FAQ's and Tape Terminology

What tape should I use?

This is a good question, often asked and one without a simple answer. There are literally thousands of different tapes available and which one will work for you is dependant on a number of factors. Please read on………………

What is PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) Tape?

Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) tape is typically a continuous flexible strip of cloth, paper, metal or plastic coated on one or both sides with a permanently tacky adhesive. This strip is typically referred to as the backing or in the case of double sided tapes, a carrier. The adhesives will adhere to a variety of surfaces at room temperature with light pressure. There are several types of adhesive available. Usually rolling it in place with fingertip pressure is enough to activate the bond. Usually sold in roll form in many widths, thicknesses and colors.

Why the different backings / carriers for the adhesive?

The backing material on which the adhesive is applied to depends heavily on where or how the tape will be used. Common masking tape uses paper as it is economical and the application is typically temporary. CLOTH or DUCT Tapes, as they are known as, are widely used for joining and sealing but typically at low temperatures and in dry conditions. Tapes made of polyester or other plastic films have more stretch, higher temperature ratings and may be used in harsher environments or conditions.

Why are there different adhesives?

Again, depending on the application some work better than others depending on the environment, materials being joined and the performance required. Most tapes use a rubber, acrylic or silicone adhesive. RUBBER adhesives are the most common and typically least expensive. These are found on paper and cloth tapes frequently. For instance rubber based products adhere well to most papers and wood best to plastics like polypropylene, ABS, and polyethylene. Some rubber based products are capable of handling temperatures up to 90 degrees C. and may meet challenging adhesion requirements. ACRYLIC adhesives work best when the materials being bonded contain chemicals like plasticizers or solvents which may degrade the adhesive. A common comment on acrylic tapes is they don’t feel 'sticky' or 'tacky' as do most rubber adhesives. This is not an indication of how well the tape will work! SILICONE ADHESIVES are typically more expensive and used where high service temperatures are a factor.

What should I consider when choosing a tape?

Some of the common factors that should be considered include: what substrates are being bonded, whether a temporary or permanent application, service temperature, humidity, indoor or outdoor use, UV exposure and the application itself. Common applications such as masking or sealing are easily understood, however, electrical applications or where mechanical strengths must be met may require lots of research and testing to ensure the best product is matched to the application.

What is the best way to apply tape?

Typically finger pressure on application is suitable for most applicables. However, use of a roller, application temperature and sometimes pressure over time may be factors depending on the application. The common factor is to always ensure the surfaces are clean, dry and free of solvents, oils and waxes. As well, there are many dispensing options available for high volume applications, from simple hand held dispensers to custom packaging machines.

What is shear, peel or tensile strength?

Tensile is pull exerted equally over the entire joint. Pull direction is straight and away from the adhesive bond.

Shear is pull directed across the adhesive, forcing the substrates to slide over each other.

Cleavage is pull concentrated at one edge of the joint, exerting a prying force on the bond. The other edge of the joint is theoretically under zero stress.

Peel is concentrated along a thin line at the edge of the bond where one substrate is flexible. The line is the exact point where an adhesive would separate if the flexible surface were peeled away from its mating surface. Once peeling has begun, the stress line stays out in front of the advancing bond separation.

What is double sided or double coated tape?

This is where adhesive is present on both sides of the carrier and typically with a removable liner present. A common type would be carpet tape, however, there are many types on the market with a wide range of uses including structural strength applications.

Common types of tapes and typical uses of tape

AISLE MARKING TAPE is often used to mark areas of caution within commercial, recreational and industrial safety requirements. Usually brightly colored vinyl or in a striped pattern.

ALUMINUM FOIL TAPE is used for vapor sealing sheet metal ducts, and other metal applications as it offers high temperature acrylic adhesive and has great conformability.

CLOTH TAPE or DUCT TAPE is backed by fabric coated in polyethylene and has many uses because of its resistance to chemicals, water and abrasion, including packaging, sealing and masking. There are entire web sites dedicated to the many uses for duct tape!

DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE has adhesive on both sides and is used to bond items to each other or laminate layers of materials.

ELECTRICAL TAPE does not conduct electricity and is used for splicing wires and cable or as insulation for windings found in transformers, capacitors, and generator coils. Often referred to as INSULATING or FILM TAPES.

FOAM TAPES use a foam backing or carrier and are often used in sealing, gasketing or weather stripping applications.

HAZARD TAPES are typically vinyl patterned or printed tapes use to provide a warning.

MASKING TAPE uses a paper backing and a weak rubber adhesive so as to be removed without stripping paint or paper from the wall to which it was attached.

PACKAGING TAPE is used to package boxes, cartons or containers, and is often able to maintain adhesion after a long period of time, in extreme weather and in extreme temperatures.

REFLECTIVE TAPES are used on signs, vehicles and protective clothing to provide night time visibility.

SELF AMALGAMATING TAPE adheres to itself and fuses creating a solid mass. Often used in cable and utility applications.

TEFLON TAPE is often used to seal water, gas and air from leaking through threaded connections. It is also commonly used for high heat or abrasion applications.

TRANSPARENT TAPE is usually of a cellulose-based backing and acrylic adhesive; is transparent and commonly known as SCOTCH TAPE®

VHB TAPES® made by 3M are a special acrylic adhesive system that offer a wide range of performance characteristics in demanding applications from electronics to truck body manufacturing and can often replace mechanical fastening systems.

VINYL TAPE offers excellent resistance to extreme weather conditions, moisture, abrasion, acids, and corrosion and can be used in temperatures to 80 degrees Celsius.

When selecting a tape, contact Caps'n Plugs. We will discuss your application and recommend a solution that meets your application and performance criteria in the most economical manner. Below are some common terms to help you in discussing tape applications.


Acrylic Adhesive: These adhesives usually have high temperature resistance, high-grade UV resistance and great permanent bond strength. Adhere: To bond; to cause two surfaces to be held together by adhesion.

Adhesion: Level of attraction between any adhesive and the surface it is bonded with. Surface energy of the material determines the strength of the attraction.

Backing (substrate):The primary component of tape upon which an adhesive is applied. Examples are cloth, paper, metal foil, film etc.

Back-Split: Process where the fabricator slits the release liner for easy removal from the PSA by hand.

Baloney Slitting: The common method of slitting pressure sensitive tapes, producing rolls per step or per cycle. Also referred to as lathe, lever or single-knife slitting. This process features quick-setup and economical per-slit cost.

Buckling: The phenomenon when PSA tape ripples and causes an opening or gaps between layers in the manufacturing process.

Butt-Cutting: Die cutting process where a kiss cut is performed, but no matrix is created. The parts are directly next to each other. Products are usually square or rectangular shaped on a roll or pad.

Butt-Splice: A splice made by joining tape end-to-end without a space nor any overlapping. A thin single coated tape centered on both sides usually assembles the splice.

Caliper: Measuring instrument used to measure thickness of material expressed in thousands of an inch or millimeters.

Carrier: Double-coated tapes have a thin "carrier" of film to which one or two types of PSA adhesive is coated to each side.

Conformability: Ability of a tape to make total contact with a rough or uneven surface.

Creped: Paper tape that has small "folds" to provide stretch and conformability Cross Direction: When referring to roll, web or machine direction, "cross direction" right angles the web to which it runs through a given machine.

Die-Cutting: Fabricating process to make any shape or geometric pattern, design, square, rectangle, circle, etc. through the use of steel rule dies, rotary or circular dies, thermal and clicker dies, as well as machined compound and progressive die tooling.

Double-Coated: Tape consisting of a carrier with PSA adhesives coated to both surfaces and usually supplied wound on a silicone release liner.

Fabricator Converter: One who modifies products to enhance their value and final usage. Products can be modified primarily by: 

  • Laminating 
  • Die cutting to a custom shape 
  • Precision slitting/rewinding 
  • Spooling/level winding
  • Perforating, Scoring 
  • Adding/removing liners 
  • Cutting pieces to length

Fish Eyes: Small but visual deformations on the PSA surface caused by the air entrapment between the PSA and the material it is coated on. This is not necessarily a quality defect and usually diminishes over time.

Fogging/Ghosting: A fog or haze-like deposit from a PSA to another substrate visible after removal of the PSA.

Gapping: When two layers or more of material become separated from each other causing an opening or openings.

I.D.: Inside diameter.

Kiss-Cutting: Die-cutting process where the die strike depth is controlled down to the release liner, but not through it. For example, pressure sensitive labels in roll form. The usable product is left on the roll and the matrix is typically removed.

Laminating: The joining of two or more layers of materials using pressure-sensitive adhesive products. The process involves nip or compression of the layers, usually through a set of rollers with controlled pressure and speed.

Matrix: The pattern or arrangement of removed material to allow for a pre-spaced concept of die cut parts. Also referred to as the skeleton, weed or waste.

Memory: The willingness of material to return to its original size or shape after being stretched or distorted.

Migration: The process when materials from one substrate slowly move to another substrate. When die cutting soft adhesive the matrix usually needs to be removed before the PSA migrates back and rejoins itself in the areas it was previously cut.

Mils: Thickness of materials, inferring thousands of an inch. For example, 4 mil thick material is actually .004" thick. Tape is typically referred to as X mil thickness.

O.D.: Outside diameter.

Pancake Wound: The typical form of a roll of tape, where each layer is directly on top of the next one. Also referred to as planetary wound.

Pattern or Zone Coating: During the manufacturing process many PSA adhesives can be produced or "voided out" in specific "lanes" or zones in the direction of the unwind. This is often done to achieve an extended liner. Converters offer many creative options for tape such as this.

Perforating: The process where "skip" cutting material in a particular direction allows the material to tear easily into pieces or strips of a desired length. A good example if form-fed printer paper.

Plasticizer: A chemical substance added to plastic, foam, and other substrates to enhance flexibility.

Plasticizer Migration: When plasticizers are released from a substrate and attack the PSA bonded to it. The PSA usually "softens" to the point of bond failure.

Pressure Sensitive: Adhesive tapes that stick to a variety of surfaces with little (hand) pressure applied. These tapes are usually tacky or "sticky" at room temperature and do not need activation by heat, water, or added solvents.

Release coating: Thin coating of material (usually silicone) applied to a release paper or film. Enables tape to be unwound from itself and/or the tape to be removed from the release liner for lamination to a substrate.

Rewind Slitting: The method is for producing multiple cuts per cycle. This has a longer set-up time than baloney slitting. The process actually rewinds the material layer by layer across a set of pre-spaced knives and spacers, onto a rewind shaft that is set with pre-slit cores and spacers, with each individual slit roll wound on individual tension-controlled cores. This is a common process used in film and paper converting as well as for tapes.

Rubber Adhesive: Commonly used low cost PSA typically for lower temperature and low cost applications such as masking or cloth tapes.

Scoring: Creasing or bending line that assists subsequent usage. Scoring is also a term used to describe when one or more materials are slit or cut through to assist in the tape application.

Self-Wound or Single-Wound: A reference to pressure-sensitive tapes when comparing them to linered tapes. Each subsequent layer has the exposed adhesive in direct contact with the backing of the previous layer.

Shear Adhesion: The level of bond strength a PSA has to a substrate when shear force or stress is applied. For example, a PSA used to hang a picture on a wall should have good shear adhesion. Silicone Adhesive PSA typically used for high heat applications.

Tack: the sticky feel of the tape. It is the initial adhesion without rub-down.

Telescoping: sideways sliding of the tape layers, one over the other, so that the roll looks like a funnel or telescope.

Tolerance: The allowed variation from specified dimensions.

Traverse Wound: Also referred to as level winding or spool or reel wound. For example, sewing machine thread or fishing line. This process enables the fabricator to put extremely long lengths of custom slit material on one roll which means less roll changes and cost savings on a manufacturing line.

Unwind:The force to remove or unwind the tape from a roll.

Should you have an immediate requirement, call us at 905.791.1303 or 1.800.668.3235.