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By Bob Lesher on  10/4/2022

6 (More) Benefits of Adhesive Tapes Over Liquid Adhesives

Matt Damon Playing Mark Watney in The Martian - Using Duct Tape to Repair His Space Helmet

Are Pressure-Sensitive Tapes Better than Liquid Adhesives?

You've probably got a pretty good idea why pressure sensitive adhesive tapes can often be the better choice compared to liquid adhesives, but did you know there are even more ways that pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) tape can come out on top?

Don't misinterpret, we're not saying there's anything wrong with liquid adhesives. When used correctly, most glues can even be robust, versatile, and durable adhesive options. They've been around for 200,000 years for a reason. In quite a few cases, though, tapes are just better.

Building on the overwhelmingly positive industry response to our previous post on tapes vs. liquid adhesives, we've decided to expand upon it. Here are a few more benefits adhesive tapes can have over liquid adhesives. After a quick review of the basics, we'll dive right in.

Table of Contents

  1. A Bit of Clarification—Tape, PSA, Adhesive, and Glue
    1. "Tape" vs. "Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Tape"
    2. Liquid Adhesive (AKA: Glue/Rubber Cement/Paste/Mucilage)
  2. Material Converters Love Adhesive Tape
  3. PSA Tapes Last Longer
  4. Adhesive Tapes Don't Stink
  5. Adhesive Tapes Bond Faster
  6. PSA Tapes are More Environmentally Friendly
  7. Pressure-Sensitive Tapes Work Better in Space

JBC Technologies – Precision Die-Cutting of Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Solutions

A Bit of Clarification — Tape, PSA, Adhesive, and Glue

Speaking of adhesive tapes and liquid glues, sometimes we're guilty of using various terms interchangeably, often not considering the confusion this may cause. What do we mean when we use "tape" or "glue," and how does this generally apply to the world of custom-converted solutions and adhesive applications?

To avoid getting turned around with liquid adhesive and PSA nomenclature, some clarifying definitions and supporting information should help keep us focused.

"Tape" vs. "Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Tape"

At JBC Technologies, typically, when we use the generic term "tape," we're referring to pressure-sensitive adhesive tape. Often we'll use these two terms interchangeably.

Here's a good working definition:

"Pressure sensitive tape, PSA tape, self-stick tape, or sticky tape consists of a pressure sensitive adhesive coated onto a backing material such as paper, plastic film, cloth, or metal foil.

It is sticky (tacky) without any heat or solvent for activation and adheres with light pressure. These tapes usually require a release agent on their backing or a release liner to cover the adhesive. Sometimes, the term "adhesive tape" is used for these tapes." - Wikipedia

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Liquid Adhesive (AKA: Glue/Rubber Cement/Paste/Mucilage)

When you see the term liquid adhesive, it's best to envision Elmer's Glue. Therefore, a liquid adhesive is the active components (sticky stuff, additives, etc.) dissolved in some liquid carrier (the solvent). Elmer's glue uses water as the solvent, whereas other adhesives use solvents like toluene or methylene chloride

Liquid adhesives are a complex subject and come in many varieties — one and two components, reactive and non-reactive, solvent and water-based, epoxies, silicones, and the list goes on and on. If you're so inclined, here's a great page from 3M, all about liquid adhesive chemistries.

Again, to keep it simple. When we say liquid adhesives, we mean any adhesive that's in liquid form when applied and requires some kind of curing mechanism (time or heat or both) to develop bond strength.

And on the heels of that "tacky primer," here are six more reasons we think pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes might just win you over.

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1. Material Converters Love Adhesive Tape

OK, we're biased. JBC Technologies is a large-scale specialty converter and precision die-cutter. This means we take large rolls of different adhesive tape and transform or convert them into something else. Usually, this means we laminate the pressure-sensitive adhesive to the back of another material (like foam or light-gauge aluminum foil) and then die-cut parts out of it that have adhesive backings.

Here's the LSS - Adhesive tapes can be die-cut to just about any size or geometry. Double-sided adhesive tape can also laminate different materials together to create multi-material stacks.

Additional Reading: A Q&A with Avery Dennison - Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Tapes for Die-Cut Parts

2. PSA Tapes Last Longer

One of the biggest challenges with liquid adhesives is that they tend to “expire” faster than their tape counterparts, often because they break down during storage when exposed to UV light or dry out in the air as their liquid solvents evaporate.

With pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes, there’s no need for special storage considerations like flammability cabinets or airtight lockers. Most rolls of tape can be stacked and stored on a warehouse shelf without special consideration so long as they’re kept inside, out of the sun, and away from moisture.

Additional Reading:When Are Tapes Too Old for Processing? Why Viable Shelf Life Matters. | Gasket Fabricators Association

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3. Adhesive Tapes Don't Stink

Using liquid adhesives can stink. Why? In a word — solvents. Liquid adhesives use a variety of solvents, all meant to keep them from curing in the bottle/drum.

Some of the more volatile of these solvents are very odiferous, and workers dislike being around them. Sometimes adhesives even require the use of special respirators when they are being applied.

Adhesive tapes mean no solvents, making them more user-friendly and less nasally challenging.

Additional Reading:The Scent of Adhesives -

4. Adhesive Tapes Bond Faster

With many pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes, bond strength is immediate. Peel, stick, and press. The bond strength of a tape results from the physical interaction between the adhesive layer of the tape and the substrate to which it is being applied.

Liquid adhesives, on the other hand, require extended wait times so that they can cure. This curing means that either the solvent has evaporated or that there has been some chemical reaction that has taken place. Sometimes an oven must be used to accelerate the evaporation of the adhesive solvent until the desired bond strength is achieved.

Additional Reading:Solving Dissimilar Materials Joining Challenges With Die Cut 3M™ VHB™ Tapes

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5. PSA Tapes are More Environmentally Friendly

One of the most significant sustainability challenges with liquid adhesives is their use of solvents. Most use VOCs (volatile organic solvents) that can evaporate and escape into the atmosphere (or workers' lungs), potentially harming the environment and people's health.

Pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes are essentially “solvent-free” when they arrive, ready to use. Industrial applications that use die-cut adhesive tapes also tend to waste less when compared to liquids, taking advantage of their cut-to-fit flexibility and making for less landfill.

Large tape manufacturers like tesa® and 3M™ are also making strides in solvent-free adhesive development and using recyclable/green backing and liner materials.

Additional Reading:A Joined-Up Approach to Adhesives and Sustainability | Berry Global News

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6. Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Tapes Work Better in Space

Have you ever tried to use liquid adhesive in space? Neither have we, but common sense has us looking at tapes for this application. And let's be honest with ourselves here, most glues don't seem like they'd work well in zero gravity anyway.

There's the minor annoyance of working in a vacuum, lack of an atmosphere to evenly spread heat, problems with dispensing, out-gassing of solvents, and the list goes on and on. But don't take our word for it...

"Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped." - Mark Watley, The Martian

Precision die-cut components made from adhesive tape make sense for space use. They can be presented in rolls, cut to shape, and, with no liquid solvents, are user-friendly repositionable, clean, and easy to use.

Essentially all adhesive requirements for use in zero gravity or onboard spacecraft are done with adhesive tapes. Ordinary duct tape has been used in space more than any other type of adhesive. It was even used to repair a fender on the Apollo 17 lunar rover.

Additional Reading:The Times Astronauts were Saved by Duct

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JBC Technologies – Precision Die Cutting of Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive Solutions

As a flexible materials converter, we work with hundreds of different types of pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes every year. JBC Technologies and our customers have come to rely on the quality, performance, and flexibility of adhesive tapes.

Suppose our customer’s custom solution requires adhesive tape. In that case, we can offer tapes from the industry’s leading manufacturers, a veritable list of who’s who from the adhesive tape industry – 3M™, Avery Dennison, Dermamed, tesa, Berry Global, mactac, and the Nitto Denko Corporation – to name-drop a few.

When it comes to providing adhesive solutions, we've got you covered.

Cover image, screen capture from The Martian ©20th Century Fox

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