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Packaging Adhesives Unveiled: The Science Behind the Stickiness

Packaging is essential to modern commerce, ensuring products reach consumers in pristine conditions. While many people pay much attention to the package’s structure, longevity and ecological footprint, they often disregard packaging adhesives. These unsung heroes play a crucial role in preserving the integrity of packages by ensuring that labels stay in and seals don’t come undone. The subject of this article is the science underlying the tackiness of packing adhesives.

What Are Packaging Adhesives?

Packaging adhesives are the unseen glue that keeps everything in the packaging industry together. These substances are crucial for various packaging purposes, including adhering labels to containers and sealing corrugated boxes. The primary function of packaging adhesives is to provide a robust, durable and long-lasting bond between different materials. This bond guarantees that products will reach their final destination in one piece.

Adhesion science is at the core of packaging adhesives. “Adhesion” refers to the process through which forces at the interface of two materials keep them together. The adhesive’s chemical composition and the joined surfaces’ qualities determine this connection’s strength and endurance.

The Most Common Types

Factors Affecting Adhesion

a. Surface Energy: Adhesion is affected by the surface energy of the materials. Bonding is often easier between materials with higher surface energy, such as metals and glasses than with lower surface energy materials, like plastics. Selecting an adhesive compatible with the substrates’ surface energy is essential.

b. Temperature and Moisture: High temperatures and high humidity negatively affect adhesive performance. When exposed to changes in temperature or moisture, certain adhesives might lose their binding strength or become brittle. When deciding on an adhesive, manufacturers must consider the surrounding environment.

c. Substrate Porosity: To what extent an adhesive attaches to a substrate depends, in part, on the substrate’s porosity. Adhesives penetrating highly porous materials like cardboard and producing a solid bind inside the substrate’s pores are desirable.

Applications and Sustainability

Packaging adhesives find use in a wide range of applications beyond simply sealing boxes. They are crucial in product labeling, laminating and multi-layer package assembly. The need for eco-friendly packaging options is rising with public awareness of environmental issues. Fortunately, manufacturers of adhesives have developed alternatives that are less harmful to the environment. 

For instance, water-based adhesives have grown in popularity because of their positive effect on the planet. They are more environmentally friendly compared to the solvent-based ones because they emit less volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition to formulation, adhesive application methods also impact sustainability. Selecting adhesives with recyclable or biodegradable properties can further contribute to sustainability efforts.


Adhesives in packaging are the unsung heroes that keep the things people use daily from falling apart in transit. Understanding the science behind their stickiness is crucial for manufacturers and brands looking to create durable, reliable and sustainable packaging solutions. The importance of packaging adhesives in ensuring the secure transport of goods to customers with little environmental effect will only grow as technology continues to reshape the sector. So, the next time you unbox a product, remember that behind the scenes, there’s a world of science and innovation ensuring your package stays sealed and secure.

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