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Preaching to the converted? Smart fixers have it taped

01 November 2009

There may have been a time when, if you mentioned adhesive tapes as a viable alternative to mechanical fasteners, you may at best have elicited a raised eyebrow or, at worst, suffered a rather humiliating put-down. Today, even aerospace companies are looking at tapes for specific applications and suppliers are now developing innovative ways of satisfying the growing market for converted tape products

The term ‘converted tape’ may not be meaningful to most people, but to those in the know, converted adhesive tapes can deliver multiple benefits. When bonding parts to components, using tapes specifically designed for the application means the user has no cutting or shaping worries, resulting in huge time and cost savings.

Put simply, converted tapes are those that have been customised to exactly match the requirements of the task. Tapes can be pre-cut to any shape – even highly intricate shapes that would be very challenging, or even impossible, to cut by hand. This removes the need to manually trim adhesive tape for each operation, reducing waste and helping to maintain consistency and quality standards.

Converted products can also include flexible substrates, such as polyester films or thin foils, which are laminated with adhesive to make what is essentially a self-bonding product.

The electronics, medical equipment, automotive and aerospace sectors are particularly suitable for converted tape applications, but almost any industry could potentially benefit. Applications themselves vary widely, but converted tape solutions, combining the right pre-cut shape with the correct bonding solution, can be designed and manufactured to meet almost any manufacturing adhesive challenge.

Die cut to meet your needs
Converted tapes are typically die cut, and presented in a format that allows easy use of the product within the application process. For example, tapes can often be created with an oversized liner providing finger lift for quick and easy placement on the component. This approach makes the adhesive product user friendly and greatly assists in the assembly process.

In many manufacturing operations, joints are made using liquid adhesives, mechanical fastenings or whole rolls of tape. While these approaches may offer the user one solution to their fixing requirement, it is worth considering alternative options. Mechanical fasteners, for example, can be weighty and prone to corrosion while potentially adding stress points to finished products. Converted tapes, however, are designed for each specific application. They are quick, straightforward to apply, and can therefore provide a more effective solution. For example, high-strength tapes such as 3M’s ‘VHB’ product can be die cut to replace mechanical fastenings in almost any application.

Converted parts are not an off-the-shelf product. They are generally unique to customer specifications and are therefore best developed as a part of a comprehensive service that makes sure the specific requirements of the job are met. This not only ensures the right adhesive is used, but also that the correct quality standards and usability criteria are met.

This involves the adhesive consultant and client working together to understand the manufacturing process in detail as well as the bonding and application requirements. Most standard adhesive tapes can be converted to customer specific designs, delivering significant cost, performance and production efficiency improvements.

Many customers are often only aware of the converted tape options after they have called in experts to consult on issues facing an existing work process, such as long curing times, production bottlenecks or inconsistent adhesion. However, converted options should not just be considered when there is a process problem. Taking a proactive approach and moving to converted tapes can often deliver time and cost savings that would otherwise never be achieved. Indeed, the use of converted tape should ideally be considered early in the design process and not just for items already in production.

Bespoke products can increase process efficiency, generate labour savings and reduce waste. These benefits can far outweigh the incremental cost of moving to converted tape, providing a rapid return on investment. And with expert help, the converted tape development process can be straightforward and trouble free, ensuring a lasting fix.


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