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Adhesives

Choosing the right adhesive can get you out of many sticky situations.

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Drill drivers and rivet guns used to be the go-to for hanging signs, but are they still the best solutions? What if the customer wants to change graphics? Does a mechanical fastener work with clear acrylics or other plastics? Many of today’s adhesive products can handle just about any job. The keys are knowing how and where the sign will be used, and how durable the bond should be.

When thinking of adhesives, usually the first things that come to mind are epoxies, cyanoacrylates (superglue) and construction adhesives like Liquid Nails. These can work in specific situations but can be a pain to use or wrong for other applications. Luckily, some easy-to-use solutions can now be put to work on site or in the shop.

Adhesive tapes have become incredibly strong and can handle many situations. For example, hook and loop tape can be used for temporarily mounting banners and other signs. After use, they are easy to remove. This is not stuff you get at the hardware store; get that out of your mind. Hook and loop tapes as aggressive as mechanical fasteners are available, so you can hang really heavy banners with them. 

Another solution available for a changeable display is a two-sided tape with a different adhesive on each side. One side has an aggressive adhesive for mounting to a surface, like a wall. The other side has a low-tac adhesive and adheres to digital prints, which can then be easily removed and replaced, allowing the customer to change graphics as needed.

BONDING EXPERIENCES

If you want something more permanent, you’re still in luck. Adhesive tapes are available that can bond virtually anything together. The key component to almost all of them is acrylic adhesive. It has incredible properties that can adhere to essentially anything. In addition, the adhesive can stand up to the rigors of UV rays and wide temperature ranges. You can bond two different materials such as metal to glass or wood. The tapes come in a variety of strengths that accommodate most situations a signmaker would encounter. You can also get the tapes in a variety of widths, from 1/4 in. up to 54 in.

So, should you forget about every other adhesive and just use tape? Not necessarily. In some cases you might encounter extremely rough surfaces. Tapes work best on prepared (read: smooth and even) surfaces. They also like reasonably flat areas. Say you have an uneven cement wall facing you. For this you need to trot out the old liquid adhesives. The major advantage of these products is that they will self-level and conform to the surface. You can get quick-setting glues that will set in about 10 minutes or use a standard adhesive that gives you 30 minutes. 

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Working with acrylics and some other plastics requires a special adhesive. This stuff will literally weld the surfaces together. It’s best to ensure the joints are finished (sanded) and cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. There can be some strong fumes, so work in a ventilated area. You may also want to consider some low-VOC adhesives on the market. With these you need to hold the pieces in place for about 10 minutes and curing takes about 24 hours.

As you can see, you have a lot of choices today when assembling or mounting a sign. Check the materials, placement (indoors or out) and expected durability. Most manufacturers have excellent instructions on how to use their products. You can even use them to hang up your riveter and drill.

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