Adhesive Applications

Low Surface Energy Adhesive: Unlocking Superior Bonding Capabilities

In the dynamic landscape of modern manufacturing and assembly processes, engineers and researchers constantly strive to overcome the barriers presented by challenging substrates, such as low surface energy materials – polyethylene, polypropylene, teflon, silicone, etc. A crucial innovation that has revolutionized the world of adhesives and bonding solutions are low surface energy adhesives. These groundbreaking adhesive technologies have opened new possibilities in industries where bonding to difficult surfaces was once considered arduous, if not impossible.

In this comprehensive exploration, we delve deeper into the world of low surface energy adhesives, unraveling their composition, distinct properties, and unmatched potential in the face of complex material challenges. From the automotive assembly line to cutting-edge medical devices and renewable energy applications, these adhesive innovations continue to reshape industries, offering groundbreaking solutions that adhere to the stringent requirements of modern manufacturing.

More About Low Surface Energy
Low surface energy refers to the characteristic of a material’s surface that exhibits a low ability to attract other substances. It is a measure of how strongly the molecules on the surface of a material interact with each other rather than with foreign materials or substances. This property is commonly observed in certain types of materials, such as some plastics like polyethylene and polypropylene, fluorinated plastics like PTFE (Teflon), silicone rubber, and some types of coatings or treatments. These materials are often referred to as low surface energy (LSE) materials.

The concept of surface energy is critical in various industrial processes, including adhesive bonding, painting, coating, and printing. To effectively bond or adhere to low surface energy materials, specialized adhesives, coatings, or surface treatments are required to enhance the interaction between the adhesive or coating and the low-energy surface.

So, What are Low Surface Energy Adhesives?
A low surface energy adhesive, also known as an LSE adhesive, is a type of adhesive that is specifically designed to bond these challenging materials. To overcome the difficulties of bonding to low surface energy materials, LSE adhesives are formulated with specialized additives or chemical components that enhance their ability to create strong bonds. These adhesives often contain special chemistries like surface modifiers, primers, or adhesion promoters that improve the adhesion to low-energy surfaces by altering the surface properties and creating stronger molecular interactions.

One of the notable features of a low surface energy adhesive is its excellent initial tack. Initial tack refers to the adhesive’s ability to bond quickly to a substrate upon contact. With low surface energy materials, achieving strong initial tack can be particularly challenging. However, LSE adhesives possess unique formulations that promote instant adhesion to difficult substrates, ensuring reliable bonding right from the start.

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Why are Low Surface Energy Adhesives Important?
Low surface energy adhesives find application in several industries where bonding to LSE surfaces is necessary.  In the automotive industry, low surface energy adhesives are used to bond various plastic components, such as interior trim, exterior body parts, and NVH components. Many automotive plastics, like polyethylene and polypropylene, have low surface energy, and specialized adhesives are needed for effective bonding. These adhesives can be used in the aerospace industry, for bonding composite materials and plastic components used in aircraft interiors and structural parts, and the medical field, in medical tubing, catheters, and other devices and dressings made from materials with low surface energy. Low-surface energy adhesives are used in various other industries as well, such as electronics, packaging, construction, and textiles.

Types of Low Surface Energy Adhesives

Modified Acrylic Adhesives
These adhesives are based on acrylic polymers with specially incorporated additives or modifiers. The additives improve the adhesive’s ability to wet and bond to low-energy surfaces. Modified acrylic adhesives offer high bond strength on difficult substrates like polyethylene and polypropylene, have good aging characteristics, and are extremely formulation flexible – can be tailored to specific applications.

Adhesive Applications’ marquee line, the A460 series, offers a comprehensive array of different constructions to meet the varied needs of each application.  The A460 series offers transfer tape versions in 1 mil (A461), 2 mil (A460), 3 mil (A463), 4 mil (A464) and 5 mil (A465) thicknesses.  The A462DC product is the double coated version of the A460 series, featuring 2 mils of adhesive on each side of a 0.5 mil PET carrier.

Rubber-Based Adhesives 
These adhesives are formulated with synthetic rubbers or elastomers that exhibit good adhesion to low-energy materials. Rubber-based adhesives often find use in bonding silicone rubber components and other elastomeric materials.  While they have limited temperature and UV aging resistance, they are known to have high tack and strong ambient temperature bonding performance.

Silicone Adhesives
Silicone adhesives are a high-performance subset of polymers that inherently have good low surface energy bonding (silicone is itself an LSE material).  While not having the high initial tack of a rubber or an acrylic, they have the advantage of operating in extreme temperature and UV environments.

Adhesive Applications offers a variety of LSE silicone adhesive products.  The transfer tape line features 1 mil (S1001-1), 2 mil (S1001), 3 mil (S1003) and 5 mil (S1005) thicknesses.  The S5005DC double-coated product has a thick 2.25 mil silicone adhesive mass on each side of an 0.5 mil PET carrier, while the S1001-1DC11 is the lighter-duty version.  The S1001-1DC11 has 1 mil of silicone adhesive mass on each side of a 1 mil PET carrier.

Low-surface energy adhesives represent a breakthrough in the field of adhesives, providing a reliable solution for bonding low surface energy plastics. Their exceptional initial tack, ability to bond to low surface energy substrates, and impressive bond strength make them an invaluable tool in various industries. By utilizing LSE adhesives, manufacturers can overcome the limitations imposed by challenging surface characteristics, unlocking new possibilities for creating robust and long-lasting bonds. Within this class of adhesives, acrylic adhesives stand out for their exceptional performance, offering versatility and reliability in bonding low surface energy plastics. Embracing low surface energy adhesive paves the way for innovative solutions and advancements in numerous sectors, ranging from automotive and electronics to medical devices and packaging.