieties in the same materials as described above for traditional gaskets. In most cases, the foam adhesive itself available as either an acrylic-based or rubber-based solution. The carrier material can be any of the following, among others:

  • Polyethylene
  • Polypropylene
  • Urethane
  • Polyester
  • Acrylic
  • Sponge rubber
  • Vinyl

Common Applications of Foam Tape

Increasingly, foam tape is being used as a go-to gasketing material, used to create strong bonds and attachments in a variety of industries. Let's review a few of its most common applications.

Medical Industry

Manufacturers in the medical industry use foam gaskets to bond devices together within medical components. In addition, they also use foam tapes to secure protective, cushioned dressings to skin.

Electronics Industry

As LCD and touchscreens continue to proliferate the electronics industry, many manufacturers in this space are turning to foam tape to ensure components are reliable and protected. Foam is essential when bonding assemblies and attaching components together. 

Automotive Industry

Automotive manufacturers use foam tape to attach sidewall panels to heavy-duty automobiles that see a significant amount of wear and require durability, including:

  • Commercial vehicles
  • Public service vehicles
  • Truck bodies

The Power of Very High Bond (VHB) Foam Tape

The acronym VHB stands for Very High Bond. The double-sided VHB adhesive foam tape provided by 3M is a top seller, noted as a standout in the brand's vast line of pressure-sensitive adhesive products. 

This type of closed cell foam can provide both permanent and temporary bonding and makes an excellent gasketing material. It's ideal in applications that require permanent substrate bonding where traditional fasteners aren't preferred due to the stress points that puncturing would create.

In all, the family of 3M VHB foam tape offers a greater degree of durability and elasticity compared with other, similar double-sided foam tape options. It also resists sealants and saltwater, ensuring top sealing and bonding capability in even the most extreme weather conditions. 

Though it's used in a variety of settings from the healthcare field to the construction sector, 3M VHB foam tape is especially helpful in the electronics industry. This is because the tape can seal out moisture effectively and helps prevent galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metal surfaces. 

Looking to use this rigid and durable foam tape in your application? We can customize and convert it to produce an accurate finished part that complies with the most rigid tolerance standards. Due to its conformable nature, we can even apply it to curvatures and irregular surfaces that other tape could not support.

How to Select the Right Foam Gasket For Your Needs

You know that you need the flexibility and durability of a foam gasket, but with so many options at your fingertips, you're unsure where to turn. This is where it helps to understand the characteristics you require from your gasketing material.

1. Determine Your Required Application and Function 

Understanding that a gasket is designed to provide a seal of gas or liquid, how do you intend to use yours? The answer can at least help you narrow your options to either open cell or closed cell foam.

Are you looking for a gasket that will keep its shape, even after constant use? Moreover, do you want a component that can serve as a powerful and effective barrier against wind, dust, and debris? In this case, an open cell foam gasket is a smart place to start.

On the other hand, closed cell foam gaskets are ideal when strength and moisture resistance are your top concerns. 

2. Understand the Application Parameters

To create a robust seal, you need to know the various factors that the gasket will be required to stand up against. A few of the most common data points to know include:

  • Operating temperature
  • Internal pressure
  • UV and ozone exposure
  • Media (the fluid or gas that the gasket will be exposed to)

In addition, there might be other, industry-specific parameters that will help guide you toward a certain type of foam gasket. For instance, automotive, aerospace, and industrial manufacturers may need to take into account EMI (electromagnetic interference) standards.

At the same time, food and beverage (F&B) manufacturers might be more concerned that the gasket complies with regulations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NSF (National Sanitary Foundation), or WRAS (Water Regulations Advisory Scheme).

3. Get the Right Size and Shape

Of course, any time you require a gasket for your application, it's essential to select the correct size and shape required. You'll find a large selection of components in various dimensions.

To ensure that your machine operates at peak efficiency and the gasket creates a fully operational seal, you can't afford to under or over-measure. It's worth taking the time to get this aspect right, as it will determine the performance of the equipment as a whole. 

Need a specific length or size of foam tape for your application?

At Strouse, we can cut acrylic tape and foam tape using flat bed or rotary die cut methods. This allows us to create custom sizes, shapes, and formats as required. We offer an innovative and diverse manufacturing capability that's able to create the exact gasket you require.

Shop Our Selection of Foam Gaskets and Foam Tape

Whether you need a foam gasket or sleek and flexible foam tape, we have the product you're looking for. At Strouse, we've built a reputation as the go-to leader in adhesive solutions.

Feel free to browse our extensive inventory, which spans from adhesive films to surface protection. We have access to the cutting-edge technologies, experienced workforce, and partner relationships that make us the best in the business. Contact us today to request a quote for your next project!

Sue Chambers

Written by Sue Chambers

President and CEO of Strouse