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Postpack - UK Packaging Supplier

Packaging Tapes Made Easy

How to choose & use the right tape for the application

Packaging tapes come in many different forms and trying to ascertain the correct tape for the job can be a frustrating & complex process. From experience, the majority of people tend to find a suitable solution only after a sometimes painful and potentially expensive learning curve, when the material has failed to achieve its intended role. This trial & error method is in the most part unnecessary, providing people are made aware of a few basic rules governing the properties & performance of the tape.

Tape make-up

Packaging tapes are, in the main, adhesive and consist of a backing material known as the "carrier" and a layer of adhesive attached to one side. Differing carriers and adhesives are combined for a variety of applications. The most common types of carrier are PVC (poly vinyl chloride), polypropylene and kraft paper. These days polypropylene and kraft paper based tapes are becoming more popular due to their lower environmental impact when compared with PVC based tapes. The adhesives used in the tape have also evolved in recent years. Solvent based adhesive used to be the adhesive of choice, however, hot melt and water based acrylic have now overtaken solvents as the preferred tape adhesive. It is important when choosing a tape to be aware of the different types of adhesive as this will govern how effective the final result is.

Tape application

As already mentioned, most packaging tapes are adhesive and this adhesive tends to be pressure sensitive. This means that in order to achieve the tape manufacturers' intended performance the tape must be applied with some form of applicator or dispenser. Although seemingly obvious, it is amazing that most people do not seem to be aware that this is one of the most common reasons that tapes fail to perform. By applying pressure to the tape, the adhesive is activated, bonding properly with the surface to be adhered too and is less likely to fail at a later point. Firm, consistent pressure should be applied for best results. When applying the edges of the tape to a surface, care should be taken to ensure that pressure is applied firmly to these areas. The ends of the tape, once cut, tend to be uneven and are therefore the most vunerable. If these areas are not attached correctly, the tape is liable to lift away as the adhesive does not have maximum purchase on the material

For most adhesive tapes, the adhesive is also time sensitive and needs to be given a chance to bond with the opposing surface. This means that to achieve optimum results, it must be left for at least 20 minutes without interference. This is an average guide time as some tapes can take longer than this to achieve top results. The main thing to remember on this point is that once applied, the longer it is left without interference or contact, then the better the final results.

Another major factor involved in a tape's performance is the material that the tape is to be applied to. For best results again, the surface(s) must be clean, dry, free of oil, grease, dirt, dust, fibres, or any other loose material. If any of these substances are present on the surface of the material they will adhere to the tape's adhesive, thereby reducing the tapes overall effectiveness. The surface area that the tape is adhered to will be diminished and consequently the tapes abilities will be affected. Ideally, the material to be adhered to should be flat and even. This is not always possible of course, however if a surface is uneven or inconsistent, the adhesive will have to work harder to achieve good results. In this case it may be necessary to apply extra tape in order to provide added security.

Tape types & features

The most common types of packaging tapes are as follows;

Hot melt polypropylene. Consists of a polypropylene carrier and hotmelt adhesive. Low cost solution for general applications, particularly suitable for high speed volume use. Tends to have a quick release coating on the adhesive for ease of application. Will not tear but susceptible to splitting and can fracture on impact. Requires fair amount of pressure when applied to achieve results. Adhesive performs well in extreme temperatures e.g. cold storage. Can be overprinted cost effectively.

Acrylic polypropylene. Consists of a polypropylene carrier and water based acrylic adhesive. Low cost solution for general applications such as carton sealing. Will not tear but susceptible to splitting and can fracture on impact. Requires fair amount of pressure when applied to achieve results. Can be overprinted cost effectively. Good print reproduction. Available in a user friendly low noise version.

Solvent polypropylene. Consists of a polypropylene carrier and solvent adhesive. Higher priced solution for general applications such as carton sealing. Will not tear but susceptible to splitting and can fracture on impact. Requires minimal pressure when applied to achieve results. Good adhesion but becoming less popular due to environmental impact. Can be overprinted.

PVC (Poly vinyl chloride). Consists of a PVC carrier and a solvent adhesive. Expensive, quality solution for most applications such as carton sealing. Can be torn by hand but susceptible to splitting and can fracture on impact. Requires minimal pressure when applied to achieve results. Good adhesion but becoming less popular due to environmental impact. Can be overprinted.

Self adhesive paper tape. Consists of a kraft paper carrier and a water based acrylic adhesive. Expensive good quality solution for general applications such as carton sealing. Can be torn by hand. Excellent adhesion, requires minimal pressure when applied to achieve results. Fast becoming the tape of choice for environmentally conscious users due to its biodegradable and recyclable properties. Can be overprinted.

Tapes & recommended applications

Below is a list of typical applications and the recommended tapes

Cardboard normal conditions - Self adhesive paper and polypropylene water based acrylic
Cardboard extreme temperature and high volume - Hot melt polypropylene
Paper normal conditions - Self adhesive paper and polypropylene water based acrylic
Paper extreme temperatures - Hot melt polypropylene
Polythene all conditions - PVC, Solvent polypropylene, polypropylene water based acrylic
Plastics all conditions - PVC, Solvent polypropylene, polypropylene water based acrylic

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