Sticking With It | Selecting the Right Adhesive for the Job

 Creating a new product? Adhesives expert Ingrid Brase offers a handy checklist to guide you through the process.

Selection of the right adhesive for your pressure-sensitive product, whether it’s a tape, label, or self-adhesive graphic, is a critical step in developing the product you will eventually offer and market. It is not the first step, but rather follows sound market research into determining the need and potential for a proposed new product. Simply put, if I create it, will enough customers buy it to reward my efforts?

This column will focus on providing a handy list of things to think about when you have determined there is a need that is large enough to support the effort to create a new product not met by your current offerings. Hopefully this provides you with some factors to consider before you pick up the phone to talk to your adhesive supplier to get their recommendations.

Countless times in my prior life, I would get calls and start asking these questions only to hear, “Gee, that’s a good question, I need to find that out!” In our current environment of fast response, taking the time to dive into the details early saves time in making repeated calls and lets you dig into the creation step more rapidly.

So where do we start? Let’s break this down into four main categories of things we need to know, namely:

  • Manufacturing: What equipment will we use?
  • Materials: What facestocks (carriers) and liners?
  • End Use: What are the requirements?
  • Cost: What can we sell the product for and what profit do we want to make?

So let’s explore each of these areas to see what information we should compile to get started.


The type of pressure–sensitive adhesive selected will be largely influenced by the type of coater available to do the coating; considering a hot melt when only liquid coating capability exists is not beneficial. Understanding the coating capability of existing machinery, including operating speed capability, process requirements such as viscosity, and coating method (gravure, slot die, etc.) are key basics.

Most adhesives are coated to liner, but they also can be coated direct to the facestock, also important to know. Having a coat weight target based on end use or cost as well as a desired line speed helps narrow adhesive selection.

The manufacturing environment also must be considered. Is pretreating of the facestock material available? How will the adhesive be stored? What type of container is optimal for adhesive delivery—is there a bulk tank and does usage warrant bulk? Is the plant climate controlled or will there be seasonal variation in temperatures that needs to be taken into consideration. For some applications, this last point can be a serious factor in determining how an adhesive will dry and release from a liner.


What is the facestock or carrier material that is desired? Paper, film, foil? What specific type? Will the facestock have to be pre-treated to allow for good adhesion? What about the liner? For instance, in ultra-clear applications, use of a film liner is recommended as the adhesive then does not take on the topical variation seen when coated on paper.

End Use

Selection of materials and adhesive are largely dictated by the end use requirements for the product. Factors to consider include: How long will the product be used? Under what environmental conditions does it need to survive—heat, humidity, cleaning agents? What type of bond strength is needed? Bond strength will be determined by both the facestock and the surface to which the product needs to adhere; this also may influence the target coat weight. As an example, if we are creating a label to adhere to wood, the coat weight will be much higher than to adhere to a smooth surface polyethylene film as the adhesive must flow into the nooks and crannies to create a strong bond. Does the product have to stick immediately or will it have time to wet out on the surface to form a strong bond? Many labels are applied by blowing them onto the surface so high tack is necessary to get instant stick, whereas self-adhesive graphics require open time to smooth the larger surface and remove air bubbles created during the application.

Another factor in adhesive selection is taking regulatory requirements into consideration. End use will determine which set of regulations, i.e., FDA, UL, AAMA, CONEG, REACH, etc., may be applicable.

Once the end use application requirements are determined, we then need to take a look at how the product will be stored before it is actually used. What is the shelf life of both adhesive and facestock materials, especially in the final construction? For instance, all adhesives are subject to some degradation by the plasticizers used in manufacturing vinyls; determining the impact is vital before introduction of a new product.


Finally, but probably most importantly, is considering a price point for the final product. At what price can we offer our new product and gain market interest? What profit do we want to make as a reward for our efforts? If we subtract the profit from our selling price we arrive at our target cost for the new product. There are various ways to account for manufacturing costs, whatever method is used by your company must be subtracted after target cost is determined.

Now we can take a hard look at what adhesive and materials we can afford to consider. In simple terms, creating a product made from gold when the customer can only afford silver does not help us gain business and just frustrates both parties!

So yes, creating any new product is a complex process; there are so many things to determine. Like all complex tasks, breaking it down into pieces and tackling each piece in an orderly manner is the best path to success.

I hope this approach proves helpful to you in your new product endeavors. In my next column, we will look at applying this approach to creating a new label product. Until then, keep Sticking With It.

About the Author

Ingrid Brase is a technical market strategist recognized for her ability to translate technical needs into business solutions. Her understanding of pressure-sensitive adhesives and their use is complemented by her strengths in strategic marketing, project management, new product development, and key account management. She is available for consulting or contact assignments in these areas. Ingrid’s expertise is a result of more than 20 years of experience in the p-s adhesives business. She was most recently the market segment director for Henkel Corp., rising to that position after various assignments in the p-s business unit. She began her career as a research scientist then progressed to market-focused roles. Ingrid earned her MBA at Rider Univ. and holds a BS in chemistry from SUNY/Oneonta. She has served on the board of directors for TLMI and AIMCAL in addition to chairing technical teams for both trade associations. Ingrid is a well-known speaker and author on topics related to adhesive use. To learn more about Ingrid or contact her, visit or call her at 609-558-9760.

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