Adhesives, Sealants, and How They Differ

Ambiguous in nature, sealants and adhesives can be interchangeably used depending on the job at hand. Due to having similar properties to one another, adhesives and sealants are commonly confused for each other. Despite this, each material may be superior in performance for specific applications depending on how an item needs to be affixed to a surface. Providing a certain level of overlapping characteristics, adhesives and sealants exhibit properties that make them suitable for aircraft, aerospace, and electronic purposes. Going over the primary differences separating a sealant from an adhesive, we will discuss their key qualities and how each serves similar, yet unique functions.

Used to combine a surface to one or more separate materials, adhesive can be employed for a multitude of applications. Also known as glue or cement, adhesives come in two forms and are typically made from non-metallic substances. With the end result of binding two parts together, adhesives can be classified as either reactive or non-reactive. Often used and considered when multiple materials come into account, adhesives are applied in lieu of welding, sewing, or mechanical fasteners which can damage the materials attempting to be bonded. Although adhesives are proven to resist separation quite well once dry, when exposed to high temperatures, their adhesive qualities can weaken. Leading to decreased stability, not applying the appropriate amount of adhesive can also result in the failure of adjoining surfaces.

Although sealants may not be as strong as adhesives, they are effective in affixing many components to a substrate. Primarily used to seal off liquids from escaping various types of channels, sealants come in a diverse range of applicability and adhesive flexibility. Depending on what task the sealant is being applied for, it can vary in strength, flexibility, and durability. With some of the early appearances of sealants consisting of plant resin, wax, tar, natural gum, clay, or various other natural resources, modern sealants now offer an easier alternative. Superseding pre-existing forms, modern sealants are now commonly manufactured with polymers. This is used to create a synthetic-polymer-based sealant capable of withstanding corrosion while providing insolubility and flexible adhesion for smaller, hard-to-seal openings. While sealants are commonly used within aircraft to serve a functional purpose, they are also relied on for piping, HVAC systems, hydraulic systems, casting, engines, and other applications.

Although sealants and adhesives can be interchanged due to similarities among their properties, their specific functions are not to be confused with one another. In promoting reliable connection between two or more adjoining parts, adhesives are better suited for large or small fixtures requiring specific strengths of adhesion through physical or chemical reactions. Meanwhile, sealants are typically low in strength but are highly resistant to extreme temperatures, provide more flexibility, and are only commonly used to seal or fill gaps or smaller segments of adjoining parts. Less commonly used methods for sealaning assemblies include soldering or welding.

Varying in strength, it is inevitable that any adhesive material will decay over time. If you are on the lookout for a specific sealant or adhesive, look no further than Industrial Automation Parts. We are your reliable source for various adhesive materials and aircraft parts ranging from epoxy glue to gaskets, electrical equipment, electrical parts, and more. Due to our quality control and export compliance, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation. If you would like to request a quote for your comparisons, you can submit an RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt, a dedicated account manager will quickly review and respond with a personalized solution to your needs in just 15 minutes or less, 24/7x365.


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