Designing for Tape Automation: Selecting Industrial Tapes

Designing for Tape Automation: Selecting Industrial Tapes

Uses & Types of Industrial Tape 

Foam and felt adhesive tapes are utilized in a variety of industries, including automotive, aviation, consumer goods, medical, appliances, windows and doors, industrial components and electronics. Typical uses for tape include sealing of dust, moisture and noise, vibration damping, buzz squeak rattle (BSR) reduction, fixing and attachment. 

As products are refined and new ones are developed, foam tape —sometimes referred to as sponge tape— can help to improve function and consumer satisfaction. For example, automobiles and appliances are now quieter than ever thanks to foam tape strategically installed on nearly every plastic trim panel, both inside and outside the vehicle. In this application, foam tape plays a crucial role in reducing wind noise and squeaks, and the sealing properties protect sensitive components from water damage.

Attachment tapes are also commonly found across industries and have a variety of compositions; these are mainly characterized with adhesive on two sides and usually between 0.5-2.0mm in thickness. They have the ability to reduce parts in an assembly (DFMA), which in turn can reduce failure points, manufacturing cost and assembly labour. In addition, they offer a continuous and permanent bond that outperforms and outlasts other fastening options. 

Commonly used to replace screws, clips, and rivets, attachment tapes are a robust solution with lower failure rates than traditional fasteners when applied properly. Attachment tapes also offer the benefit of a completely hidden fastening element capable of improving aesthetics, which is ideal for visible surfaces. 

Felt is primarily used to reduce squeaks between components and to fill voids or gaps that would otherwise allow components to shift or rub. They are a cost-effective option when coupled with an automated application. 

Adhesive Selection

Adhesive selection is crucial to product performance. Adhesives need to be compatible with both the foam and the substrate (target application surface). Many adhesive tapes include a polyester carrier, which is a clear plastic film adhered to the back of the foam. This layer of plastic allows the use of two different adhesives on the same product, one selected specifically to adhere to the foam, and the other to adhere to the substrate. Products with this plastic film are referred to as “supported”, whereas products without film are referred to as “unsupported”. 

Unsupported materials will have a single adhesive that must be compatible with both the substrate and the material. As the terminology suggests, the supported products have more structure to them, which can be beneficial in some cases, though they may resist bending around sharp corners and sometimes “flag” (peel off at a corner).

Attachment tapes come in several different compositions, one of which includes a layer of foam (often polyethylene) with adhesive coatings on both sides. These adhesives can be different for best performance with the substrates. Another common composition is products such as 3M’s VHB (very high bond), which is monolithic (consistent throughout its entirety) and sticky without adhesive added. These tapes generally have a gummy texture and conform well to the material, creating a permanent bond. 

Tape Package Formats 

Foam is typically manufactured in master rolls, which are large rolls that are converted into a variety of formats. Die-cutting is a common secondary process that converts the master roll into strips, curves or other shapes specified by the product. Depending on the desired shape, this process can generate quite a bit of waste so it may not be the best choice for high-volume applications. 

Pancake or planetary rolls can be created by slicing a master roll into sections with a thin rotating blade; these can be sliced to any width and are one of the most common formats. Their length is limited to the length of the master roll, (generally less than 250 feet). The final format is level-wound spools, which convert the sliced material to long continuous windings on a spool. 

This format is made by splicing numerous pancake or planetary rolls together end-to-end to achieve the long, continuous lengths that allow automated machinery to run high volumes. Certain types of foam can be extruded to reduce or eliminate splices throughout a roll or skived from a continuous loop of material. 

Application Process

Applying adhesive tape is usually a manual process due to the difficulty of feeding and managing continuous level-wound spools. However, as more types and uses for tape are factored into product design, cost-effective, automated tape application processes are going to become a crucial consideration.

Innovative Automation

Find out more about automating the application process in our next content piece: Automating Industrial Tape Application Processes.

For more information about how you can better design for tape automation, contact Innovative Automation.