3M VHB tape shown bonding metal hatchannel adhesive joint to metal panel in industrial manufacturing application

Bonding to Different Metal Substrates

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Designing with Metal

For manufacturers, metals are cost-effective, perform well across a wide range of temperatures, show fairly good weather resistance and have excellent strength. End consumers trust metals: they’re solid and sturdy, they’re cool to the touch and cool to the eye. Metals can provide any look you want, from gritty industrial to high tech alloys.

There are seemingly endless ways to shape or process metals: casting, stamping, bending, drawing – even a blacksmith’s forge. You know all this because you know about metal and why you’ve chosen it for your design. We know about metal too, but what we really know is how to bond metal.

Traditional Fastening vs. Adhesive Bonding

  • Technician uses applicator to bond metal with 3M metal glue

    Joining with Mechanical Fasteners vs. Adhesive Bonding

    Mechanical fasteners have been an integral part of metalworking for many years, and they’re a popular solution for joining metal. While metal fasteners are often the most well-known choice, they might not be the best for your needs. Industrial adhesives provide six key benefits over other industrial assembly methods:

    • Eliminate the need to drill holes – Drilling is time-consuming, while holes can weaken the substrate and be more easily affected by corrosion
    • Distribute stress evenly across the bond – rather than concentrated stress across several fastener points, the substrate is evenly stressed over the area of the bond
    • Use thinner, lightweight materials – even stress distribution means the substrate doesn’t need to be as thick to accommodate fastener stress points
    • Bond and isolate dissimilar materials – Industrial adhesives can bond to a range of metal and non-metal substrates as well as reducing the chance of galvanic corrosion
    • Bond and seal simultaneously – adhesives form strong bonds while keeping fluids out or in
    • Reduce vibration – resilient adhesives can help dissipate energy rather than transmit it


  • Sparks fly as technician welds metal substrates together in a factory

    Welding / Brazing / Soldering (Thermal Bonding) vs. Adhesive Bonding

    Thermal bonding applications like welding are popular due to their value for money and quick turnaround time. Like adhesive bonds, thermal bonds are durable and seal when applied properly. However, adhesives offer several benefits which thermal bonding does not:

    • Enable the use of dissimilar metals – the adhesive isolates different metals against galvanic corrosion
    • Rework the bond – the bond is easier to disassemble, rework and repair
    • Reduce labour costs – fast and easy application that contributes to reducing the total cost
    • Improve aesthetics – the bonding process does not distort or discolour the substrates
    • Enable the use of thinner substrates – because the metal is not distorted a thinner substrate can be just as strong
    • Lower energy costs – less energy-intensive than thermal bonding
    • Improve worker comfort and safety – most adhesives can be applied at room temperature without the need for intense heat
    • Faster finishing – without the risk of oxidisation or deformation finishing is quicker and easier

Adhesive Technologies

These are some of the best adhesives and tapes to use for bonding metals. It is important to choose the strength and durability of the adhesive to suit the requirements of the substrate and application. Learn more about each featured technology using the links below.

  • With 3M™ VHB™ Tapes you can maintain consistency from sketch to construction, eliminating distracting visible fasteners. These double-sided acrylic foam tapes quickly and easily form high-strength, long-lasting bonds that build strength over time, and they’re able to bond a variety of different substrates.

  • 3M™ Scotch-Weld™ structural two-part epoxy adhesives are strong, durable, perform well at high temperatures and resist chemical degradation, making them ideal for industrial applications. These high-strength adhesives can offer excellent impact resistance and enable product design for industries like aerospace, construction and transportation.

  • 3M™ Scotch-Weld™ structural acrylic adhesives can improve productivity and performance by providing strong, secure bonds with fast cure times and enhanced aesthetics. 3M™ Structural Acrylic adhesives can provide high impact resistance, low odor and up to an 18-month shelf life with no need for refrigeration.

Connect With Us

We're here to help.

Need help finding the right product for your project? Contact us if you need product, technical or application advice or want to collaborate with a 3M technical specialist, or give us a call at +27 011 806 2000.

Need help finding the right product for your project? Contact us if you need product, technical or application advice or want to collaborate with a 3M technical specialist, or give us a call at  +27 011 806 2000.

Customer Testimonials

  • PDG Mobility
    See how 3M Adhesives helped PDG to improve design and durability of wheelchairs

    Are you looking for an alternative to welding which can significantly improve production efficiency? See how 3M™ Scotch-Weld™ Epoxy Adhesive helped PDG Mobility design stylish, lighter weight wheelchairs while speeding up assembly time.

  • WS steel
    Find out how WS Steel reduced their manufacturing costs by 20%

    WS Steel were using spot welding for their medical cabinet production processes. By making the switch to 3M™ VHB™ Tape, they removed the risk of deformation while speeding up their assembly process and cutting back on manufacturing costs. This meant they could manufacture the same high-quality goods while improving aesthetics.

  • Hanses
    See how Hansen Signs company cut their labour time by 80% using 3M™ VHB™ Tape

    Hansen Signs design and manufacture a range of signages. With 3M™ VHB™ Tape, they increased their production efficiency by using tape for bonding different materials including metals, composites, and plastics - speeding up their assembly processes. Outdoor signage needs to resist extreme weather conditions. 3M™ VHB™ tapes provided strong bonding and sealing that withstands harsh environmental conditions

  • 3M VHB Zanetti
    Watch how 3M™ VHB™ Tape helped Zanetti create customized products

    3M™ VHB™ Tapes have helped Zanetti produce complex, fully customized windows and doors while reducing the amount of materials they need per operation. The tapes are easy to use across a range of substrates and form completely invisible bonds, making it easier for the team to meet custom design specifications.

Bonding to Different Metals

Metals are easy to bond, but each is unique. These are the major types of metals.

  • Stainless steel kitchen cabinets in a commercial kitchen
    Stainless Steel

    Stainless steel is an iron alloy with carbon and other metals added for corrosion resistance. Common for household cookware, cutlery, commercial kitchens and food processing, it is also used for surgical instruments, in the automotive and aerospace industries, and for general industrial equipment and building facades. Stainless steel is easy to bond but may need to be cleaned to remove dirt, dust, fingerprints and machine oil.

  • Plates of corrugated steel (diamond pattern) in industrial manufacturing

    Steel is an alloy of iron with a small amount of carbon to increase strength. Steel surfaces are typically coated before or after bonding to prevent corrosion, either with zinc (galvanized steel) or some type of paint. If coated before, the adhesive is actually bonding to any coating rather than the steel itself, which affects surface energy and how well the adhesive wets out. Other adhesives and tapes are designed to survive the coating or painting process.

  • Strips of aluminum ready for metal adhesive

    Aluminium is a relatively soft, durable, lightweight, ductile and malleable metal that is easily machined, cast, drawn and extruded. It is nearly always alloyed to improve its mechanical properties. Aluminium resists corrosion because a thin layer of aluminium oxide forms almost immediately when the bare metal is exposed to air. Aluminium often needs to be cleaned or abraded to remove dirt, dust, fingerprints and machine oil.

  • Cut copper pipes and tubing
    Copper-Containing Metals

    Copper is a soft, malleable, ductile metal with excellent electrical and thermal conductivity. It is subject to corrosion and should not be in contact with materials that cause or increase corrosion, particularly other metals. Metals that can corrode over long periods of time, such as copper and its alloys brass and bronze, require special consideration when selecting an adhesive. 3M makes specially formulated tapes and adhesives that do not promote corrosion and are copper-compatible.

Considerations when Bonding Metal

Various factors come into play when considering the best way to bond metal in your process, including rigid vs. flexible, corrosion, thermal exposure and stress concentration.

  • 3M VHB tape is used to join metal part to metal sheeting
    Rigid vs. Flexible

    A rigid adhesive transmits energy efficiently, such as from a golf club shaft to the head. A flexible adhesive helps dissipate energy, such as vibrations in a passenger rail car, so the structure isn’t adversely affected. Different adhesives are rigid or flexible to a different extent so you can choose the one that’s best for your application.

  • Pitting, rust, and galvanic corrosion detail on a metal screw head

    Galvanic corrosion occurs when a more active metal loses electrons to a less active one, leading to both cosmetic degradation and material failure through rust or pitting; this is a particular problem when a metal fastener easily transmits the electrons. An adhesive can not only bond different metals, but also provide a thin insulation layer to resist this corrosion.

  • A rotor and brake system symbolize thermal issues in metal. Metal friction impacts temperature and  stress in materials.
    Thermal Exposures

    Different materials expand and contract at different rates when exposed to heat or cold, which can seriously affect the structure. A sufficiently resilient adhesive can absorb some of this stress, whether it’s between two different metals or between metal and a non-metal substrate such as glass, wood or plastic.

  • Warped metal showing damage from a screw fastening metal sheets together
    Stress Concentration/Drilling Holes

    Drilling holes doesn’t only take time, it also weakens the substrate and concentrates stress at the edge of the hole. An adhesive, on the other hand, can be applied quickly and distributes stress evenly across the bond.

  • Design Challenges
    Design Challenges

    Bonding metal assemblies with thermal or mechanical fasteners can often scupper your design dreams with visible fastenings or weld spots. Adhesive bonding, however, results in smooth, invisible bonding lines and a reliable hold that doesn’t compromise on aesthetics. They also allow manufacturers to use a wider range of thinner, lighter materials.

  • Paint and coatings with heat curing cycles
    Paint and coatings with heat curing cycles

    Liquid paint processing and powder coating can present an unexpected challenge while bonding metal assemblies. Bonds made prior to powder coating will be subjected to high temperatures, during heat curing cycles, while those made after will need to adhere to the treated surface. An adhesive, if chosen correctly, can hold your metal assembly in place through the powder coating oven, and then reliably bond to the final powder coated surface afterwards.

Connect With Us

We're here to help.

Need help finding the right product for your project? Contact us if you need product, technical or application advice or want to collaborate with a 3M technical specialist, or give us a call at +27 011 806 2000.

Need help finding the right product for your project? Contact us if you need product, technical or application advice or want to collaborate with a 3M technical specialist, or give us a call at +27 011 806 2000.


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