How have adhesives changed in 6,000 years?

27th January 2023
Paige West

Arthur C Clarke once said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Here, Peter Swanson, Managing Director of Intertronics, explains the poignancy of this quote in modern day adhesives applications.

Evidence of a substance being used as an adhesive date back to 4,000 B.C. Archaeologists studying burial sites of prehistoric tribes found foodstuffs buried with the deceased in broken pottery vessels that had been repaired with sticky resins from tree sap.

Today, we have synthetic polymeric adhesives that can bond to (almost) any substrate and provide structural strength through wide extremes of temperature and exposure to water, weather, or chemical attack. We can apply them with exceptional precision to exacting tolerances in processes that are fully controlled and repeatable. Materials can be accurately dispensed in quantities of 0.001ml or less, with positional accuracy of 0.001mm or better. We can cure them in only a few seconds using light emitted from a solid state semiconductor device.

These capabilities would certainly be magic to a prehistoric tribesman. Many of the adhesive chemistries we offer today, like epoxies and cyanoacrylate adhesives, were first offered commercially in the 1950s. To engineers from that decade, the durability, robustness, and process-ability of our current formulations would surely impress, if not astound, them. And yet my colleagues and I are not fazed by this technology at all; we understand it, we use it, we demonstrate it.

With our help, and a visit to our Technology Centre, visitors can learn about and apply these technologies and understand how they can deliver robust and reliable performance for their products. They can determine the return on investment they will achieve by adopting new processes. Critically, many of these processes can deliver significant productivity enhancements, improving their competitiveness and their bottom line. And that, to us, is magic.



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