Shades of success for 3M

  • 12-Jan-2009 10:23 EST
OE Sunshades 3M5632 -.jpg

Adhesive transfer tapes can either be applied by hand or with a specially designed application system engineered by OE Sunshades, which, as well as giving accurate placement, removes the need for subsequent rub-down steps and wastage.

Automotive window tinting can be a relatively high-cost item, but taping is a potentially financially effective alternative. One example: the use of 3M’s adhesive transfer tape has helped OE Sunshades, a manufacturer of automotive privacy shades, to accelerate lead times and switch production from the Far East.

The shades cover the entire surface area of the window while still allowing it to be wound down. Production for 300 car models was undertaken in the Far East, but lengthy lead times and airfreight costs were canceling out labor savings. The application of the 3M tape engineered out much of the labor, and OE Sunshades returned production to its U.K. headquarters.

A primary issue faced during development of OEM and aftermarket shades is often the ability to keep the shade material taught on the metal frame prior to the application of a woven-edge binding. Explained Stephen Giles, Operations Director of OE Sunshades: "We tried many potential solutions: other tapes, sprays, heat-applied adhesives. But nothing seemed capable of holding the fabric firmly; it often detached or rucked prior to the final sewing operation. However, after a series of trials, 3M 950 Tape delivered exactly what we wanted. Another plus was the ease with which it detached from its backing paper."

OE Sunshades is adding about two new car models per week to its application range. Measuring the apertures, developing a CNC program for the wire frame, creating manufacturing procedures, and fabricating initial quality-control samples take only about 8 h for each.

Giles said the 3M 950 Tape solution provided superior performance in terms of speed of application, in-situ adhesion, and negligible quality rejection rates: "With just six people working in a single shift pattern, we are able to produce more than 500 sets of shades per week."

3M 950 Tape has been designed for attaching a wide variety of similar and dissimilar materials where an aggressive adhesive with high initial adhesion is required. The pressure-sensitive, medium-firm acrylic clear adhesive also features good shear holding power, and with 0.13-mm (0.005-in) thickness, it does not impact on the aesthetics of the substrates being bonded, added Giles.

The tapes can also be used on a wide variety of substrates, and variants cater for simple paper/card bonding to high-pressure, high-strength versions suitable for metals and ceramics.

Using 3M 950 Tape, OE Sunshades has registered two patents—one involving the technique used to clip the shades into the window surrounds (allowing the windows to open with the shade in place), and the second concerning the semi-permanent method used to fix material prior to edge binding.

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