The transformative role of structural adhesives in diverse industries
By Associate Professor Wong King Jye
Structural adhesives serve as indispensable tools for creating cohesive and robust assemblies capable of withstanding diverse mechanical, environmental, and operational challenges. These methods facilitate the connection of individual components and materials into larger systems, ensuring the resulting structures possess requisite strength, stability, and performance attributes.
In comparison to traditional joining techniques like welding, riveting, and bolting, structural adhesives present a plethora of advantages. They include improved aesthetics, substantial weight reduction, streamlined assembly processes, compatibility with various materials, elimination of material removal, uniform load distribution, diminished stress concentration, heightened fatigue resistance, and enhanced corrosion resistance.
Such advantages collectively bolster structural integrity, contributing to the widespread adoption of adhesives across industries, such as the automotive, aerospace, construction, marine, and medical industries.
Expanding Applications in Industry
- Aerospace Advancements: Structural adhesives play a pivotal role in aviation maintenance and repair, encompassing tasks like bonding aircraft components, interior refurbishments, and composite repairs. This industry has garnered strategic importance, which is evident in its inclusion in the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) to drive high-tech growth. This strategic focus entails the development of four clusters: maintenance repair and overhaul, aerospace manufacturing, systems integration, and engineering and design services.
This approach synergises efforts and nurtures local growth. Notably, entities like GMI Aero are at the forefront, offering solutions for composite repairs. Their three decades of experience culminate inefficient support for aeronautic composite structure maintenance. A milestone MoU was signed in 2022, uniting GMI Aero, KKIP Aerospace Training Centre (KATC), and Hypercoat Sdn. Bhd. to elevate KKIP into a Centre of Excellence for bonded composite repairs in Southeast Asia.
- Automotive Advancements: The automotive sector employs adhesives to bond vehicle components, enhancing weight balance, noise reduction, and crash performance. Notably, Sarawak’s commitment to eco-friendly transportation has been demonstrated in its novel hydrogen buses, and proposed hydrogen-powered autonomous rapid transit (ART) by 2050. Sarawak recently received the world’s first hydrogen-powered ART smart tram from China, heralding substantial transportation development. In this evolving landscape, structural adhesives will prove pivotal in maintaining these advanced vehicles.
- Maritime Marvels: Sarawak’s coastal geography amplifies the significance of marine and shipbuilding industries, where adhesives are indispensable for bonding hull components, decks, and interior fixtures. These adhesives must withstand the harsh maritime environment, including saltwater exposure, UV radiation, and temperature fluctuations. Structural adhesives are extensively used in ship maintenance and repair, offering durable solutions for joining, bonding, and reinforcing diverse materials. Offering benefits such as durability, weight reduction, and application ease, these adhesives stand as vital tools in the maritime realm.
- Construction Confluence: In the construction sector, adhesives find versatile applications, from bonding concrete elements to attaching wall panels. Notably, Sarawak’s renewable energy potential aligns with the adhesives’ role in constructing and maintaining energy infrastructure. Potential applications encompass securing turbine components and preventing water ingress through sealing structures, reflecting the intricate intersection of adhesive technology and sustainable energy goals.
- Medical Advancements: In the medical domain, adhesives wield significance in modern dentistry, particularly in procedures such as crowning, implantology, and dental restorations. The meticulous selection of adhesives is paramount to ensuring long-term success, considering factors such as biocompatibility, bond strength, durability, and ease of application. Adhesive technology merges seamlessly with the pursuit of effective medical solutions, enhancing patient outcomes.
Factors Underpinning Quality Bonding
Irrespective of the application, achieving high-quality adhesive bonding hinges on meticulous consideration of various factors. These encompass adhesive selection, substrate compatibility, surface preparation, adhesive thickness, curing conditions, and environmental influences. The optimisation of these factors during the adhesive bonding process guarantees resilient, dependable bonds across diverse applications and industries.
Charting the Path Forward
The realm of structural adhesives presents a promising trajectory, underscored by ongoing research and development. These endeavours tackle existing challenges while enabling innovation across industries. Notably, sustainability takes centre stage, with the advent of sustainable, recyclable, and bio-based adhesives aligning with global efforts toward environmentally responsible practices. This evolving landscape promises a future where structural adhesives shape industries while advocating for sustainable progress.
Dr. Wong King Jye is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering and Science, Curtin University Malaysia. He received his Bachelor of Engineering (Hons.) in Mechanical Engineering from Multimedia University, Malaysia in 2004 with first class honours, Master of Engineering (Mechanical) from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in 2006, and PhD in Mechanics from Institut Supérieur de l’Automobile et des Transports (ISAT), France in 2013. He is a Chartered Engineer of the Engineering Council, Chartered Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), Senior Graduate Member of The Institution of Engineers, Malaysia, and Graduate Engineer of the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM). His research focus encompasses the durability of engineering materials, adhesive joints, delamination of composite laminates, and computational solid mechanics. He has led and served as co-investigator for over 35 major research projects, securing cumulative research grants of over RM3.5 million. In addition, he has produced over 90 journal and conference publications, as well as numerous book chapters. Dr. Wong can be contacted via email at email@example.com.