Focus on Multiuse/Multifunctional Sealants and Adhesives

Posted on 8/13/2012 12:48:55 PM By Bob Braun

In the blogs 1-7, I focused on mostly technical aspects for sealants and adhesives such as, the many related associations and code groups associated with these products and their applications, test methods and specifications.  In blog #8 I focused on unusual foam sealant applications.  In this blog I am keeping it lighter again with a discussion of how the sealant and adhesive industry has been developing multiuse/purpose/functional products that can be used for both a variety of sealant applications and also a variety of adhesive applications at the same time.  This trend has been common to both the elastomeric cartridge tube sealant/adhesives and the aerosol foam adhesive/sealants as well.  Now many products tout use in applications across many functional areas in addition to construction.  Many products offer air and/or water seals, energy savings, structural enhancements, insect control, and pollution control as a few functional examples. 

I found many diverse marketing terms applied to adhesive-sealants as well including…multiuse, multipurpose, general-purpose, all-purpose, multifunction, and even universal as well.  I suspect none of these terms are defined in ASTM C717 however.  Interestingly, I found very few products touted as simply “interior sealant” or “exterior sealant."      

The multi-uses of sealant/adhesive products have been expanding for some time and historically users applied a product for many end uses because they thought it would work.  But in this blog I am especially focusing on the formal expansion of marketing claims for adhesive-sealants.  In the most critical applications, an adhesive or sealant must be designed to meet a specification and or specific requirements.  Some examples include structural glazing, pedestrian walkway joints, Firestop pipe/cable penetrations, and aerospace applications.  But for many other applications, a multifunctional product can meet more than the minimum requirements.  Although many products could be marketed as multifunction/use, it is not always wisest to do, so since this decision depends on many factors specific to each company’s strategy and all the criteria are not solely based on cost, or technical performance issues.

Clearly, the final user or consumer whishes to purchase a product that can be used for a number of different applications rather than being required to buy several.  Last week I noted that a major paint producer recently began to offer a latex topcoat wall paint that also primes and is a stain blocker as well.  A manufacturer can benefit by reducing his number of SKU’s.  In many commercial and consumer channels, shelf or warehouse space is limited and an effective multiuse adhesive or sealant is desirable to the end point distribution customer.  It is also beneficial to a final user or consumer who may be overwhelmed by the great number of product choices especially in the retail venue.  In each application, however, the product must adequately meet the end use requirements.  Where ultimate strength and adhesion are needed multiuse/functional products are often not possible.  Open time and cure time can also prevent a good multifunction/use fit.  But there are still many uses that can work well.  An example: the product performance well exceeds the application requirements thus making it appropriate for this new found multiuse.

This trend to ever more multiuse/function products has not been unique to adhesives and sealants but has been permeating into many other product areas too.  Consider the following examples: modern multiuse furniture, small electrical multiuse oscillating construction tools, the modern cell (now smart) phone, computer printer-scan-copy-fax units, and now even multifunction televisions!  Even foods have participated as recipes now contain meats, fruits, and vegetables combined in new ways previously considered impossible.

I have recently researched the web and I have also went shopping at my local building material outlets and observed that many new products are cited as multiuse, multi-application, or multifunctional.  It has been quite a while now that our industry has tended to label many gun-able tube filled products as “adhesive/sealant.” Most sealant products are a good adhesive and vise versa.

In the remainder of this blog I show two links to products that are positioned as multiuse/function and list the associated applications.  In many cases the specification requirements are not clear…but this is how these products are positioned and marketed.  For many applications no specification exists or can be employed or waived by the customer as needed. 

This link claims many performance and green sealant and adhesive features as well…

This overseas product offers many claims…

I do not intend this blog to dilute the importance of specifications for building sealants and adhesives in any way.  The design community and building codes both rely on products used in construction performing to these industry consensus standards.

In Blog #10 I will begin focus on the many roofing applications for sealants and adhesives and the standards associated with roofing adhesives and sealants.

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