When is a bargain adhesive really a bargain?

Rebecca Wilmot
Adhesive Selection and Use, Tips
May 25, 2017

bargain adhesive

When is a bargain adhesive really a bargain?

I am a bargain shopper!  Over the years, I’ve made many mistakes in choosing the ‘bargain’ priced product over the tried and trusted goods. Sometimes the mistake is no big deal – like that off-brand ketchup that no one liked.  Other times it is more painful – the loss of a favorite blouse because the generic laundry soap left a stain on it.

Hasn’t everyone been tempted by the $1 off coupon on the pop and fresh crescent rolls that are almost at the expiration date?  You walk out of the store feeling like you got a great deal – then you ceremoniously toss those groceries into the car, and POP! the crescent rolls explode – the thing grows like an intergalactic swamp monster – covering your car in yeasty goo.  Forty-five dollars later, the car carpets have been cleaned – and the detailer says – “I love when they put those things on sale in the summer!”

Savings $1 vs. Cost of Saving $45 Net loss $44

Frugal vs Cheap

Clearly, there is a difference between being frugal and cheap.  A fire protection contractor called in with his experience on the high cost of cheap.  His company had used Permabond LH050 pipe sealant for years with no leaks.  In an effort to reduce costs, they switched from Permabond LH050 to pipe dope.  Pipe dope is solvent based whereas Permabond LH050 is an anaerobic adhesive sealant.  They found the solvent based dope thinned in summer, thickened in winter – hardened in the can – and was overall difficult to work with.  But they were saving money – until – they had a minor leak that created mold in a ceiling.  The call-back costs were astronomical.  Additionally, the contractor feared that their reputation was adversely affected.

How much do you think they saved on that bargain adhesive?  Savings $6 per bottle vs Cost of Savings $7,000 Net loss $6,994

The risk of using less than the best is evident, but what if both products work well?  How do you determine which is the better bargain?

Adhesive cost per bottle vs. Adhesive cost per part

Most water-based and solvent-based adhesives are much less expensive per ml than other engineering adhesives. However, most often, when you calculate the amount needed to do the same job and the costs of scrubbing those solvents out of our atmosphere as well as shipping flammable materials, disposing of hazardous waste etc… the cost per part will exceed the cost per part made with a 100% solids material.  Do the math – you may be surprised!

So how do I save money on adhesives?

Use only what you need.

This may sound silly – simplistic, but the savings can be HUGE.  When my son was five, I switched from tube of toothpaste to a pump container.  It wasn’t about the cost but the bubble gum smelling goo that covered the sink, walls, and ceiling when he brushed his teeth.  Proper packaging or automated dispensing may not only save money but can also help ensure stronger bonds and reduce mess.  (Note cleaning up mess takes time – time has costs also.)

For example, when using cyanoacrylates, excess adhesive can slow or prevent cure.  The cyanoacrylate requires moisture on the surface to activate the cure.  When using anaerobic adhesives, the adhesive only cures between the two metal surfaces – excess anaerobic adhesive can be more easily wiped away than with cyanoacrylates, but it isn’t creating a stronger joint.

In automated assembly lines, dispensing equipment can be dialed into the precise amount of adhesive to cover the entire joint without excess. For manual assembly, it may take a bit more creativity to achieve.

Here are a few tips to control dispensing manually:
  • Package size – although per ml it may be less expensive to buy larger containers of adhesive, this often leads to difficulty handling the bottle to apply small amounts. One ounce or 50 ml bottles are easier to control manually.
  • Avoid repackaging adhesive – this can lead to spills, incompatible containers, contamination, etc.
  • Experiment with different tips. Use taper tips or stainless steel dispense tips to help operators use a consistent size drop.
  • Many nozzles come closed where upon opening, you snip the tip off – measure the proper length to be cut to control the bead size, then write that into your process. An overzealous operator may hack off too much of the tip, creating an opening too large for your application.
  • Viscosity – for some manual operations, a slightly higher viscosity of adhesive can help operators better control placement.
    Plan usage quantity

Quantity discounts are a great way to get a bargain on adhesive – but overbuying and throwing away expired product is wasteful.  Talk to your distributor about package sizes and amounts for the best possible outcome.

Batch process reduces nozzle costs

Many two-component adhesives are dispensed via static mix nozzles.  If the product is not continually dispensed through the nozzle – the nozzle will need to be replaced at the end of the pot life of that product.

For optimum performance, mix the adhesive properly. Nozzles are specific to the type of adhesive.  Substituting off-brand or shorter nozzles to save adhesive can adversely affect the adhesive.  Hand mixing without a nozzle can be risky for epoxy – especially if it is not a pigmented product where you can’t detect any remaining streaks.

If batch processing isn’t an option, Permabond offers a variety of options. We have two-component adhesives in which you can be dispense a bead of part A on top of a bead of part B. These bead on bead adhesives might be a more economical solution.

Contact Permabond for more information on how to make your process efficient and economical.

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