Tape 101 Adhesive Choice Guide (Rubber vs. Acrylic vs. Silicone)

There is a wide variety of tape adhesives available in the market, and the most common types found are typically categorized as rubber, acrylic or silicone adhesive. Use the following guide to determine which adhesive best suits your application. (Note: The following are generally true of typical products, but certain adhesives are specially engineered for performance that defies these conventions.)

Rubber Adhesive: Notable for instant bonding and low costs. Rubber adhesive is best suited for indoor usage away from extreme temperatures. (ex. 3M 200 Paper Tape)

  • + Quick bonding time
  • + Most economical
  • – Least temperature tolerance versus acrylic and silicone adhesives
  • – Weak UV resistance
  • – Discolors over time

Typical usage: Several component parts need to be assembled together in a specific order. To minimize error during assembly, strips of 3M 200, a general purpose masking tape, are used as temporary labels to mark the parts and guide assemblers. The tape is only applied to the part for a couple hours and is cleanly removed once the parts have been assembled. 

Acrylic Adhesive: Notable for long term bonding and UV resistance necessary for outdoor application. (ex. 3M 4941 VHB Tape)

  • + Strong, durable long term bonding
  • + Strong UV resistance
  • + Greater temperature tolerance versus rubber adhesive though less than silicone adhesive
  • – Requires dwelling time to achieve the maximum bond strength
  • – More costly than rubber adhesives but more economical than silicone adhesives

Typical usage: Outdoor signs and displays must be mounted outside the stores of an outdoor shopping mall. These signs must be durable enough to last over a month while facing heavy traffic, weather exposure and direct sunlight. To construct these signs 3M VHB Acrylic tape is used for its strength, long term bonding and UV resistance.

Silicone Adhesive: Notable for high temperature resistance necessary for high heat applications. (ex. Green Polyester Tape, M-Series)

  • + Greatest temperature tolerance compared to rubber and acrylic adhesives
  • – Most expensive compared to rubber and acrylic adhesives

Typical usage: A number of metal parts need to be painted and oven heated at 325° F for 30 minutes. Certain areas of the metal parts need to be masked and remain unpainted. The masking tape must also remain on the metal part during the bake cycle. For this application an M-Series polyester tape with silicone adhesive is used because the masking tape can be cleanly removed after enduring a high heat baking cycle. Other types of adhesive typically have lower heat thresholds and may leave residue on the parts upon removal.