Which Type of Adhesive Should You Use for the Job?

Adhesives play a critical role at many jobsites. However, few people understand how different adhesives work.

Today, I’m going to explain the pros and cons of some of the most popular adhesives we offer at Ram Products.

Structural adhesives

Structural adhesives include epoxies, acrylics, and certain urethanes. They’re called “structural” adhesives because they’re popular in a wide range of structural applications and have high load-carrying capabilities.

Epoxies tend to be the most common structural adhesive found at jobsites. Epoxy adhesives come in a number of different 1varieties. Some epoxy adhesives go to work quickly, while others are ultra-durable and designed to survive shocks and vibrations in intense environments.

In general, epoxy adhesives are prized for their high strength and light weight. They also offer excellent adhesion on a wide range of substrates and surfaces.

Popular epoxy adhesives include:

Rigid epoxy adhesives: Typically labelled as “all-purpose”; quick-setting; high-viscosity.

Semi-rigid epoxy adhesives: Absorbs shocks and has a high peel strength; ideal for high performance environments.

Flexible epoxy adhesives: Resistant to shocks and vibrations and is the most flexible out of all the epoxy adhesives.

The light weight and durability of epoxy adhesives makes them popular in a wide range of industrial applications. Epoxy adhesives can be found on airplanes, motor vehicles, boats, and golf clubs, for example.

Pressure sensitive adhesives2

Pressure sensitive adhesives aren’t as powerful as structural adhesives, but they’re ideal for lightly loaded applications.

Popular pressure sensitive adhesives include double-sided strips, tapes, and pads. These adhesives have a limited number of structural applications. Instead, they’re commonly used to adhere a temporary assembly where separation is required in the near future.

Today, these adhesives are becoming more and more common among engineers, who use advanced versions of the “glue guns” you might see around the house or on a jobsite.

Wet adhesives

Wet adhesives, just like the name suggests, require one side of the assembly to be wet and the other side to be dry.

The wet side is stuck to the dry side and the assembly is held together until the moisture evaporates. Once the solvent evaporates, adhesion occurs.

Because the solvent needs to evaporate before adhesion occurs, wet adhesives are typically used on open-pored materials (like wood).

Reaction adhesives

Reaction adhesives rely on chemistry for their adhesion properties. With reaction adhesives, a chemical or physical reaction causes the two sides to stock together. There are two different types of reaction adhesives, including:3

Single-component reaction adhesives: These adhesives react to various environmental conditions, including UV radiation, ambient oxygen, or ambient humidity. The “single component” is activated by ambient conditions immediately after being applied to the assembly.

Two-component reaction adhesives: Two-component reaction adhesives are made from liquid, pastes, or powders. Like all reaction adhesives, they rely on the power of chemistry. They also go to work extremely quickly, which means they set fast and have a limited working life.

Contact adhesives

Contact adhesives are applied to either side of an assembly. The adhesive evaporates and the two parts are joined together to create an immediate and durable bond.

Hot-melted adhesives

Hot-melted adhesives are typically found in sticks, pastes, or powders. Unlike many of the adhesives listed here, hot-melted adhesives contain no solvent. This unique property means that no mixing or dosing is required.

Instead, hot-melted adhesives are activated by the application of heat. A glue gun is the best example of this adhesive property at work.

How do adhesive cleaners work?

If you tape something to a surface in your home, then you’ll inevitably notice some sticky residue left behind. Removing this sticky residue can be difficult.

4If you’ve ever got Super Glue on your skin, then you’ll need an adhesive cleaner to get it off.

Fortunately, adhesive cleaners offer a powerful solution. Adhesive cleaners include household items like vinegar, rubbing alcohol, soap, and hot water. All of these items act as solvents. If none of those items clean adhesive from the surface, then try acetone nail polish remover, which tends to be the most powerful adhesive cleaner people have in their homes.

Industrial applications require more powerful adhesive cleaners. Industrial-grade adhesive cleaners apply powerful degreasing agents to a surface. Those degreasing agents include powerful solvents like d-Limonene and heptanes.

WD-40 and lighter fluid are two powerful adhesive cleaners. 3M also makes a strong general purpose adhesive cleaner which is well-suited for a variety of work environments.

You can view our full selection of Ram Products adhesives by clicking here.

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