Structural and Pressure Sensitive Adhesives
Adhesives may be broadly divided in two classes: structural and pressure sensitive. To form a permanent bond, structural adhesives harden via processes such as evaporation of solvent (for example, white glue), reaction with UV radiation (as in dental adhesives), chemical reaction (such as two part epoxy), or cooling (as in hot melt). In contrast, pressure sensitive adhesives (PSAs) form a bond simply by the application of light pressure to marry the adhesive with the adherend. Pressure sensitive adhesives are designed with a balance between flow and resistance to flow. The bond forms because the adhesive is soft enough to flow, or wet, the adherend. The bond has strength because the adhesive is hard enough to resist flow when stress is applied to the bond. Once the adhesive and the adherend are in proximity, there are also molecular interactions such as van der Waals forces involved in the bond, which contribute significantly to the ultimate bond strength. PSAs exhibit viscoelastic (viscous and elastic) properties, both of which are used for proper bonding.
In contrast with structural adhesives, whose strength is evaluated as lap shear strength, pressure sensitive adhesives are characterized by their shear holding. The ability to hold in a shear mode is related to the formulation, coating thickness, rub-down, temperature, etc.
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—Grace Baruch (20th century)