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Planning The Right Adhesive Product For The Right Job

With every job that you prepare, one must consider which adhesive best matches the application. You should not only consider the substrate, but also your reputation as a sign professional.

By Chris Black

Providing a quality adhesive can make or break a project. Consider this: a sign will not be effective if it falls from its intended position where no one can view it. If the tape you choose is to blame, guess who won't be coming to place their next order with you.

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  • When you purchase a tape product does your supplier assist you in your selection or does the sales representative just take your order? Do you always feel confident in the tape you choose? Asking questions about the tapes you buy will enable you to know exactly the kind of tape you are purchasing. This article will outline some of the information you need to better understand adhesives, substrates, and application tips.

    With Quality Comes Confidence

    Many users are easily fooled by the “Tacky Test.” This test takes place every time you peel the backing and touch the adhesive material. Did you know that the “Tacky Test” is an inaccurate means for knowing the actual strength of an adhesive? Laboratory tests have proven that the initial stick of rubber adhesives is as strong as this bond will become. It will only degrade from that point, due to weathering, stress from substrate weight and other circumstances. Other adhesives, such as acrylic adhesives, require a curing time to allow for the adhesive to completely set. In this example, after an acrylic tape is applied, the bond continues to get stronger during the first twenty-four hours.

    Unfortunately, long-term results can only be proven during usage or testing. That is why it is important that you listen to your supplier, understand which tapes work best with your applications, and never look for a “One-Tape-Fits-All” solution. It is also recommended that you test an adhesive on a new application prior to sending the completed project out the door.

    Qualifying an Adhesive to Every Substrate

    1. Know Your Substrates

    With almost any project, you will have at least two substrates. Each substrate has its own particular characteristics. Material type, surface texture, and weight of the substrate must be considered when choosing your adhesive. While weight and texture characteristics are usually fairly simple to overcome, material characteristics can cause confusion. Some plastics, for example, contain plasticizers that can break down the adhesive properties, causing failure over a period of time.

    2. Product Placement Environment

    It is crucial that you ask clients where a product will be displayed after it leaves your shop. While indoor usage will be the most common and indoor tapes will be less costly, fluctuations in climate such as humidity level, moisture, and extreme cold and hot temperatures can destroy most indoor tapes quickly. Tape manufacturers have taken this into account by producing tapes made specifically for outdoor environments. Naturally, these extreme condition tapes sell for a higher price. When you know the product placement in advance, you can warn customers about the cost of the adhesives that you will need to use to offer the best adhesive match for their request.

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    3. Type of Bond/Duration

    While most products require permanent adhesives, some applications only call for quick removal & replacement or temporary display. You must choose the tape for temporary or permanent placement as required.

    Proper Usage of Adhesive Products

    Once you know the necessary substrates, location environment, and duration of application, it is finally time to start sticking things together. Right? Well, actually… No! It is time to prepare the substrates for application. Many manufacturers recommend that all substrates be completely cleaned of residue and foreign materials on the surface of the substrate. Rubbing alcohol is the cleanser of choice because it will not leave any residual chemical or polishing compound. You want each substrate to obtain total contact with the adhesive.

    The amount of tape used with respect to the surface area of the substrate is called “coverage”. Coverage area may vary based upon the adhesion strength offered by different types of tapes. The weight, or shear stress, created by one substrate upon the adhesive will greatly influence the adhesive’s ability to hold over a given time period. The strength of an adhesive product can only be determined by evaluating the adhesive type and thickness, as well as the amount of adhesive used (i.e. “coverage”). A good rule is to always check with the suppliers of your adhesives and substrates for suggestions. Once again, perform tests on all new applications so that you are satisfied with the results. As time passes, your experience and knowledge will assist you in matching the best adhesive to your application.


    I hope that this brief article will help you understand the importance of choosing the proper adhesives, understanding tapes and proper application of adhesives. Just like a fisherman taking the wrong bait on his fishing trip and never getting a nibble, the intention of this article is to educate the readers of on the importance of preparation to avoid embarrassment or disappointment. I welcome all questions concerning this article. Your questions and experiences may help others down the road.

    Chris Black is the Director of Marketing for The Source, a distributor of a wide selection of adhesive products available to the sign industry. For more information you may contact Chris Black at:

    The Source
    800-433-2375 phone
    800-984-3299 fax

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