Packaging tape serves an important role in supply chains. Without the appropriate packaging tape, packages would not be sealed properly, making it easier for the product to be stolen or damaged, ultimately wasting time and money. For this reason, packaging tape is one of the most overlooked, yet vital materials of the packaging line.

There are two types of packaging tape that dominate the US market, both of which are developed to be economical and reliable in their applications: hot melt and acrylic.

These tapes start with a durable backing, often a blown or cast film. Blown films typically have more elongation and handle less load before breaking, whereas cast films are more uniform and stretch less, but handle more stress or load before breaking.

The type of adhesive is a big differentiator in packaging tapes.

Hot melt tapes actually get their name from the heat used for blending and coating during the manufacturing process. Hot melts are made using an extrusion process, where all of the adhesive components – resins and synthetic rubbers – are subjected to heat and pressure for blending. The hot melt extrusion process lends itself to create a product that has high shear properties – or cohesive strength. Think of silly putty, for example. You have to pull for a while on both ends to get the putty to reach its breaking point. A high shear product, much like silly putty, would take an extreme amount of force to stretch to its breaking point. This strength is derived from the synthetic rubber, which provides elasticity and resilience to the adhesive. Once the adhesive has made its way through the extruder, it is then coated to the film, processed through a cool down and then rewound to create a “jumbo” roll of tape.

The process of making acrylic tape is much simpler than that of hot melts. Acrylic packaging tapes are typically created by coating a layer of adhesive that has been blended with water or solvent to make it easier to process when coating to the film. Once it is coated, the water or solvent is evaporated and recaptured using an oven heating system, leaving behind the acrylic adhesive. The coated film is then rewound into a “jumbo” roll of tape.

As different as these two tapes and their processes seem to be, they both end up going through the converting process the same way. This is where that “jumbo” roll is cut into the smaller “finished goods” rolls that consumers are accustomed to using.

Still trying to decide? Learn more about differences between hot melt and acrylic packaging tapes.