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adhesive tape used for bonding metal to metal parts

Bonding to Different Metal Substrates

Learn how to best join and bond metals with various materials using adhesives.

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Designing with Metal

For manufacturers, metals are cost-effective, perform well across a wide range of temperatures, show fairly good weather resistance and have excellent strength. End consumers trust metals: they’re solid and sturdy, they’re cool to the touch and to the eye. Metals can provide any look you want, from gritty industrial to high tech alloys.

There are seemingly endless ways to shape or process metals: casting, stamping, bending, drawing – even a blacksmith’s forge. But whatever your choice, the key to a successful product design lies in the strength of its bonds. Whether you're looking to stick metal to other metal surfaces, or join with dissimilar substrates like wood, rubber and plastic, here are some key factors to note when bonding metallic materials.


Traditional Fastening vs. Adhesive Bonding

  • structural adhesive for bonding metal

    Joining with Mechanical Fasteners vs. Adhesive Bonding

    A solution that is as old as metalworking, mechanical fasteners are a familiar metal bonding option - but they may not be the best choice. Industrial adhesives provide six key benefits over other industrial assembly methods:
     

    1. Eliminate drilling and holes – drilling takes time, and holes make your substrate weaker at that point, turning it into a possible site for corrosion
    2. Distribute stress evenly across the bond – rather than concentrated stress at one or more fastener points, stress is evenly spread out across the area of the bond
    3. Enable the use of thinner, lightweight materials – with stress well distributed across the entire bond line, the substrate doesn’t need to be as thick to accommodate fastener stress points
    4. Bond and isolate dissimilar materials – certain mechanical fasteners don’t work well with non-metal substrates, and two different metals can create corrosion problems
    5. Bond and seal simultaneously – adhesives don’t just bond, they can also keep fluids out or in
    6. Reduce vibration – resilient adhesives can help dissipate energy rather than transmit it

     

  • worker welding metal under high heat

    Welding / Brazing / Soldering (Thermal Bonding) vs. Adhesive Bonding

    Thermal attachments such as welding are commonly used and accepted in various industries, thanks to their inexpensive material cost and zero cure time. Both thermal and adhesive bonds provide a good bond and seal when done properly. However, adhesives offer several benefits over thermal bonding:
     

    1. Enable the use of dissimilar metals – different metals are isolated against galvanic corrosion
    2. Allows bonds to be reworked – the bond is easier to disassemble, rework and repair
    3. Reduce labor costs – adhesives require less workforce training and expertise to get a good bond
    4. Improve aesthetics – the bonding process does not distort or discolour the substrates
    5. Enable the use of thinner substrates – because the metal is not distorted, a thinner substrate may be just as strong
    6. Lower energy costs – thermal bonding is very energy-intensive
    7. Improve worker comfort – most adhesives can be applied at room temperature

Considerations when Bonding Metal

Various factors come into play when considering the best way to bond metal in your process, such as rigidity, corrosiveness, thermal resilience and stress concentration of the metallic bond.

  • control the rigidity of metal bonds with adhesives

    Rigid vs. Flexible

    A rigid adhesive transmits energy efficiently, such as from a golf club shaft to the head. A flexible adhesive helps dissipate energy, such as vibrations in a passenger rail car, so the structure isn’t adversely affected. Different adhesives are rigid or flexible to a different extent so you can choose the one that’s best for your application.

  • prevent rust and corrosion with adhesives

    Corrosion

    Galvanic corrosion occurs when a more active metal loses electrons to a less active one, leading to both cosmetic degradation and material failure through rust or pitting; this is a particular problem when a metal fastener easily transmits the electrons. An adhesive can not only bond different metals, but also provide a thin insulation layer to resist this corrosion.

  • adhesives absorb stress between metal and non-metal (rubber, plastic, glass, wood) bonds.

    Thermal Exposures

    Different materials expand and contract at different rates when exposed to heat or cold, which can seriously affect the structure. A sufficiently resilient adhesive can absorb some of this stress, whether it’s between two different metals or between metal and a non-metal substrate such as glass, wood or plastic.

  • adhesives eliminate distortion between metal sheets joined by a mechanical fastener

    Stress Concentration/Drilling Holes

    Drilling holes doesn’t only take time, it also weakens the substrate and concentrates stress at the edge of the hole. An adhesive, on the other hand, can be applied quickly and distributes stress evenly across the bond.


Adhesive solutions for bonding metal substrates

These are some of the best adhesives and tapes to use for bonding metals. It is important to choose the strength and durability of the adhesive to suit the requirements of the substrate and application. Learn more about each featured technology using the links below.

  • 3M™ VHB™ Tapes

    With 3M™ VHB™ Tapes you can maintain consistency from sketch to construction, eliminating distracting visible fasteners. These double-sided acrylic foam tapes quickly and easily form high-strength, long-lasting bonds that build strength over time, and they’re able to bond a variety of different substrates.

  • 3M™ Scotch-Weld™ Structural Epoxy

    3M™ Scotch-Weld™ structural two-part epoxy adhesives are strong, durable, perform well at high temperatures and resist chemical degradation, making them ideal for industrial applications. These high-strength adhesives can offer excellent impact resistance and enable product design for industries like aerospace, construction and transportation.

  • 3M™ Scotch-Weld™ Structural Acrylics

    3M™ Scotch-Weld™ structural acrylic adhesives can improve productivity and performance by providing strong, secure bonds with fast cure times and enhanced aesthetics. 3M™ Structural Acrylic adhesives can provide high impact resistance, low odor and up to an 18-month shelf life with no need for refrigeration.

Bonding to Different Metals

Metals are easy to bond, but each is unique. Learn about the properties of 4 major metal types and how to select or prepare the right adhesive for a strong, durable attachment.

  • how to best bond stainless steel metal with adhesives

    Stainless Steel

    Stainless steel is an iron alloy with carbon and other metals added for corrosion resistance. Commonly used for household cookware, cutlery, commercial kitchens and food processing, it is also used for surgical instruments, in the automotive and aerospace industries, and for general industrial equipment and building facades. Stainless steel is easy to bond but may need to be cleaned to remove dirt, dust, fingerprints and machine oil.

  • how to best bond steel alloy with adhesives

    Steel

    Steel is an alloy of iron with a small amount of carbon to increase strength. Steel surfaces are typically coated before or after bonding to prevent corrosion, either with zinc (galvanised steel) or some type of paint. If coated before, the adhesive is actually bonding to any coating rather than the steel itself, which affects surface energy and how well the adhesive wets out. 3M offers specialised adhesives and tapes designed to survive the coating or painting process.

  • how to best bond aluminium with adhesives

    Aluminium

    Aluminium is a relatively soft, durable, lightweight, ductile and malleable metal that is easily machined, cast, drawn and extruded. It is nearly always alloyed to improve its mechanical properties. Aluminium resists corrosion because a thin layer of aluminium oxide forms almost immediately when the bare metal is exposed to air. It often needs to be cleaned or abraded to remove dirt, dust, fingerprints and machine oil.

  • how to best bond copper, bronze and brass using adhesives

    Copper-Containing Metals

    Copper is a soft, malleable, ductile metal with excellent electrical and thermal conductivity. Along with its alloys brass and bronze, it's subject to corrosion over long periods of time and should not be in contact with materials that cause or increase corrosion, particularly other metals. 3M makes specially formulated tapes and adhesives that do not promote corrosion and are copper-compatible.


Assembly Types


Design confidently with the trusted solution

Streamline your processes and achieve greater cost-efficiency with adhesives and tapes that deliver reliable bonding for any design. Contact our experts to tailor a solution for your assembly needs.

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