Pressure Sensitive Tapes for Truck Trailer Fabrication Pittsburgh | Tom Brown, Inc.

We see tractor trailers every day. They are the critical link between producers and consumers. However, like most things we see often, we tend to take them for granted.

The truck trailer may appear to be just a box on wheels, but it is a sophisticated piece of equipment. The trailer protects the cargo from the elements and stabilizes it. Also, it keeps the cargo cold if perishable. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the trailer does this all safely while traveling at highway speeds.

For decades, mechanical fasteners have been used in these trailer fabrications. However, they come at a cost. That’s why we’re sharing various brands of pressure sensitive tapes and their benefits for truck trailer fabrication.

Truck Trailer Pressure Sensitive Tape Applications

Dry freight vans and refrigerated vans contain a myriad of components and sub-assemblies that need to be reliably put together and sealed. Typical applications include:

  • Panel to Frame Bonding (skins, roofs, sidewall and ceiling liners)
    • Replaces rivets and welds for metal and composite panels
  • Stiffener to Panel Bonding
    • Easily apply stiffeners to improve panel rigidity and support
  • Sealing Roof, Deck, and Panel Seams, LED Lighting and Access Ports
    • Single coated PVC and acrylic foam sealing tapes bond immediately to metals and plastics and form watertight seals
  • Self-Adhesive Gaskets
    • Gasketing foams of different densities can be die cut to any shape
  • Differential Metals
    • Single coated polyethylene tapes provide a barrier between commonly used metals and prevent bimetallic corrosion

Mechanical Fastener Challenges

As stated above, mechanical fasteners have been used in trailer fabrication for decades but come at a cost. Holes must be drilled into the panels and framing. The real problem comes as the trailer is used. Road vibrations cause the drilled holes to elongate over time. The fastener is no longer seated properly and the elongated hole is now an ingress point for water. In fact, it is not unusual for 25-30 percent of the fasteners to loosen after just 30,000 miles.

As the trailer body heats up and cools down, thermal expansion and contraction occur. This cycling results in point stresses at the fastener head farther elongating the holes and allowing water penetration.

Engineering Benefits of Pressure Sensitive Tape Bonding

It can be difficult to imagine that pressure sensitive tapes can replace metal fasteners or welds. After all, fasteners and welds are metal and metal is strong, right? (The answer is yes.) However, metal is strong in very specific ways and weak in other ways.

A bonding tape’s strength does not come from high compressive forces. Its strength comes from establishing intimate contact with the surfaces involved and from viscoelastic behavior.

  • Tapes distribute stress along the entire joint—rivets, welds and bolts concentrate stresses that can degrade material performance over time.
  • These tapes exhibit high load bearing capability with excellent dynamic shear and tensile strength. This viscoelastic behavior permits the joint to dampen vibration, absorb shock and recover time after time.
  • Also, pressure sensitive tapes bond and seal simultaneously. Tapes form strong bonds that seal out water, dirt and other contaminants.
  • They eliminate the need for drilling or punching holes and reduce the chance of water infiltration and corrosion.
  • Tapes prevent galvanic corrosion. They also act as a barrier between dissimilar metals and the associated chemical interactions.
  • Finally, pressure sensitive tape permits thinner, lighter and less expensive material selection. It permits selection of materials that can’t be welded or might be compromised by the use of mechanical fasteners.
Pressure Sensitive Tapes Pittsburgh | Tom Brown, Inc.
Courtesy of Saint-Gobain 

Waterproofing the Trailer

Any time one metal component is brought in contact with another to complete an assembly, a weatherproof seal cannot be achieved. Closed cell PVC sealing tapes are critical to keeping water from infiltrating the seam.

Top and bottom rails, side lap seams and panel seams can be sealed effectively against water, dust and dirt with an easily applied sealing tape. These tapes are available in a variety of densities to match the gauge and compression required to achieve a reliable seal. Plus, they can also be compatible with metal fasteners and won’t twist or distort when the fastener is affixed.

These tapes bring significant advantages over liquid applied sealants:

  • They won’t ooze or squeeze out of the joint
  • Also, they won’t embrittle or crack
  • No curing or waiting
  • Lastly, they are easy to apply
Pressure Sensitive Tapes Pittsburgh | Tom Brown, Inc.
Courtesy of Saint-Gobain 

Our Brands

Tom Brown, Inc., offers the most respected brands that have been recognized as best-in-class for truck trailer fabrication:

  • Norseal® PVC Sealing Tapes
  • Norbond® Acrylic Foam Tapes
  • 3M VHB® Acrylic Foam Tapes
  • 3M Extreme Sealing Tape®
  • Rubberlite gasketing materials
  • Intertape Polymer Group PE Tapes

Want to know more about how pressure sensitive tapes can help with trailer fabrication? Contact Tom Brown, Inc. today!

Truck trailers require a significant investment for any company. It’s in a company’s best interest to make sure that each trailer lasts a long time to protect their investment. Better trailer maintenance doesn’t only reduce the cost of replacing the trailers; it also improves upon the safety and security of the truck drivers and their load.

Reduced Trailer Life With Mechanical Fasteners

Traditionally, mechanical fasteners are used throughout the process of trailer assembly. Mechanically fastened joints naturally compromise the structure of a trailer’s individual components. These fasteners often need to be punched through the frames or panels, thereby putting additional stress on them. If these fasteners are not placed the right way, they will cause damage over time. Regardless of whether they’re positioned properly, they will still cause vibration throughout the frame of the trailer due to their moving parts. This vibration will affect both the trailer and its load. 

The Benefits of Adhesive Fasteners

Utilizing tape bonding rather than mechanical fasteners can extend the life of a trailer substantially. Rather than mechanically attaching panels and frames, adhesive fasteners can be used to bond the surfaces. This bonding will be both 40% quieter and have 30% less vibration when compared to a traditional mechanically fastened joint. Not only will this ensure that the trailer will last longer, but it will also increase customer satisfaction. 

Adhesive fasteners minimize the potential for corrosion, which can easily lead to entire parts of trailers having to be repaired or replaced. They also provide for a more attractive look on the exterior of the trailer, as the panels will not have been punched through. Both paint and vinyl can be applied over the exterior of trailers for the purposes of branding and advertising.

The Use of Adhesives and Tapes in Trailers

Adhesives are used in place of rivets, fasteners, and welds. Both adhesives and sealant can be used together to provide an exceptionally powerful bond that is also water-tight. Water resistance is especially important when it comes to trailer assembly, as it ensures that the trailer’s products will remain safe.

In addition to ensuring that trailers last a long time, adhesive tapes also substantially reduce the costs related to assembling trailers. Adhesives are both more affordable and faster to use. The faster the construction is, the fewer hours of labor are necessary. Items such as trailer floors can be installed in 10% of the time that could be required through the use of mechanical fasteners.

Adhesive tapes are increasingly being used throughout trailer assembly, repair, and maintenance. Not only are adhesive tapes cost-effective, but they are also simple and easy to use. Through the use of adhesive tapes, businesses can ensure that trailers are easy and fast to construct and last as long as possible. Tom Brown, Inc. provides both 3M and Flexcon branded adhesive tapes that are perfect for numerous commercial and industrial applications.

The title of this blog sounds esoteric and perhaps a bit pompous; like a thesis that a grad student might submit for a postgraduate degree. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding how adhesive tape products can be tested and how those test results correlate to real world field conditions can provide useful information to trailer designers and engineers.

Static Sheer Testing

Static shear testing allows the engineer to measure the tape’s ability to maintain a bond under a constant load that is applied parallel to the tape’s surface. In the real world, think of a vertical panel that is bonded to a frame and you now have that constant load acting on the tape. Now let’s make it more relevant by placing the test specimens in a chamber and ramping the temperature from 0˚C to 100˚C. The test method used is ASTM D3654 and the overlap area is 1 square inch with a 1 Kg weight applied. The data table below shows the maximum temperature reached where the tape system failed cohesively before reaching a minimum of 10,000 minutes (approximately 7 days) Adhesion temperature data chart

Dynamic Shear Adhesion

Like the static shear test, dynamic shear testing is typically conducted in a controlled lab environment. There is nothing wrong with that and the data is quite reliable. However, exposing the test specimens to a set of more extreme conditions is very useful to an engineer wondering what happens to a tape bonded seam or lap joint during thermal expansion and contraction or from sudden unforeseen forces such as gusting winds. ASTM D1002 is the commonly accepted dynamic shear test method using  a 1”x 1” overlap on stainless steel panels. The lap joints were ramped from room temperature to 85˚C and 85% RH for 20 hours and then for the final 4 hours of the cycle, the temperature was lowered back to room temperature and then to -40˚C for 30 minutes and then ramped back up to room temperature. This cycle is then repeated 10 times. The specimens are then placed in a tensile tester, pulled apart, and the values recorded. The temperature ramp up and down is a great replication of thermal expansion and contraction common in tape bonded frames and panel members. The viscoelastic nature of tape is what allows it to distribute the stress along the bond line without overstressing the bonded substrates. After 10 of these cycles, here’s the kind of data you will see (values in pounds per square inch): Adhesion data chart Want to learn more about tape bonding for truck and utility trailer applications? Contact Tom Brown, Inc.