When choosing a tape for your application, you’ll need to consider the climate in your area as well as the weather the tape will be exposed to. The good news is, once your tape is applied you won’t have much to worry about in this area. However, there are some things that will continue to have an impact on your tape’s performance even after the tape has been applied and has fully cured. As with many materials, adhesives are affected by changes in temperature, humidity, sun exposure, etc. Today we want to let you know how these things affect tapes, how to tell if your tape has been compromised, and how to ensure your tape performs well over time.
One of the most important things to consider in this area is temperature. One of the first pieces of information you’ll see listed on tape is their temperature threshold. To understand why adhesive tape is affected differently by temperature than other materials, you’ll need to understand a little bit more about how they work.
The adhesive part of tape actually has properties of both a liquid and a solid. Think of using a basic glue. It comes as a liquid and stays liquid during application. Over time, it dries and becomes a solid. The adhesive on tape is somewhere in the middle. It has to be somewhat solid to help it keep its shape and stay on the carrier. However, it has to maintain some liquid properties so it can adhere to surfaces. Without liquid properties, tapes wouldn’t have the “wetness” or tack needed for application. The liquid properties give the tape its stickiness. After application, the adhesive takes some time to cure, just as a liquid adhesives take time to dry. During the curing process, the adhesive on tapes made for permanent applications becomes fully solid. Temperature changes during storage and application can change the balance of liquid and solid properties in the tape adhesive and cause issues.
If an adhesive tape is exposed to colder temperatures than the adhesive can withstand, the liquid components of the tape start to harden from the cold, and the chemicals become dormant, causing the tape to lose its tack, or ability to stick. Most adhesive tapes will be affected in temperatures under 50 degrees fahrenheit. If it gets cold enough, some tapes will actually freeze and lose all tack. Depending on the tape, this could cause enough damage that the tape will not perform as well, even after it warms up. If you know the tape you’re using well enough, you’ll notice that it becomes less sticky when it’s cold.
On the other hand, if an adhesive tape is exposed to warmer temperatures than the adhesive can withstand, the adhesive basically starts to melt. The chemicals in the adhesive begin to evaporate, causing the tape to lose tack faster and fail. Most adhesive tape will be affected in temperatures over 80 degrees fahrenheit. If you are familiar with the tape you’re using, you’ll notice that if it’s too hot, it will be stickier to the touch than normal. That’s because the heat reactivates the chemicals so the wet out is higher, affecting the long-term hold of the tape. Don’t be fooled into thinking that higher initial tack will increase hold strength or longevity. A tape that has become too hot will fail just as easily as a tape that has become too cold. It’s important to ensure you store and use your tape within the temperature threshold it can withstand.
Another thing to keep in mind is temperature fluctuation. As we mentioned, after your tape has cured for at least 72 hours changes in temperature will not have as large of an impact on your tape. However, before you apply your tape, large fluctuations in temperature will damage the adhesive. For example, let’s say your business is in Phoenix, AZ. During the week you turn the air conditioning on to cool the building down to 65 degrees. Over the weekend you turn the air conditioning off to save money and the building gets up to 120 degrees. Adhesive tapes that are not made to withstand this fluctuation in temperature will not perform well once applied. You may not notice a difference in the tape during application, but the longevity of the adhesive will be affected. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you either choose a tape that can withstand the conditions, or control the conditions to protect your tape.
Sun Exposure and Outdoor Applications
Sun exposure can also damage adhesive tapes. Even tapes that are stored inside, but are exposed to the sun from a window can be compromised. Be sure to protect tapes from the sun during storage. If your tape has been damaged from the sun, you’ll notice that the edges of the tape will be slightly yellow. If this happens to your tape, it will not perform as it should. If your tape is damaged by the sun, your best option is to discard the damaged tape.
If you’re using an adhesive tape for an outdoor application, be sure you’re using a tape specifically made for the outdoors. Outdoor tapes have a higher plus or minus temperature tolerance and UV protection. Not every outdoor tape is great for every climate, so it’s important to choose a tape that is designed for the specific climate it’s being used in.
How do Tapes Resist Environmental Challenges?
Any of the challenges we’ve talked about can be combated by using the correct tape. Tape technology has become so advanced that there really is a tape for almost any application. There are tapes that can withstand incredibly hot or incredibly cold temperatures, high humidity, etc. So how do those tapes work? It really depends on the application. For some applications, the carrier must be made with a specific material that is resistant to hot and cold temperatures. A great example of this is the tape used for car emblems. This application uses a foam tape. The foam must be made out of a material that is resistant to cold temperatures. If not, the foam would freeze in cold temperatures and become brittle. If the emblem was bumped, it would break off. For other applications, the actual adhesive can be designed with a specific formulation of chemicals that are more resistant to hot or cold. For some applications, both the adhesive and the carrier must be designed specifically for the challenges of the application. This is true for tapes that must hold weight. In these applications, the weight is constantly pulling on the adhesive, threatening to pull it away from the surface. In that case, you must have an adhesive and a carrier that are both designed to be incredibly strong and resilient.
How to Determine the Issue of a Tape that Fails
If you have a tape that is failing, it’s important to find out exactly what the issue is that’s causing it to fail. When it comes apart, look at the material the adhesive pulled away from. If the surface is clean, it’s most likely an adhesive issue. If there is material on both sides, meaning the tape rips (most common with foam tapes) it’s a carrier issue. However, either of these could be caused by an atmospheric issue. A tape must be correct for the environment it’s in, the substrates it’s being applied to, the weight it will be required to hold, and the length of time it’s needed.
How to Ensure You’re Using the Correct Tape
That’s why it’s so important to work with a company that knows exactly how different tapes work. Only someone well versed in tape can help you determine the correct tape for your application. In the end, it’s the responsibility of your tape rep or tape converter to help you determine the tape you need. That’s where things get a little tricky. Many reps do not have enough knowledge or experience in the tape industry and end up selling tapes to their clients that are far more expensive than what’s needed, or are insufficient for the job.
The two biggest risks of working with a rep or converter with less knowledge and experience are:
- Working with the wrong product and it fails
- Working with the wrong product and it works, but is way overkill for the application and is far more expensive than what’s needed.
Often times, a rep who doesn’t truly understand tape will offer the most expensive tapes first. Those tapes often work for the application because they are outrageously aggressive. That gives the rep a large commission and the client a tape that works, but a huge bill. Working with someone knowledgeable could save your business 10 times the money for products that work just as well, or often better for the application. Keep in mind that just because it works, doesn’t mean it’s the right tape.
The best way to know whether or not you’re working with the right person is to pay attention to how many questions they ask about your application. To find the right tape, they will need to know what environment the tape will be in, what surfaces the tape will be used on, how the tape will be applied, how long the tape needs to hold, whether or not it needs to come off cleanly, etc. etc. etc. If your rep or tape converter isn’t asking you quite a few questions about your specific application, they most likely don’t know enough about tape. If they did, they would ask important questions and base their tape suggestions off of your answers.
Walker Tape has been converting custom adhesive tapes for over 30 years. We don’t have sales reps and we don’t work on commission. Our team is extremely knowledgeable about tape. Our biggest concern is making sure you have the best tape for your application at the best price. That’s the way we’ve done business for over 30 years and that’s the way we’ll continue to do business for many years to come. If you have a question about a current or new tape application, contact us below and let our product experts find the right product for you. We look forward to working with you.