Adhesives in Manufacturing

From hand-made, artisan-wrought items of ancient and medieval times to products produced in facilities that came with the 17th and 18th centuries’ Industrial Revolution, manufacturing processes have evolved drastically in the last four hundred years. Mechanical inventions over the ages, such as spinning wheels to make cloth or water wheels and steam engines to power machinery, reduced both production time and the cost to produce goods. And as better technology has developed, manufacturing processes have continued to progress—from Whitney’s cotton gin in 1794 to Ford’s assembly line in 1913 to today’s modern automation. However, one element of manufacturing has yet to catch up to its current capability potential.

The essence of manufacturing is binding two or more separate elements together to form a stronger, more useful product. Traditionally, this has been done by fastening parts together with metal pieces. While historically reliable and initially effective, over time, products built in this manner undergo a plethora of issues, including natural aging, weathering, stress, and the wear and tear of use. A tough material, metal becomes increasingly brittle, and thus, dangerous as it matures. It’s also heavy, and as demand for lighter and nimbler products increases, weighty metal componentry can impact product aerodynamics and functionality.

Combatting both corrosion and load burdens, structural adhesives are finding their way into the spotlight, dawning a new age in today’s manufacturing arena. Once considered less strong and less durable with higher initial costs than their metal counterparts, these binding agents are now longer lasting, safer, cheaper and lighter, making them the future of manufacturing.

Traditional Manufacturing Is Stuck in the Past

Any process with numerous moving parts or unnecessary steps is more prone to fail. This is as true in manufacturing as it is in using LEGOs to build a millennium falcon. One missing or broken piece, no matter how insignificant, results in a failed mission.

In industries like aerospace, transportation or other assembly-oriented businesses, a single issue can derail both the project at hand and the client’s goodwill. This is not limited to the manufacturing process either. As metal-bound products age, each component deteriorates at a different pace—naturally, the more pieces, the higher the risk that one will become defunct at some point.

With adhesives, all these moving pieces become a fixture of the past. Today’s acrylics, epoxies, adhesives and glues are far more resilient, offering surfeit versatility in projects of any scope. Further, structural adhesives eliminate the many variables associated with screws, rivets and nails, making inventory tracking easier while lowering overhead. This is particularly important for companies that are assessed foremostly on the reliability and safety of their products, like the automobile and aerospace industries.

In an Assembly Magazine interview, Kyle Rhodes, Plastics Market Segment Manager for Dymax Corp., stated, “The strength, durability and cost issues are minimal once the right adhesive is selected. Strength and durability have improved as new generations of adhesives are introduced. The cost savings far outweigh the actual costs, due to increased throughput with minimal labor costs.”

Resolving the Issues of Manufacturing

Most people are aware of the historical issues with traditionally manufactured products. One small problem can lead to a hefty repair bill or a serious safety risk. Whether it’s on a car or a dishwasher, the consequences of a faulty piece are exponential when compared to the actual function of the product. And for too long, these mechanical weaknesses have been accepted by both manufacturers and the public alike as the price of using a product.

Well, no more! The direct solution to these longstanding failures with metal fasteners is adhesives. Where metal is heavy, adhesives are light. Where metal corrodes, adhesives are strong and longer lasting.

Further, parts made using metal or metal-like substances do not allow for expansion or contraction, making them susceptible to changes in temperatures that often result in unsightly bulging, molding, melting or even collapsing. And for products with assorted metal components used in their construction, failures due to temperature vulnerability can happen at different rates within the product. However, adhesives allow for optimized flexibility, accommodating movement caused by thermal expansion while maintaining the integrity of their grip and strength.

Additionally, metal fasteners require holes to be drilled, a process that can lead to damage of both integral product materials and their finishes. Drilling holes also apply load-bearing stress to the fastening point, adversely affecting the strength of the end product. Adhesives, on the other hand, distribute loads more evenly across the entire joint area, translating to fewer load-bearing breakdowns.

Adhesives to the Rescue

Composite materials have been helping manufacturers for more than 25 years, but their history dates back to the mid-20th century. In that time, these corrosive-resistant materials have weathered strenuous usage in a wide array of inhospitable environments for industries such as chemical processing, desalination, air quality control, mineral processing, oil and gas and wastewater treatment. And through it all, adhesives have been proven to stand up in the harshest of applications, whether it be from chemicals, temperature or anything in between.

According to the American Composites Manufacturers Association, by the 1990s, the corrosion control industry had gathered four decades’ worth of data and case studies, enough to put together a positive performance record. According to the site, corrosion-resistant adhesives represent roughly 11% to 15% of the total composites market today, which accounts for approximately $3 billion in annual sales.

What the Future Holds for Adhesives

Jumping into new markets at a rapid pace in recent years, adhesives are sticking their landing. The Adhesives and Sealants Industry magazine reports that the composite adhesives market is set to surpass $2 billion in the next five years. During that period, the forecast expects a 5% gain in acrylic composite adhesives, with growth spurred by increased use in the automotive and construction industries.

However, these are far from the only industry benefiting from the use of acrylic adhesives. Highly viscous, non-odorous, non-blooming and surface accommodable, there is a sizeable diversity of applications for these bonding agents. Too cost-saving to ignore, particularly with the movement in consumer expectations to smaller, sleeker, thinner and lighter products, countless manufacturers will increasingly find use for these binding agents or will adjust their manufacturing processes to facilitate their use. Adhesives are cementing a very positive outlook for both the fabricators who produce them and the consumers who will receive better, more reliable end products.

Benefits of Adhesives

Beyond the material differences between metal fasteners and adhesives are other, less tangible benefits for businesses.

In manufacturing warehouses, not only is machinery in constant need of maintenance and attention, but large staffs required for drilling, welding, grinding, resealing and more can be costly and challenging to manage. Easy to use, though, adhesives can help increase throughput. Adhesives also lend well to automated processes, not only ensuring that products are assembled with consistency and speed, but providing opportunities for businesses to modify staffing needs. Cost savings can, of course, be achieved through the trimming of staff; however, most warehouse workers can contribute in far greater ways than assembly—these teams can be reallocated to roles that will ultimately provide more value for the employees and the company as a whole.

Due to their malleable nature, adhesives can be custom-designed for application on specific surfaces and products. This tractability allows companies to better forecast operating expenses while eliminating the waste associated with traditional binding products like hinges, nails and screws—cost savings which can be reinvested elsewhere within the business.

Again, not a necessarily tangible element, but manufacturing with adhesives is far less noisy than metal or traditional fastening processes, increasing floor communication abilities, decreasing employee hearing strain risks and improving overall worker happiness.

Ultimately, adhesives sustain minimal shrinkage, provide excellent cohesive strength and offer tremendous chemical and heat resistance when compared to traditional binding tools.

The MVP Difference

Companies like Magnum Venus Products are pioneering new ways to create reliable and simple-to-use adhesive application equipment. The company strives to build products of the highest quality while implementing user-friendly interfaces to ensure ease of operation. Businesses in the marine, aerospace, window and door, specialty vehicles and other various industries can improve their offerings, efficiency and budgets with the right tools in their hands, and adhesives are a catalyst to this enhanced growth.

MVP boasts a state-of-the-art lineup of adhesive manufacturing tools including:

  • Single Component Unit – the most user-friendly material unloader on the market.
  • Cartridge Filling Station – fills reusable cartridges that can provide 40% to 60% material savings
  • 10:1 Adhesives Systems – the ultimate solution for methacrylate adhesive material processing needs
  • 1:1 Adhesives/Sealants Systems – operates at 1:1 material ratios; provides the most accurate shot size of meter mixed materials.
  • Chop Check Putty Systems – provide a precise, steady flow of material to your product.

Offering unparalleled accuracy coupled with material and cost savings makes adhesive manufacturing a wise move for businesses of any size. Learn more now about the solutions MVP provides for a diverse set of adhesive manufacturing needs.