how is the adhesive on packaging tape activated

by:CROWN     2024-06-17


Packaging tape is commonly used to seal boxes and packages for transportation and storage. One crucial aspect of packaging tape is its adhesive, which holds the tape securely in place. But have you ever wondered how that adhesive is activated? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of packaging tape adhesive and explore the different methods used to activate it. From pressure-sensitive adhesives to hot melt adhesives, we will uncover the science behind these essential components of packaging tape.

Pressure-Sensitive Adhesives

Pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) are widely employed in packaging tape due to their convenience and ease of use. These adhesives are formulated to stick to surfaces when pressure is applied and require no additional activation methods. The primary mechanism behind the functionality of pressure-sensitive adhesives lies in their viscoelastic properties, which enable them to flow and wet the surface upon contact.

When pressure is applied to packaging tape, the adhesive layer conforms to the irregularities of the surface, creating intimate contact. As a result, the adhesive forms molecular attractions with the surface, enhancing its adhesion. The phenomenon can be explained by van der Waals forces, which are weak intermolecular forces between atoms or molecules. The higher the contact area and pressure, the stronger the adhesion between the adhesive and the surface.

Pressure-sensitive adhesives offer a myriad of benefits. They offer immediate tackiness, allowing the tape to adhere quickly upon application. Additionally, they do not require any specialized equipment or heat sources to activate the adhesive, making them highly convenient for everyday use.

Hot Melt Adhesives

Unlike pressure-sensitive adhesives, hot melt adhesives (HMAs) require heat activation to become sticky. HMAs are solid adhesives that are melted and applied in a molten state, turning into a liquid adhesive upon application. As they cool down and solidify, the adhesive regains its bond strength, firmly sealing the package.

The activation process of hot melt adhesives involves three main stages: heating, application, and cooling. First, the HMA is heated to an elevated temperature, typically between 275°F to 425°F (135°C to 218°C), in a specialized hot melt tank or applicator. Once the adhesive reaches its melt point and becomes a liquid, it is applied onto the packaging tape through a nozzle or slot die.

During application, the molten adhesive is precisely dispensed onto the backing material of the packaging tape. The adhesive layer is then brought into contact with the substrate to be sealed. As the adhesive cools down, it solidifies and develops bond strength, providing secure adhesion.

Hot melt adhesives offer several advantages for packaging applications. They provide excellent bond strength, even at low temperatures, making them suitable for various environmental conditions. The fast-setting nature of HMAs allows for increased production speeds in packaging operations. Furthermore, hot melt adhesives can bond to a wide range of substrates, including plastics, foams, and metal surfaces.

Cold Seal Adhesives

Cold seal adhesives, also known as self-seal or self-adhesive adhesives, are a type of pressure-sensitive adhesive that does not require heat activation. They are commonly used in industries such as food packaging and medical packaging, where heat can damage or affect the contents.

The unique feature of cold seal adhesives is the presence of a release coating on the adhesive surface. This coating prevents the adhesive from sticking to the backing material when the tape is rolled or folded onto itself. When the tape is unfolded and pressed against the surface to be sealed, the release coating is disrupted, and the adhesive sticks to the substrate.

Cold seal adhesives offer numerous advantages in specific applications. They allow for easy and secure sealing without the need for heat, reducing the risk of damaging sensitive goods. These adhesives are also frequently used for resealable packaging applications, providing convenience for users and maintaining product freshness.

Water-Activated Adhesives

Water-activated adhesives, commonly known as gummed tape or water-activated tape (WAT), offer a highly secure and tamper-evident sealing solution. This type of adhesive requires water to initiate the adhesive properties.

Water-activated adhesives consist of a paper or fiberglass backing and a starch-based adhesive. To activate the adhesive, a small amount of water is applied to the non-adhesive side of the tape. The water penetrates the backing material, dissolving the starch-based adhesive and turning it into a sticky paste. When the tape is applied to the surface, the adhesive forms a strong bond as the water evaporates, resulting in a permanent seal.

Water-activated adhesives provide several benefits for packaging applications. They offer exceptional bond strength and tamper resistance, making them ideal for securing valuable or confidential items. WAT is also highly versatile, adhering to a variety of surfaces, including corrugated cardboard, recycled materials, and even difficult surfaces like dusty or dirty boxes.


Packaging tape adhesives play a crucial role in securing packages and ensuring their safe transportation and storage. From pressure-sensitive adhesives that activate upon application to hot melt adhesives that require heat activation, different methods offer diverse benefits for various packaging needs. Cold seal adhesives provide convenience and resealable options, while water-activated adhesives offer exceptional strength and tamper resistance. Understanding the characteristics and activation methods of packaging tape adhesives allows us to make informed decisions when choosing the appropriate tape for our packaging requirements. So, the next time you seal a package, take a moment to appreciate the technology behind the adhesive that holds it all together.

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