Attending trade shows to find an adhesive solution
Trade shows of every size represent opportunities to stay informed about developments in many areas of business and to connect with new supply sources. Equally valuable is the chance to brainstorm with professionals that are willing to think outside the box in order to grow their business.
Adhesive manufacturers can be found at shows targeted to Manufacturing and Assembly, but they can also be found at Fastener shows displaying non-mechanical alternatives to joining components. Adhesives are ideally suited to custom formulation to meet the needs of niche markets and proprietary applications.
With hundreds of vendors competing for your attention and commitment to consider their products, it’s not hard to experience sensory overload in a short period of time. A little bit of advance planning will maximize the return on your time spent at the show.
A day or so in advance of the show, check online for a listing of vendors and the schedule of lectures and demonstrations. Write out a separate short list of the ‘must see and do’ and schedule these first. If time permits, allow free time between these to browse for out of the box solutions.
Most tradeshow booths will be staffed with technical personnel who will be able to answer your questions or direct you to the correct individual within their company who can. In order to get the most from your tradeshow visit be prepared to help them help you. Following are a few questions that you are likely to be asked:
- What are you making and what do you want it to do? Whenever possible it is helpful to advise the adhesive specialist the function of your assembly and what it is a part of. Is it part of a toaster oven, a jet plane or a cell phone. This immediately gives the adhesive specialist some size and scale information as well as environmental conditions.
- What materials are you bonding? – Although metal to metal is a valid answer, it is more helpful to the adhesive specialist to hear anodized aluminum to cold rolled steel. Similarly plastic to plastic is vague but molded clear polycarbonate to molded ABS is something that the adhesive specialist can use to determine a good product.
- What are the environmental conditions the part will need to withstand? – Exposure to temperature variations, chemicals, moisture, and stresses effect different adhesives in different ways. Knowing what must be resisted will assist in good product recommendations.
- How are you bonding it now? If you are looking for an improvement to an adhesive you are currently using bring along the company name and the full product name and be prepared to discuss what you like and dislike about the product.
- How many will you be manufacturing? Yes, adhesive companies like most other “for profit” business do want to know how large of a potential customer you are but that isn’t the only reason for asking and shouldn’t affect the degree of service you receive. With your answer to this question they are answering many unspoken questions such as: Will this be automated or manual dispensing?, Automated or manual assembly?, Is a 30 second set time unreasonable?, Is a 24 hour cure time unreasonable? For example, a cyanoacrylate (instant adhesive) and a UV curable adhesive may both meet your adhesive needs, but likely, one of them will be a more efficient process than the other dependant on how many pieces you will be bonding.
The challenge of finding a useful nugget at the show is two-fold and begins with the ability to present your product in a brief and concise manner that allows professionals to suggest improvements. A specific problem may not currently exist but you do want to learn if there is an alternative method that both retains quality and increases profits.
In the case of a clear problem, you likely have an idea of how to approach the solution. While you seek out specific vendors, also be alert to solutions suggested by seemingly unrelated displays.
Discussions about proprietary designs should be conducted only under an agreement of confidentiality that is signed by company officers. However, it is often possible to define some key characteristics required of any solution. Examples such as gap fill to 1/8” inch, room temperature cure, or resistance to oil contamination.
Some vendors will be set up for on-the-spot trials, but this is not always practical. Other companies mail fresh samples direct from their plant to yours. Depending on the product or service, there may be samples to take with you for later trials.
Every vendor will have staffed their exhibit with knowledgeable people who can answer your questions and help you to consider their product as a possible solution. Be willing to discuss your application and related processes many times during the duration of the show, as each discussion will build on the previous one and bring you closer to finding effective new solutions.