Traditionally, manufacturers have taken to mechanical fasteners when bonding parts, such as screws, nuts, bolts and welds. As technology has evolved and processes change, adhesive methods have become more widely accepted in place of their mechanical counterparts. These solutions are more cost-efficient and offer several advantages over mechanical fasteners when it comes to overall performance and life-time value.
While mechanical parts are still sometimes required in some shape or form throughout the product development process, the integration of adhesives can significantly reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and lead to better performance all-around.
It’s crucial to consider your specific application when designing a product and choosing the right bonding methods involved.
Benefits of Bonding with Structural Adhesives
Small efficiencies throughout the production chain can warrant substantial cost-savings and product quality. When deciding between adhesives and mechanical fasteners, consider where an adhesion method could be used earlier in the development process to bond parts that might otherwise be inaccessible or nonconductive to using a metal alternative.
One huge benefit of opting for adhesives is that they can be pre-applied to the application and activated further down the production chain. Not only does this technique yield space efficiencies, but when metal bolts and fasteners are no longer necessary, it allows for flexibility and room for design innovation during production.
Similarly, adhesives can be applied to a wide variety of materials and surfaces, which is a huge advantage to manufacturers. While a metal fastener or welded bond would be restricted by the shape, size and thickness of the parts involved, adhesive bonding offers a wealth of application techniques to bypass these challenges.
Another huge benefit of using adhesion to bond parts is the labor required (or lack thereof) to perform the adhesion. While mechanical fasteners would require welding or other forms of manual installation/bonding, the adhesion method is a much less labor-intensive technique that can be performed with minimal time or resources. This not only expedites the production process, but it reduces costs that would otherwise be incurred through manual labor.
Finally, adhesives are particularly low-maintenance to use compared to their mechanical counterparts. Adhesives require a minimal amount of surface preparation compared to other bonding methods. This contributes to the time and labor efficiencies gained throughout the development process.
Perhaps the most valuable quality of using adhesives to bond parts, though, is their ability to be manipulated, re-set, re-positioned and/or reapplied at any point in time, even after production has been finalized – something that a welded application would not be able to achieve.
This allows for far less waste and an overall more sustainable solution when small changes can be made to increase the lifetime of the product and bond (instead of throwing the product out all-together).
The benefits of adhesive bonding are actualized when the product or bond comes to completion. Size and weight efficiencies are some of the most valuable, tangible features of adhesive bonding, as less metal is involved in the structure of the bond. Without that metal involved, rusting and corrosion are not a concern – another huge benefit for applications exposed to humidity and water.
Adhesive bonding is also favorable among manufacturers for its ability to maintain the original form of the parts involved without compromising their shape or structure, as welding or metal fastening would do. Typically, fasteners are secured to the parts involved in the bond through drilling, which leaves holes in the bonded parts. Welding is irreversible, and even when a welded bond is broken, it tends to damage or distort the parts involved.
Some manufacturers might assume that adhesive bonding methods couldn’t withstand the strength required for their unique application. While each adhesive application requires testing and personalization, the strength warranted by adhesive bonding can even surpass that of a mechanical fastener (and simultaneously omit other challenges.)
Metal fasteners do, in fact, enable extreme bond strength, but they’re often unsightly, heavy and generally meant to provide one single solution: bonding two application parts. Structural adhesives can achieve that same bond strength if not a stronger solution than fasteners – especially when chemical bonding is involved (as it is in many adhesive bonding techniques.) Structural adhesives also maintain their bond strength in a wide variety of temperatures.