How to Understand Adhesive Lingo

Rebecca Wilmot
Adhesive Selection and Use, Tips
October 8, 2010

Manufacturers and users of adhesives and sealants use certain words and phrases to explicitly describe characteristics and performance attributes. Like many industrial terms, the best results happen when the meaning of these terms is clear in the context of your application.

You could be forgiven for thinking you were speaking another language. Technical jargon isn’t necessarily much help to lay people. The company that makes widgets knows exactly what goes wrong when the fibbermurk is not aligned with the ingrastatin. The rest of the human race doesn’t.

For users of adhesives and sealants, the words ‘substrate’, ‘adhesion’ and ‘cohesion’ are used frequently in discussion about adhesive bonding. Understanding the meanings of these terms is a good place to start with adhesive terminology.

Accelerator/Activator describes materials used for polymerization of anaerobic, cyanoacrylate and other acrylic adhesives

Adhesion is the force that holds substrates together in opposition to stresses forcing them apart.

Ambient conditions The environment in which adhesion is conducted.

Cohesion is the force that holds the adhesive mass together.

Fill/Gap This term relates to the ability of an adhesive to fill areas between the elements to be bonded.

Impact strength describes the adhesive’s resistance to impact forces

MRO is an acronym for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, for which adhesives are commonly used. The term defines the classes of work adhesives are required to do.

Primer is used to cover surfaces prior to application of adhesives, and is used for better adhesion performance.

Substrate is the surface(s) being bonded with the adhesive.

Thermoset adhesives are materials which will only cure when exposed to heat. Further exposure will not affect these materials.

It really is a language.

If you need an adhesive for MRO work on substrates which will need to bond well in a hot ambient environment, do you need an accelerator, or a thermoset, or both? Do you need a gap filler with a good cure speed and impact strength? Need a primer?

You’d probably need a thermoset in the hot environment, with other elements appropriate to the case.

The most important thing to understand about any language are the concepts involved in the language. Adhesive lingo is all about describing practical situations and issues. Consider your issues, and you’ll find the right descriptions, which will tell you what you need.

For more information on other terms used in the adhesive industry, visit this page on our website: Glossary.

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