Selecting the right pressure-sensitive adhesive for the job

Posted 12th December 2016 by Ingrid Brase

Selection of the right adhesive for your pressure-sensitive product, whether it’s a tape, label or self-adhesive graphic, is a critical step in developing the product you will eventually offer and market.  It is the first technical step that follows sound market research into determining the need and potential for a proposed new product.   Simply put, if I create it will enough customers buy it to reward my efforts?

What follows is a handy list of things to think about when you have determined there is a need that is large enough to support the effort to create a new product need not met by your current offerings.  Hopefully this provides you with some factors to consider before you pick up the phone to talk to your suppliers of adhesive, liner and facestock to get their recommendations. In our current environment of fast response, taking the time to dive into the details early saves time in making repeated calls and lets you dig into the creation step more rapidly.

So where do we start?  Let’s break this down into four main categories of things we need to know, namely:
- Manufacturing: what equipment will we use?
- Materials: what facestocks (carriers) and liners?
- End Use: what are the requirements?
- Cost: what can we sell the product for and what profit do we want to make?

So let’s explore each of these areas to see what information we should compile to get started. What follows is a checklist to follow to compile the necessary background information before you reach out for supplier recommendations.

We start with looking at the manufacturing footprint to determine what potential materials we can process given capabilities.    We need to take into account the specifics of the equipment as well as the manufacturing environment.
1. Coater Requirements
a. Type of coater available to do the coating: hot melt? liquid?
b.  Coating method: gravure, slot die, etc
c. Operating speed capability and process requirements such as viscosity
d. Adhesives coated to liner or direct to the facestock. 
e. Coatweight target: based on end use or cost as well as a desired line speed helps narrow adhesive selection.  
2. Manufacturing environment. 
a. How will the adhesive be stored? 
b. What type of container is optimal for adhesive delivery – is there a bulk tank and does usage warrant bulk? 
c.  Is the plant climate controlled or will there be seasonal variation in temperatures that needs to be taken into consideration?  For some applications, this last point can be a serious factor in determining how an adhesive will dry and release from a liner.
d. Is pretreating of the facestock material to improve adhesion available? 

After consideration of end use needs, the materials used in the construction, liner and facestock, determine what adhesive can be used.  
1. What is the facestock or carrier material that is desired?  Paper, film, foil?  
2. What specific type? 
3. Will the facestock have to be pre-treated to allow for good adhesion?  
4. What liner will be used? For instance, in ultra-clear applications use of a film liner is recommended as the adhesive then does not take on the topical variation seen when coated on paper. 

End Use: 
Selection of materials and adhesive are largely dictated by the end use requirements for the product.   As an example, if we are creating a tape to adhere to wood the coatweight will be much higher than to adhere to a smooth surface polyethylene film as the adhesive must flow into the nooks and crannies to create a strong bond.  Many labels are applied by blowing them onto the surface so high tack is necessary to get instant stick whereas self-adhesive graphics require open time to smooth the larger surface and remove air bubbles created during the application.
1. How long will the product be used? 
2. Under what environmental conditions does it need to survive – temperature range, humidity, cleaning agents, UV light, etc.?  
3. What type of bond strength is needed?   Bond strength will be determined by both the facestock and the surface to which the product needs to adhere; this may also influence the target coatweight.
4. Does the product have to stick immediately or will it need to have “open time” for realignment before wetting out on the surface to form a strong bond?
5. What is the shelf shelf life of both adhesive and facestock materials, especially in the final construction?   For instance, all adhesives are subject to some degradation by the plasticizers used in manufacturing vinyls, determining the impact is vital before introduction of a new product.
6. Regulatory compliance. End use will determine which set of regulations, i.e. FDA, UL, AAMA, CONEG, REACH, etc., may be applicable.  

Finally, but probably most importantly, is considering the price point for the final product.  If we subtract the profit from our selling price we arrive at our target cost for the new product. There are various ways to account for manufacturing costs, whatever method is used by your company must be subtracted after target cost is determined. Now we can take a hard look at what adhesive and materials we can afford to consider.   In simple terms creating a product made from gold when the customer can only afford silver does not help us gain business and just frustrates both parties!
1. At what price can we offer our new product and gain market interest?  
2. What profit do we want to make as a reward for our efforts?
3.  If an adhesive option to meet end use requirements is not within our coating capabilities, would the selling price allow us to consider toll manufacture?

So yes, creating any new product is a complex process, there are so many things to determine.   Like all complex tasks breaking it down into pieces and tackling each piece in an orderly manner is the best path to success.

I hope this approach proves helpful to you in your new product endeavors.  

Want to learn more or have a question?   See me at the Ask The Experts Pavilion at ICE 2017 or visit my website to submit a question:

Note: This article originally appeared as in my column series, Sticking With It, in Paper Foil and Film Converter

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