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Keeping up appearances with a perfect facade

3M Europe : 25 September, 2003  (New Product)
3M VHB adhesive tape as a fixing method meet all of the criteria for bonding strength and ability to handle the weight loading in construction applications, as well as weathering and ageing performance. It has been used in building and construction applications for about 10 years and has a good track record.
Over the past two decades architects have increasingly created structural designs, particularly for commercial offices and public buildings, which incorporate cladded exterior surfaces. The aim is to achieve a high level of aesthetic appeal and, generally, those that succeed in this objective share one thing in common. They have perfect surfaces. These façades are free from the spoiling affects of rivets, brackets, screws, weld marks and other unsightly mechanical fixings often used to secure two surfaces together.

According to Heiner Pohl, owner of metal forming and processing specialist Christian Pohl GmbH, headquartered in Cologne, Germany: “The solution is neither complex nor unrealistically expensive. In fact, quite the reverse, it’s simple and economic. You replace mechanical fasteners with double-sided adhesive tape.

“This effective quality solution is one in which the company has absolute confidence, built on years of successful applications particularly in the fastening of high grade stainless steel facings and aluminium sub-structure reinforcement.

“One of the first projects to which we applied this technique was a sky scraper on West Wacker Drive in Chicago,” Pohl explains. “That was 12 years ago and involved more than 11,000 m2 of ultra-finished stainless steel window casings. We selected 3M VHB adhesive tape as the fixing method as it met all of our criteria for bonding strength and ability to handle the weight loading, as well as weathering and ageing performance. Moreover, at that time it had already been used in building and construction applications for about 10 years and had a good track record. Since then 3M VHB tape has been a key part of our toolkit,” he says.

Naturally the advantages 3M VHB tape offers designers and engineers extend far beyond its potential to deliver aesthetic improvements. Based on an acrylic copolymer construction, 3M VHB tape, unlike mechanical fasteners which concentrate stress, provides a continuous bond that distributes stress over an entire surface.

Even compared with adhesive compounds, 3M VHB tape delivers important benefits. These include no required curing time and no after treatment of joints and, essential for all large-scale projects, tape can be positioned with reproducible accuracy time after time.

Moreover, in structures such as stainless steel elements mounted on an aluminium sub-structure, 3M VHB tape compensates for the differences in the linear thermal expansion of the two materials. This compensation can be up to three times tape thickness, therefore as much as 3.3 mm. For example, at 50C the linear expansion of aluminium is approximately 1.5 mm/m and that of stainless steel is 0.85 mm/m – 3M VHB tape is therefore easily able to absorb the 0.3 mm/m difference without any adverse influence on structural integrity.

Furthermore, 3M VHB tape is characterised by high resistance to heat and UV radiation, with some products rated for short-term peak exposure to temperatures up to 260C, making it ideal for use in the installation of facings continuously exposed to high heat and UV light. One such project undertaken by Christian Pohl’s jointing team was the cladding of the 56-storey Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, for which 60,000 meters of 3M VHB tape were used.

In addition to its heat stability 3M VHB tape delivers outstanding strength with adhesive peel resistance of 120 – 450 N/100 mm and tensile sheer resistance between 42 – 69 N/cm2. This mechanical performance is complemented by its resistance to stress, fatigue, vibration, moisture and a range of solvents to ensure long-term structural bonding.

Enabling the broadest application use, 3M VHB product technology embraces transparent adhesive film as well as black, white, grey and transparent adhesive tape. These are available in thicknesses from 0.5 mm – 30 mm and widths from 6.00 mm – 1200 mm.

Transparent products have a particular fit in glass facings and even in the construction of solar cell modules, such as those in the walkway in front of the glass dome of the Reichstag in Berlin. In such applications the long-term maintenance of transparency is of prime importance. To qualify the 3M VHB tape for this construction it was laboratory tested using accelerated ageing, with adhesion joints subjected to high temperatures and UV radiation for 3000 hours. Results showed that the initial transparency of 88.2% had reduced only slightly to 87.3% following the intense exposure.

Although 3M VHB adhesive tape has been in the marketplace for more than 20 years it has undergone progressive improvements in its properties and performance and this process of evolutionary development continues. Research has focused on three key objectives: structural pressure adhesive tapes with significantly increased strength that can be cured by short-term exposure to UV light, tapes that offer increased peel and sheer strength but which also integrate a thermal, electrical or optical function, and high performance tape systems that not only adhere to metal, glass and ceramics but also to structured materials with low surface energy, such as the majority of advanced engineering plastics.

Of these customer-driven developments, new Low Surface Energy films have been successfully launched and have already found commercial applications, and more new products are set for market introduction in the near future. In this way 3M VHB tape continues to deliver optimum solutions to match market needs and to provide the hidden strength behind the most aesthetically pleasing facades.
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