Expert's Guide to Using 3M™ VHB™ Tape
An Expert's Guide to Using 3M™ VHB™ Tape
When a young 3M™ engineer named Richard Drew invented the first adhesive tape in the 1920s to help auto workers create the two-tone paint jobs that were popular back then, he could never have known that, nearly a hundred years later, his product would be available in hundreds of variations around the world and be used for every kind of project imaginable.
When a young 3M™ engineer named Richard Drew invented the first adhesive tape in the 1920s to help auto workers create the two-tone paint jobs that were popular back then, he could never have known that, nearly a hundred years later, his product would be available in hundreds of variations around the world and be used for every kind of project imaginable. 3M™’s adhesive tape has been holding the world together for nearly a hundred years, and they haven’t been resting on their laurels—new kinds of tape are still showing the world new ways to stick things together. At FASTENation, we love to show you the very best of them.
Like other inventions that have come a long way since they were created, adhesive tape is still surprising us with innovative and creative solutions. The latest and greatest is 3M™ VHB™ Tape, an ultra-strong adhesive tape that changes the game on what’s possible to build and create with tape. Projects that need to withstand high stress and last for years are now doable with a roll of this amazing product. What’s the deal with this super-strong tape? What makes it so particularly strong? What applications is it most suitable for, and how can you get the most out of it? Finally, what 3M™ VHB™ tape options can FASTENation provide you with? We’ll answer all of these common questions today and help you see how they fit—and stick—together.
What Is VHB™ Tape?
VHB™ stands for Very High Bond, and that fact tells you a lot of what you need to know about this unique product. These are tape products that are stronger than almost any other commercially available tape and can be used to bond materials which traditionally require more expensive and heavy-duty adhesives.
- VHB™ tape is created from closed cell acrylic foam that’s more durable and more flexible than other tape materials.
- The tape gets its extreme strength and power from the way its adhesive and its foam work together to provide the best qualities of both a viscous liquid and an elastic solid.
- The viscous liquid properties help the adhesive sneak its way into every microscopic nook and cranny on the surface of your substrate—essential for forming a tight, strong bond.
- Meanwhile, the elastic solid properties give the tape its flexibility and resilience. It distributes loads over a wider area, balances different levels of expansion and contraction between substrates, and is good at absorbing dynamic load levels.
These high-tech properties are the result of precision engineering to create some of the world’s strongest tapes with many different desirable properties. So, what are those properties that are so useful?
Why Use 3M™ VHB™ Tape?
VHB™ tape is now a well-known bonding option for professionals around the world, thanks to its numerous useful features. Some of its top benefits include:
- Creates a strong, durable bond without the mess and disruption of welding, riveting, or other attachment methods.
- Quick and simple to apply, and used without extensive specialized training.
- Highly resistant to common hazards like UV light, salt water, and high temperatures that often weaken or destroy other adhesives.
- Vibration dampening effect reduces noise and other harmful or irritating vibrations.
- Excellent for bonding thin materials that experience high levels of shear stress.
- Superior long-term durability.
- Resistant to common solvents like water, motor oil, and acetone that can harm other adhesives.
These great qualities make VHB™ tape perfect for a wide variety of applications, and you’ll be amazed to see the number of different industries where it’s put to great use!
What Is VHB™ Tape Used For?
VHB™ tape has a huge variety of applications across nearly every sector of industry and manufacturing. A few of the industries where it’s made the biggest impact include:
- Transportation: The excellent water-repellent and vibration-resistant qualities of VHB™ tape make it great for assembling panel trailers, attaching window glass, and many other necessities the transport and automotive fields.
- Construction: You’ll find VHB™ tape in use in some of the world’s most famous buildings, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Architects and builders love it for its strong, permanent bond and ability to attach a huge variety of building materials.
- Metalworking: Metal fabrication demands strong and conformable tape that can attach all kinds of metallic substrates together, including powder-coated and painted ones, as well as surviving extremely high temperatures. 3M™’s GPH series of VHB™ tape is perfect for these needs.
- Electronics: For the consumer electronics industry, 3M™’s Thin Foam line of VHB™ tape has been a critical tool for performance and durability. These tapes give electronic devices improved impact and water resistance while still maintaining a desirable slim profile, helping electronics companies stay competitive in today’s crowded market.
- Appliances: 3M™’s VHB™ tapes are used to assemble a wide variety of appliances, including washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, and more. Their moisture resistance and excellent load distribution qualities make them an ideal choice for increasing the toughness and longevity of consumer appliances, and their easy application process streamlines and speeds up manufacturing.
If it looks like VHB™ tape might be a good choice for your application, you’ll want to start thinking about which type might be right for you.
How Can I Choose The Right Type Of VHB™ Tape?
Another great aspect of this tape is how many different varieties of it are available. You’ll want to choose a model of VHB™ tape based on what substrates you’re using, the shape of the substrates, and numerous other factors.
For an in-depth explanation of the many performance rating metrics of 3M™ VHB™ tape, make sure to take a look at 3M™’s product information chart. We’ll hit some highlights here that will help you get a better idea of which kind of tape you may need:
- Conformability: This aspect refers to the tape foam’s ability to hug an irregular surface. Bonding irregular surfaces can be extremely challenging with traditional materials, so choosing a tape that’s listed as Very Conformable (the highest level) is a good idea if you’re dealing with substrates like this.
- Substrate Surface Energy: Different substrates (the materials to be bonded together) have differences in surface energy. To form a strong bond, an adhesive must have a lower surface energy than the substrates it is bonding. Materials with high surface energy (such as metal and ABS plastic) tend to form strong bonds with adhesives more easily, while materials with lower surface energy (such as polyethylene) are more difficult to bond. To get a rough idea of your substrate’s surface energy, consult this chart from 3M™.
- Tape Thickness: VHB™ tape is available in a variety of different thickness levels. Which one you need depends on how closely your substrates fit together—substrates that fit more closely can use a thinner tape, while substrates with a larger gap will need a thicker tape. When in doubt, it’s usually best to choose a thicker model.
- Application Temperature: Acrylic adhesives are temperature sensitive, so, if your application environment subject to extreme temperatures (particularly low ones), you’ll need to make sure you get a model of VHB™ tape that’s rated for your needs. (Most have a minimum application temperature of 10ºC or 16ºC.) Fortunately, once the tape has been applied and set, the adhesive will generally hold all the way down to -40ºC!
- Special Features: Certain models of VHB™ tape are also designed with several special features, including:
- Resistance to high levels of dynamic stress
- Transparent coloring
- Application at temperatures as low as 0ºC
- Resistance to higher temperature
- Appropriate for difficult-to-bond materials such as polyethylene
Tips And Tricks For VHB™ Tape Users
The genius of VHB™ tape lies in how easy it is to use—but, nonetheless, it’s a specialized tool, and you’ll need to learn your way around it before you can get the most out of it. There are numerous tips and tricks that will help you use VHB™ tape more safely and effectively. Many are specific to the application you’re using it for, but here are a few general best practices:
The basic procedure for using VHB™ tape is as follows:
- Step One: Wipe down the bonding surface with a solvent.
- Step Two: Wipe it dry.
- Step Three: Apply the tape to the joint.
- Step Four: Use a roller to press the finished joint, then allow the adhesive to set.
Although VHB™ tape creates a strong bond relatively quickly, you should allow it to set for 72 hours to reach its full strength. Putting full working loads on it before it’s been allowed to completely set can result in decreased performance.
Usually, the best way to prepare a substrate for bonding with VHB™ tape is to clean it with a 50:50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. However, there are some exceptions that require different preparation, and you should be aware of what these are.
For some substrates, you’ll want to use an adhesion primer before applying the VHB™ tape. FASTENation offers a selection of 3M™ Surface Primers in multiple sizes. This includes 3M™ Primer 94, ideal for low-adhesion plastics and rubbers, and 3M™ Silane Glass Treatment AP115 for glass, stone, or ceramic tiles.
For some surfaces, abrading using a Scotch-Brite Hand Pad or power palm sander with a fine grit will help prepare the surface for better adhesive bonding. The numerous tiny scratches created by abrasion create a substantially larger surface area for the adhesive to bond to, creating a stronger bond. This can be especially helpful for plastics and painted materials. Make sure you’re using a very fine grain abrasive tool, as a coarse grain may create abrasions that are too big, which will make adhesion less effective.
Anytime your manufacturing process undergoes a change in materials or formula, don’t assume that the VHB™ tape you used previously will offer the same performance. Different grades of tape can have substantially different reactions when substrates, paints, and primers change, so make sure you’ve thoroughly researched and tested your new materials for compatibility with the VHB™ tape you’ve been using.
What VHB™ Tape Options Does FASTENation Sell?
FASTENation is your partner in creating the perfect adhesive solution, and VHB™ tape is one of our most exciting and popular offerings. Our extensive collection of VHB™ tapes will help make it easier for you to find a product that will meet your specific application and substrate needs. Here are some of our favorite VHB™ tapes, but for a full product list, please contact FASTENation directly.
- 3M™ VHB™ Tape 4941: One of the best VHB™ models for general use, 4941 tape features a dark gray color and a multi-purpose acrylic adhesive that’s great for numerous different high and medium energy substrates, including glass, plastic, metal, and more. With its conformable foam, it also produces a secure bond even on mismatched and irregular substrates.
- 3M™ VHB™ Tape 4905 & 4910: For a discreet tape that also provides high-bond performance, either of these two clear tapes is a great choice. Use their dual-sided general purpose adhesive for great bonding on many different substrates with high surface energy.
- 3M™ VHB™ Tape 5952: If you need maximum versatility, VHB™ 5952 is a great choice for you. This tape features very conformable foam that hugs tightly to some of the most challenging and irregular surfaces, and it works great on a variety of substrates—even ones with low surface energy such as plastics with powder coating or paint.
FASTENation also offers custom conversion manufacturing on all of our 3M™ VHB™ tape products, so, if you need a customized version of these products, reach out to our team! We love to provide a solution that meets your exact specifications whenever we can.
Wherever things need secure bonding and fastening, you’ll find FASTENation products doing the job. 3M™ VHB™ tape is a groundbreaking solution for all kinds of high-bond projects, so we’re proud to offer it to our customers as part of our commitment to giving you all of the best adhesives for a full range of applications.
If you’ve got more questions about VHB™ tape and how it can meet your needs, we’re happy to help! Give our fastener experts a call at 1 (800) 876-9922 or contact us online, and we’ll help you understand the ins and outs of all of our FASTENation adhesive products.