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Understanding adhesives – What makes it Stick?


Selecting the proper adhesives for your label, nameplate, or decal requires a consideration of application surface, environment, and label performance requirements.

Let us consider what adhesion is. The Oxford Dictionary describes adhesion as “The property of sticking together, or the joining of surfaces of different compounds.” In technical terms, adhesion is the attraction between unlike materials at the molecular level.

Adhesive manufacturers use the term Surface Energy to describe the many different surfaces that require adhesives. The surface energy of the material you are adhering to determines the strength of molecular attraction. Stronger molecular attraction results from increased contact with the surface or increase “wet-out” across the surface. “Wet-out” is a term used to describe the adhesive flowing into and filling the dips and voids of the surface.  With high surface energy surfaces, the adhesive can flow or “wet-out” across more of the surface to create a stronger bond, the lower the surface energy the less the adhesive can “wet-out” thus a weaker bond.

Some examples of high-energy surface (HSE) includes stainless steel, glass, porcelain, copper, nylon, polyester, epoxy paint, and poly-carbonate.

Some examples of surfaces with low surface energy (LSE) are polystyrene, powder coated paints, polypropylene plastic, concrete, and wood.


For maximum adhesive performance, you should consider the amount of surface contact as the most important requirement. Here are some considerations to increase the adhesive-to-surface contact

  • Adhesion surface must be clean from all contaminates.
  • Adhesion surface must be dry.
  • When applying the label, use firm pressure to increase flow contact of the adhesive to the surface.
  • For best results labels and application area should be at 70° F (21°C).
  • Give it time, most adhesives have a “wet-out” or cure time of 12 to 24 hour in order maximize surface contact.

To find the best adhesive for your product you may contact our label specialist at (866) 897-3663 or you may email your questions to hello@pryntink.com

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Author:Merril Barlow

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