Product Spotlight: 3M™ RP+ VHB Tape
Everything You Need to Know About 3M™ RP+ VHB Tape
The 3M™ RP family of tapes has been around for several years. However, the global supply chain challenges of the past few years have made sourcing the raw materials needed to produce RP tape difficult. To ensure consistent product availability for their customers, a new line of RP tape was created. In March 2022, 3M introduced the RP+ line of VHB tape.
We recently spoke with 3M Senior Application Engineer Reese Weber, and 3M Inside Converter Markets Specialist, Bridget Donoghue, to discuss the launch of the new RP+ family of VHB tapes and how they build upon the original RP Tapes to bring you the Right Product, Right Performance, and Right Price for your application.
Top Characteristics of RP+ VHB Tape
The RP+ family of tapes feature a multi-purpose acrylic adhesive with a conformable foam core. These double-sided foam tapes adhere to a variety of substrates including metals and medium to high surface energy plastics and metals. They can replace rivets, welds, screws, and liquid adhesives.
All 3M™ VHB tapes for industrial use have a 100% acrylic adhesive tape construction. Why is this important? Because acrylic adhesives are inherently UV stable, they can be outdoors and will build bond strength over time. In other words, the bond strength is only going to increase the longer it stays on a part. Additionally, since it is 100% acrylic throughout it can bond and seal at the same time which makes it a good option for waterproofing applications.
RP+ vs Other 3M™ VHB Tapes
A very firm tape has the most possible strength but can struggle to gain high bond strength to many substrates without needing extra surface preparation like an adhesion promoter, a primer, scuffing or abrading, etc. There is always a bit of a trade-off between strength and conformability. As we move to softer tapes we gain the ability to adhere to more substrates without the need for extra surface preparation. RP+ is a good mix of strength and conformability. It can adhere to a greater range of substrates than the 4950line but has less strength. It has greater strength than the 5952 or LSE family, but can adhere to fewer substrates.
Breaking Down the +
The + was added to the new version of RP tapes because a few extra features have been included. The RP+ has a higher temperature resistance and extra tape caliper. It can withstand temperatures up to 450⁰F for up to 4 hours and 250⁰F for longer. It ranges in thickness from 0.4 mm (15.7 mil) to 2.3mm (90 mil). The increased thickness is very important for many customers and a welcome addition to the 3M™ VHB portfolio.
Polyethylene vs. Paper Liner
A polyethylene film liner is more robust than a paper liner. Paper liners can tear when removing a large strip. In those instances, it helps to have the integrity of plastic film. However, paper liners are easier to convert and maintain tight tolerances because polyethylene liners can stretch when being die cut. Working with an experienced converter will help you determine which one is right for your application. Currently, the RP+ tape is only available with a polyethylene liner. A paper liner is in development with an anticipated summer 2022 release date.
Surface Preparation for RP+ Tape
It is always a good idea to clean the substrate before application of the part to ensure the surface is free of dust and other contaminants that can inhibit the bond. Once the surface is clean, RP+ tape can bond to most metals or medium to high surface energy plastics (e.g. acrylic, polycarbonate, nylon, etc.) without the use of primer. However, a primer or adhesion promoter is suggested if you are applying RP+ to a painted or powder coated metal or low surface energy plastic (e.g., composites, ABS, TPO, etc.).
Common RP+ Tape Industries and Applications
RP+ tape is used across a variety of industries including transportation, appliances, construction, sign and display and general industrial. A few common applications include:
- Decorative material and trim
- Nameplates and logos
- Panel to frame
- Stiffener to panel
Design Parameters to Consider When Choosing VHB Tape
To help select the right VHB tape for your application, Weber first likes to have two main conversations with every customer:
Conversation #1 – What are the substrates?
“I need to make sure that the tape is going to gain high bond strength to the substrate. We have to consider the tradeoff in strength vs. adhesion, because it doesn’t matter how strong an adhesive is if it doesn’t adhere. Adhesion testing is one of the most common things I do in our application engineering lab. An end-user sends me a part and I will try a couple of different tapes and surface preparations to quantify the exact adhesion to the customer’s parts,” said Weber.
Conversation #2 – What is the design stress of the application?
“After I know we have good adhesion, I want to know more about the load or design stress the adhesive will be exposed to. Is this a 100-pound load it needs to withstand? Is there a specific wind load where it’s a short-term dynamic load? How much vibration will it encounter? Or, will it involve hanging a dead load on a wall where it’s a long-term static stress load on the tape. Once I know these parameters, we can calculate how much tape is needed for the application to make sure we are using enough to handle the design stress as specified by the customer,” said Weber.
Additionally, a few smaller conversations may be necessary to narrow down the correct tape for a specific application including:
Is UL certification needed?
Industry regulations and standards may require UL testing or other specific safety requirements that need to be considered when selecting the right adhesive.
What type of environment might this be in?
Extreme temperatures can impact adhesive properties. It is important to consider the environmental conditions the tape will be exposed to. For example, if the part will go through a 400⁰F paint oven or be exposed to other high heat while the tape is in use in the customer’s finished product.
How much adhesive area is acting against the stress?
The type of joint stress can impact bond performance. Tensile, shear, and compression allows the bulk of the tape can dissipate as much stress as possible. Peel and cleavage cause the stress to be focused on one edge of the tape resulting in weaker bond.
How quickly is the force applied?
RP+ tapes are viscoelastic which means that their strength is actually dependent on how quickly or how long the force is applied. So, the faster the force is applied the stronger the tape is. It excels in applications where there is a sudden gust of wind, or exposed to constant vibration. The tape can be weaker when holding a static dead load.
Partnering with a Converter = Increased Value
An experienced precision converter such as JBC Technologies can help by providing custom die-cut parts, slitting rolls to a custom width, or providing shorter rolls. Here are a few additional ways a converter can add value:
- Seamless Design for Waterproof Seal
Die cutting is very important when you have a custom shape that needs a waterproof seal. If you tried to apply a rectangular shape by applying strips of tape you would still have seams where the tape meets that may not be waterproof if a tight seam is not made. A precision die-cutter can cut the material in one piece to ensure a waterproof seal.
- Fast and Easy Application
The main advantage of using tape for permanent bonding is that it is fast and easy to apply, and working with a converter simplifies the process even further. The end-user doesn’t need to measure the amount of tape or cut it perfectly to match their part increasing productivity and throughput.
- Increased Efficiencies
RP+ tape can replace screws, rivets, welding, or other common attachment methods. These methods punch holes essentially damaging the material. If you need a waterproof seal, a closed cell foam tape like RP+ is a great option. In addition, it is more efficient to apply one strip of tape instead of drilling many holes, or welding parts together which requires more time and skill. The double-sided adhesive on RP+ tape can also increase efficiencies by applying tape to one part while leaving the liner in place on the opposite side to be pulled and attached to a second part later.
Additional VHB Resources and 3M RP+ Product Data Sheet
- Product Selection Guide
- VHB Q&A - Joining Dissimilar Materials
- VHB LSE Q&A - Joining Materials with Low Surface Energy
Let Us Help You Convert Your Design Concepts Into Reality
For over thirty years JBC Technologies has utilized our engineering expertise and breadth of vertically integrated converting capabilities to turn rolls of flexible materials into custom die-cut parts. As a premier flexible materials converter, JBC Technologies partners with many industry leading material manufacturers like 3M to provide our customers with the highest quality die-cut products.
Contact us today to learn more about how our custom solutions can help you convert your design concepts into reality.