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  • Writer's pictureAbdullah Khan

How To Test Tape

When a customer comes to us with a challenge, we actually test the tape for them and with them.

There are two ways to do this: Real-world field testing and lab testing. Ideally, we get to do both, like at The Durability Lab, but the bottom line is that the real world test matters most.

What good is a lab report when your building envelope leaks like a sieve, or your flying splice failed because the adhesive didn’t stick fast enough? Not good at all.

So here we’re going to walk you through the most common tape testing variables we use at ECHOtape.

Know Your Substrate

One of the most critical aspects of our application trials is to test the tape on the actual substrate which is where real-world applications come into play.

For years, lab tape testing was performed on standardized substrates, like steel, and it did not differentiate performance based on a specific material. Over the last five decades, we have learned how critical a factor this is. The tape may work on one specific substrate and fail on others. Sometimes the tape works on a substrate, but when any changes to the chemistry or condition of the substrate change, the tape could end up failing. Even a small change can have a major effect.

Take, for example, splicing tapes. In many situations, customers need a quick stick while materials are still moving (called a flying splice), but then the tape needs to permanently adhere for long-term performance. We first test splicing tape by hand on the substrate — paper, cardboard, flexographic materials — and then see if it pulls fibers. This is good because this shows that the tape has a quick stick. Then, we move it to the actual machine for real-world testing. A splice can take a blink of an eye and so you need to test the tape in the manufacturing process

Permanent or Temporary Bonding?

Which one you want makes a difference in how you test tape. Here are some more behind-the-scenes insights to our application testing process.

For temporary bonding, we are trying to discover whether tape adheres quickly and comes off cleanly..an important field test when considering protective film or stucco tape. In this scenario, we will apply the same environmental conditions to the adhesives, and see how it performs. Does it apply quickly and evenly? Does it remove easily and without residue? We can certainly duplicate this in the lab, but there’s no replacement for real world testing. Which is why it’s important that our clients understand that field tape testing takes time. If your issue is stucco tape isn’t sticking in 90°F and 100% humidity, it doesn’t do us any good to test it in the fall when it’s 60°F and 20% humidity.

Permanent bonding is a different animal. Oftentimes, the tape needs to cure to assess performance, like acrylic adhesives that need 72 hours to set. There are two common real-world tests we use here:

  • Shear strength. This is the force pulling down on the tape. To assess shear strength, we can hang a weight and see what happens. Does the tape slide? Where is the force trying to pull it apart? That is what you need to know when you test bonding.

  • Peel Strength. Here we measure the degree of adhesion by lifting at 180-degrees, then lifting it the opposite direction. How well does it stick? Does it delaminate, or rip off the substrate? If it delaminates, it means the tape is stronger than the substrate, something you look for when you need extreme bonding power.

Ultraviolet (UV) Exposure and Aging

UV light is a type of electromagnetic radiation, as are radio waves, infrared radiation, X-rays and gamma rays. It’s invisible to the human eye, but it makes a profound effect on adhesives. With prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, certain chemical materials, such as natural and some synthetic rubbers as well as polyethylene, can experience negative changes to their properties; resulting in them becoming hard and brittle. Absolutely not the qualities you want in a tape that needs to hold for any duration in a particular application. (Read our behind the scenes report on The Durability Lab here.)

The good news is that you can minimize the effects of UV light by choosing the right tape. For outdoor use, it is best to stay away from adhesive tapes with a natural or synthetic rubber adhesive. Unless the adhesive has been specially treated with ultraviolet stabilizers or the backing has an ultraviolet light barrier, like a premium outdoor stucco duct tape. There are also adhesive tapes that have been specially designed for prolonged outdoor exposure typically using an acrylic adhesive.

Extreme Temperatures

We are the leaders in cold weather tape for good reason: our home offices in Canada are ground zero for sub-freezing environmental conditions.

It doesn’t get any more real than that. Still, we do also conduct lab testing. Using a temperature-controlled, environmental chamber, we bring temperatures down below -30°F and assess the outcome. Does it stick, and does it stay secure? The same is true for heat, although real-world tape testing is done in Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

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