Digital Magazine

A Small Part of Big Performance

As a novice cyclist, I never put air in my tires. Little did I realize that “squishing” around Chicago affected my overall riding performance. Now, however, as someone who likes to think of herself as a cycling veteran (I've been injured in battles with four-wheeled vehicles twice — hit once by a cab, the other by a delivery van), I know the importance of even the smallest components in the riding process.

Same goes for any process, no matter if it's riding a bicycle, printing packaging, or applying a hot melt adhesive to an end product (or part of an end product): Process cognizance — of even the smallest components — determines overall performance.

So converters using hot melts will be glad to know hot melt adhesive technology suppliers are very pragmatic when it comes to their products.

“The hot melt adhesive our customer sells, typically, is a small component of the total value of the end product,” explains Kelon Morley, market development & commercial manager at Houston, TX-based Kraton Polymers (kraton.com). “Yet, if that adhesive fails, ultimately, that end product will fail, be it a diaper, cell phone, whatever the case may be.”

Kraton makes the block copolymers that are part of the final hot melt adhesive formulation, and though Kraton doesn't sell to converters directly, Morley knows converters' needs travel back up the supply chain. “Broadly speaking, what's required of a hot melt adhesive is low cost with reliable performance,” he says. “So you have a real high-performance demand that's in contrast with demand for low cost.”

This being the case, Kraton, as well as hot melt adhesive suppliers like H.B. Fuller (hbfuller.com), St. Paul, MN, face quite a challenge when it comes to investing in material development.

“You have to be able to meet a minimum standard, and a lot of times, you like to exceed that, plus incorporate the economics,” explains Tom Rolando, program manager for H.B. Fuller's flexible packaging, adhesives, and coatings group.

In addition to the demand for high performance and reasonable cost, hot melt adhesive development and usage is influenced by the “need” for alternative materials. Rolando says the technology has been a boon in Canada. “When the Canadian government put restrictions on solvent (VOC) emissions, [companies] had to find alternative technologies.” (Unlike solvent-based adhesives, hot melts achieve solid state and strength by cooling — as opposed to solvent evaporation or removal.)

Morely adds hot melt development also has been affected by the need to eliminate “chemicals of concern.” He explains: “For example, there was an issue years ago in Europe; Greenpeace found the presence of organotins in diapers. [Ultimately], that impacts [our] products; customers are asking they be free of organotin compounds. [So essentially] more environmentally, consumer friendly products are [in demand].”

Equipment companies like HHS America Corp. (hhs-systems.de) also are aware of a slew of variables for hot melt application, including the ability to operate at very high speeds while applying — accurately — a very small adhesive “dot.” Says HHS president John Edgar, “The expectations for hot melt application include faster and more compact guns as well as the guns' ability to fit into machine areas they'd not been able to previously.” He adds the development of “all-electric” guns have been helpful in this “fitting” area because they individually “can supply the power necessary to open and close on a wide range of hot melts.”

Converters be cheered: Due to suppliers' non- “squishing” ways, hot melt technology is ripe for peak performance.

Restrictions of time and space limit the number of companies, products, and trends that we can discuss in these reports. For additional information, see PFFC's features and departments each month, consult the June Buyers Guide, and check pffc-online.com.

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