ST. PAUL, Minn.—3M Inc. is using adhesives based on urethanes and other natural and synthetic rubber compounds to address the ongoing demands for lower volatile organic compound content.
And the result is that its rubber-related adhesives portfolio, which consists of products based from urethanes, natural rubbers, synthetic rubbers and some silicone, has experienced steady success.
"I think it's grown for 3M by having unique products," Cory Sauer, a technical service engineer for flexible adhesives, said of the firm's rubber-related adhesives business. "The ability to bond different materials has helped. We're talking about really difficult-to-bond things like polyethylene or polypropylene, lower-surface-energy materials, and then also very flexible plasticized materials."
One key opportunity Sauer identified for rubber-related adhesives is for aerosol applications that are demanding lower VOC content from manufacturers. The firm recently released a line of spray adhesives designed to meet low VOC requirements set forth by the California Air Resource Board and the Ozone Transport Commission.
The six sprays, including a silicone spray, are designed to bond many different materials, ranging from foils to plastics, papers, metals, woods, laminates, foams and fabrics among others.
Companies face a common problem in that the tougher solvents, like toluene, benzene or methylene chloride, are very effective, but harsh. With softer solvents, adhesives producers have to get creative with the ratios used between different types of tackifiers.
"The big deal with rubber-based adhesives is that they require a carrier, whether it's water or solvents, and making sure in the aerosol format we can keep the VOC content low," Sauer said.
Globally, he said transportation is a big industry for 3M because of the expansion going on Europe and Asia with regards to increased rail and bus manufacturing.
Rubber adhesives have several advantages. Sauer said the rubber family comes at a lower cost compared to other curing technologies like epoxies or urethanes. A low-cost adhesive helps when manufacturers are dealing with larger surface bonding, and rubber adhesives lend themselves well to quickly and efficiently coating surfaces.
He added that their flexibility allows them to be placed in some high demanding applications. Their ability to wet out and peel without being as harsh of a bond—like the one created using two-part epoxy—also brings numerous advantages.
Headquartered in St. Paul, 3M targets industrial applications like transportation, rail, truck, bus, aerospace, marine/boat, various skin or panel bonding, general construction, and furniture. The company reported $30 billion in sales with more than 90,000 global employees.