The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » Monthly - November 3, 2015
Innovation
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Adhesives Instead of Nuts and Bolts
   
Polish researchers have invented a thin, transparent structural adhesive tape that they say can safely replace conventional joining methods in today’s industry.

The tape combines the advantages of various industrial adhesives, including those offered by the market leader, U.S. giant 3M. It can replace fastening with nuts and bolts, riveting, soldering and welding.

Adhesives may be broadly divided into two classes: pressure-sensitive and structural. Pressure-sensitive adhesives bond metal and glass and can be applied at room temperature. Structural adhesives form highly durable joints that are resistant to shearing, for example. The new structural adhesive tape developed by researchers in the northwestern Polish city of Szczecin combines both qualities.

Similar tapes are made by 3M, and the production method is patented. The tape developed by the team of scientists from the Szczecin-based West Pomeranian University of Technology—working under the supervision of Prof. Zbigniew Czech at the Laboratory of Adhesives and Adhesive Materials—is competitive with the 3M tapes.

Agnieszka Kowalczyk, Ph.D., who developed a base formula for the Szczecin tape as part of her doctoral project, says the Polish adhesive technology is a world first. Its uniqueness lies in an innovative combination of two substances that do not mix with each other, epoxyacrylate polymers and epoxy resin, Kowalczyk says. The formula also contains compounds that bond under the influence of heat or ultraviolet light.

The Polish tape is thinner than industrial tapes offered by foreign companies. It is also transparent, which makes it possible to join together glass surfaces with no visible traces left that could spoil the esthetic effect. Transparent structural adhesive tapes were previously unavailable, according to the Szczecin scientists. Another selling point is that the Polish tape has a longer shelf life. It retains its properties for six months in storage, while competitive foreign products can only be stored for a few weeks. Moreover, the Polish tape begins to bind at 140 degrees Celsius, much lower than rival tapes available on the market. This means savings resulting from lower energy consumption during the production process.

Such adhesive tapes are mainly used in the automotive industry. But the Szczecin scientists say their product could also be of interest to construction companies, ship and sailboat builders, furniture makers, aircraft producers and the aerospace sector.

According to the scientists, their product stands a good chance of being widely used in various industries worldwide, although this would require manufacturers to be open to introducing modifications in technological processes. For example, those who use screws to put together components need to be convinced that they would benefit from replacing them with adhesive tapes that are no less durable and reliable than conventional joining methods. Czech and Kowalczyk say their tape has passed strength tests and can safely be used in industry instead of similar products supplied by giants such as 3M.

Karolina Olszewska