Packaging tape is often the first thing that a customer sees on a carton or container. It’s the first contact they have with your deliverable whether that’s produce, dairy, meat, widgets, or those old eight track tapes you were hiding in the back of your closet. You will be judged based on how well the tape (and box) has held up. So what kind of tape do you use and what kind of tape do you need? Acrylic tape and hot melt tape are the two most common packaging tapes. Let’s explore their similarities and their differences so you can make the best choice for your tape and ultimately your image.
When we think of someone in a warehouse sealing boxes with a tape gun, we’re talking about acrylic tape (for the most part). Acrylic tapes have two layers: a non-sticky backing and a sticky acrylic adhesive.
The non-adhesive side gives the tape it’s durability and stability. The acrylic side offers a tackiness that allows the tape to adhere to the surface. For the most part, acrylic tape can adhere to the surface for a significant time, offer protection against ultraviolet exposure, be exposed to a wide range of temperatures, and can be applied mechanically or by hand.
While acrylic tape is fantastic in specific applications due to it’s adhesion qualities, the strength of the hold can be reduced under certain circumstances. This is because its adhesion to the corrugated areas can strengthen over time. The same qualities which increase the ease of application can also weaken given stressors in shipping and handling. However, for many applications acrylic tape is ideal due to the ease of application, limited exposure to on-going stressors, and cost of the product.
Hot Melt Tape
As mentioned, acrylic tape consists of a two-layer system while hot melt tape offers a three layer system that makes if idea as a packaging tape for certain applications. The three layers in hot melt tape include: a top film-like layer, a unique coating that enables the hot melt tape to unwind in a uniform manner, and a final layer of aggressive adhesive material.
The resin and rubber of the adhesive layer in hot melt tape contribute to an extremely strong sealable quality. This bond is instant and permanent with an aggressive holding quality. When a hot melt tape is applied, it take a lot of effort to pull the adhesive away from itself. With enough force, the tape will be more prone to pulling the corrugation away from itself than to separating the layers of tape.
Since hot melt tape is made differently than acrylic tapes, they are designed for specific uses that are very different than typical applications for acrylic tape. For example, hot melt tapes may not offer that same longevity when exposed to ultraviolet rays and temperature fluctuations.
Now that we know the differences between acrylic packaging tape and hot melt packaging tape, let’s explore which packing tape is the best solution for you. There are a few categories to understand to help you select the right packing tape for your application. These include: environment, grade, substrate, application, and quality. Let’s look at the first three aspects of packaging tape that will help you determine the best solution for your needs. The latter two areas will be discussed further in our next article.
Environment of Packaging Tape
As with most things in industrial settings, packaging tape must match the environment in which it is used, shipped in, and stored. Factors such as temperature, humidity, and light exposure impact the effectiveness of packaging tape.
Application temperature is different than the service temperature of packaging tape. The first is the temperature of the tape when it is applied and the second is the temperature of the environment where it is stored. For example, tapes used in produce packaging, meet processing, and in dairy production are exposed to a wide range of temperatures. Previously, acrylic tapes would be used in these environments because hot melt tape couldn’t keep it’s adhesion qualities in the cold temperatures. With gains in technology and research, there are now hot melt tapes that can withstand these cold environments and maintain their strength and adhesive qualities.
Several hot melt tapes in production today have a specialized resin adhesive that create an instant bond with the surface in which it’s applied. This means that you can gain the extra strength needed to keep your product secure in it’s packaging, while at the same time store it in an environment that ranges from -20F up to 100F.
Many production environments contain floating particles, dust collection systems, and heavily trafficked areas which contain a high exposure to humidity and dust particles. In these circumstances, a hot melt tape will not perform optimally and would have a weakened bond. This is when acrylic tapes become the ideal packaging tape solution because of it’s ability to adhere to cartons that are exposed to dust or dirt particles.
Grades of Packaging Tape
Just as in school, there is a sliding scale when it comes to packaging tape grades. The most influential grade qualities are based on the thickness of the film and the amount of the adhesive used. Having various grades insures your not over doing things and spending money that could improve the bottom line. At the same time, you want to be sure that you’re not under-doing things either and having your cartons arrive damaged and opened. In general, the thicker the tape backing the higher the grade of tape and the thinner the backing the lower the grade. Lower grades are perfect for lightweight applications and higher grades are suited for heavier cartons or security sealing applications.
There are millions of uses for packaging tape, and every surface of the application is different. Some substrates are corrugated while others are plastic. Some are porous while others are non-porous surfaces. Recycled substrates often consist of smaller fibers and fillers that make the adhesion of tape on a surface more difficult that other corrugated surfaces.
So Many Options
When it comes to packaging tape, there are numerous options available to consumers and industrial customers. It’s easy to just order tape and use whatever is sent. But most likely, either the tape is not suited for the application or the quality of the product such a low grade that it does not hold up under stress.
Don’t risk jeopardizing your product, image, and customer confidence! Give SSI Packaging Group a call (804.649.1111) or send us an email. Our packaging tape experts can evaluate if you’re selection is on target or if a better quality or even less costly tape will meet your needs. Our motto is that “we pack and track your image”®. Our goal is to help you succeed in not only protecting your product, but also your “image.”