There are so many kinds of adhesive tapes available that it’s hard to keep track of them all! Most of the tapes on the market are designed to fulfill the needs of a specific application or market segment. For example, carton-sealing tapes serve packaging needs, office tapes are sold to the consumer market and masking tapes are used in paint-masking applications in the automotive and professional painting industries. To go one step further, most tape manufacturers focus on a few specific product types and the markets they serve.

Let’s first discuss specialty tape and what it really means. Then we’ll move on to some applications for specialty tapes, the properties needed for a tape to fit this description and the wide range of markets where these tapes can be found.

Like many commercial products, tapes can be categorized in either the commodity or specialty categories.

Commodity tapes serve a broad market. Duct tape and electrical tape are examples of commodity tapes. These are low-cost products that can be easily purchased in very small quantity anywhere. Meanwhile, specialty tapes are designed to fit specific applications and are not generally found at your local hardware or office supply store. Since these products are designed for specialized uses, they often contain specific performance adhesives and other materials to fulfill the requirements of the task at hand. Specialty tapes likewise command a premium price in the market due to being uniquely made products.

Specialty tapes fall into four basic construction types:

  • Self-wound
  • Single-sided with release liner
  • Double-coated
  • Unsupported transfer adhesives

Specialty Self-Wound Tapes

Within the above four categories lie a multitude of specific physical properties that make the tapes perform well. For instance, specialty self-wound tapes incorporate distinct backings and adhesive systems that when combined, provide the performance for the intended application. Splicing tapes are often self-wound and considered a specialty tape. Since there are so many different splicing applications, various types of splicing tapes are available. That means you’re sure to find one that has the right features and properties you need to tackle the job at hand.

Flash Breaker tape is a specialty self-wound tape used in composite molding applications to mask parts and tools. Flashing is the excess material formed during the molding process. Once the process is complete, the tape is removed, which breaks the flashing. This tape requires special properties such as high strength and resistance to hot temperatures.

Specialty Single-Sided Tapes with Release Liners

Single-side coated specialty tapes with release liners have a similar construction to self-wound tapes. They incorporate a backing material and an adhesive on one side. The difference is their release liners cover the adhesive layer. Like other specialty tapes, these products will have high-performance adhesives and backings that provide special features designed to perform well in the end-use application. The addition of a release liner is often incorporated to aid in subsequent processing like die cutting, printing or in tape constructions that can’t be made using self-wound tapes.

As an example, say an electronic device has sensitive components of a specific shape that need to be protected from heat. A single-side coated aluminum foil with a release liner and high-temperature adhesive would likely fit the need. This is because the foil reflects heat, while the high-temperature adhesive ensures performance. Additionally, the release liner is necessary to allow the tape to be properly cut into parts. Of course, many foil laminates and other materials may be suitable for heat shielding applications as well.

Specialty Double-Coated Tapes

Specialty double-coated tapes consist of a carrier film, foil or other flexible material. Both sides of the carrier are coated with an adhesive, and a release liner covers the adhesive layer. These tapes are made with high-performance adhesives along with carrier materials and release liners designed for the end use.

Double-coated tapes are commonly used to laminate other materials, bond two materials together or make self-adhesive parts. Double-coated tapes are laminated to materials such as foams, films and foils to make them self-adhesive. These tapes incorporate a carrier, which provides dimensional stability and aids in lamination and with cutting them into narrow rolls or shapes. Pressure-sensitive weather stripping is one example of an application using this sort of tape.

Specialty Transfer Adhesives

Transfer adhesives are simply pressure-sensitive adhesives cast directly onto a release liner. There is no carrier or backing for this product. These products work like a double-coated tape but don’t have the dimensional stability that a carrier provides. Nevertheless, not having a carrier allows the adhesive additional flexibility and flow onto rough surfaces, providing a stronger bond. The construction of a transfer adhesive sounds pretty simple – adhesive is cast onto a release liner – but in reality, making these products is complex. Not all adhesives release in exactly the same way from all release liners. The trick is finding the right combination to allow the transfer adhesive to unwind and still maintain the release characteristics needed for the application.

For the most part, transfer adhesives are used to laminate foams, fabrics and other materials to give them a self-adhesive feature. Like other tapes, transfer adhesives can be designed to provide specific performance features.

Markets

It’s incredible how many markets utilize specialty tapes in one form or another. Here are a few examples:

  • Automotive
  • Industrial
  • Marine
  • Pulp and paper
  • Graphic arts
  • Aerospace
  • Military
  • Medical
  • Converting
  • Sound attenuation
  • Electronics
  • Construction
  • Custom Adhesive Tapes

Not all applications can be satisfied with the current selection of specialty tapes on the market. Some require a custom product designed specifically for the application or process. Custom adhesive tapes are what can truly be referred to as “specialty.”

When designing and manufacturing a custom tape, it’s critical to fully understand the customer’s needs. Consider his or her application end use, performance requirements, required specifications and any processing the tape would go through during the project. All of these elements should be factored into the selection of materials. There are numerous issues to explore when venturing into the specialty tape market, so be sure to lean on a tape supplier you trust to help you accomplish your goals.