There are so many types of adhesive tapes that it’s hard to keep track! 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 from automotive to professional painting. To go one step further, most tape manufacturers focus on a few specific product types and the markets they serve.

In this article I talk about “specialty tapes” and the general meaning of the term “specialty tape”. I’ll then touch on a few “specialty tape” applications, the specific properties needed and the wide range of markets served. Lastly, my personal view of what a “specialty tape” is.

Like many commercial products, tapes can be categorized as commodity or specialty.

  • 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.
  • Specialty tapes are designed to fit specific applications and aren’t generally found at your local hardware or office supply store. Since these products are designed to fit specific applications, performance adhesives and specialized materials are often used to provide the properties needed. Specialty tapes command a premium price in the market due to being specially-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 these categories are a multitude of specific constructions.

Specialty self-wound tapes incorporate specific 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, many different types of splicing tapes are available. Each having just the right properties and features to do the job.

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 complete, the tape is removed, breaking the flashing. This tape requires special properties like high strength and resistance to high temperatures.

Specialty Single Sided Tape with Release Liner

Single-side coated specialty tapes with release liner have a similar construction to self-wound tapes. They incorporate a backing material and adhesive on one side. The difference is a release liner covering the adhesive layer. Like other specialty tapes, these products will have high-performance adhesives and backings that provide special features designed to perform 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 self-wound.

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 release liner and high temperature adhesive would likely fit the need. The foil reflects heat while the high-temperature adhesive ensures performance. The release liner is necessary to allow cutting the tape into parts. Of course, many foil laminates and other materials may be suitable for heat shielding applications as well.

Specialty Double-Coated Tape

Specialty double-coated tapes consist of a carrier film, foil or other flexible material. Both sides of the carrier are adhesive coated 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 to other materials, bond two materials together, or make self-adhesive parts. Double-coated tapes are laminated to materials such as foams, films, foils and more to make them self-adhesive. These tapes incorporate a carrier which provides dimensional stability and aids lamination and cutting into narrow rolls or shapes. Pressure-sensitive weather stripping is one example.

Specialty Transfer Adhesives

Transfer adhesives are simply pressure-sensitive adhesives cast directly onto a release liner. There’s no carrier or backing. These products work like a double-coated tape but don’t have the dimensional stability that a carrier provides. However, not having a carrier allows the adhesive to have flexibility and flow into rough surfaces, providing a stronger bond. The construction of a transfer adhesive sounds pretty simple – adhesive cast onto a release liner – but the fact is that making these products is rather tricky. Not all adhesives release the same 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 to 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.


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

  • 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 I consider as truly “specialty.”

When designing and manufacturing a custom tape, it’s critical to fully understand the customer’s needs. Application end use, performance requirements, required specifications and any processing the tape will go through are critical to consider. All of these factors go into the selection of materials and tape construction.

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful in understanding the specialty tape market and the criteria you need to consider and discuss with your tape supplier.