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Fundamentals of Adhesion

Selecting the proper adhesives for Greater molecular attraction results in 3M Firm Acrylic Adhesive 200, 200MP
a nameplate, label or membrane switch increased contact between an adhesive and 600 families will not readily adhere
application requires consideration of and substrate. In other words, a high to substrates categorized as having low
environmental, surface, appearance and surface energy material, the adhesive surface energy. However, 3M Adhesives
other performance requirements. Our can flow (or wet-out) to assure a 300, 320, 350, and 300LSE modified
purpose here is to cover some of stronger bond. acrylics or 700 synthetic rubber
the principles of adhesion. adhesives have been designed to adhere
Consider an automobile that has not to low surface energy plastics, and should
Surface contact is fundamental to been waxed for a long time. When be considered for those applications.
adhesive performance. To maximize water contacts the surface it spreads in
adhesive contact on a surface: large puddles. The unwaxed car surface
exhibits high surface energy the
It must be dry and free of molecular attraction allows the water
contaminates. to flow.
Firm pressure must be applied to In comparison, water beads up into
increase the flow and contact of small spheres on freshly waxed car. Wettability Principle
the adhesive with the substrate. It is an example of low surface (Acrylic or Enamel) Paint Metal
energy the liquid (or adhesive)
Time and temperature will Liquid
does not flow out.
increase the surface contact and Paint
adhesion values. Metal
Surface energy is measured by dynes High Surface Energy
per centimeter. The dyne level is the
Oil contaminated materials may Wax (Polyethylene) Paint Metal
actual reading of the critical surface
be addressed with the 3M Adhesive
tension. Liquid
300LSE or 350 families.
Modified acrylic and synthetic Paint
Adhesion is the molecular force
adhesives with better flow (or Low Surface Energy Metal
of attraction between unlike materials.
wet-out) characteristics have been
The strength of attraction is determined This illustration demonstrates the effect of surface
developed to adhere to low surface energy on adhesive interfacial contact. High surface
by the surface energy of the material. energy materials draw the adhesive closer for high
energy substrates. The Surface Energy
The higher the surface energy, the bond strength.
Chart below compares the relative
greater the molecular attraction. The
surface energy of commonly used
lower the surface energy, the weaker
the attractive forces.

Surface Energy Chart

Metal Surfaces High Surface Energy Low Surface Energy
(High Surface Energy) Plastics (HSE) Plastics (LSE)

mJ/m2 Surfaces mJ/m2 Surfaces mJ/m2 Surfaces

1103 Copper 50 Kapton Industrial Film 37 PVA
840 Aluminum 47 Phenolic 36 Polystyrene
753 Zinc 46 Nylon 36 Acetal
526 Tin 45 Alkyd Enamel 33 EVA
458 Lead 43 Polyester 31 Polyethylene
700-1100 Stainless Steel 43 Epoxy Paint 29 Polypropylene
250-500 Glass Porcelain 43 Polyurethane Paint 28 Tedlar Polyvinyl
42 ABS Fluoride Film
42 Polycarbonate 18 Teflon Fluoropolymer
39 PVC Rigid * Powder Coated Paints
38 Noryl Resin
38 Acrylic
* Broad range
NOTE: These values are provided as a guide. Formulation modifications can substantially alter surface energies.