Balancing Act

Adhesive Providers Weigh Technicians’ Preferences and OEM Specs

By Tara Taffera

Though working with adhesives is an integral part of the auto glass technician’s job, doing so may not be the sexiest aspect, so to speak. Perhaps that is changing. AGRR magazine talked to industry suppliers and installers, and learned some enlightening things about the latest options and the future of adhesives. We also polled auto glass technicians around the country about what is most important to them when choosing one of these urethane products.

ADAS Strikes Again

Adhesive suppliers, such as Dow Automotive and Sika Corporation, keep a close eye on what is happening in the industry, and naturally that includes new technology among automobiles and their glass.

“Like everyone else we are keeping a close eye on [advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)] and recalibration,” says Mike Rea, senior product engineer. “We are constantly looking at new technologies and how that all works, and how that gives our customers the ability to handle that piece.”

Jeff Wacker, owner and lead technician at CBA Glass in Phoenix, says that as far as adhesives are concerned, he hasn’t had any issues yet when working on vehicles equipped with ADAS. “I use a non-conductive glue on everything and have never had a problem,” he says.

Chris Grafe, manager/technician for Glass on the Go in California, says ADAS technology could have an effect on the adhesive used, but, “For me I haven’t had any issues,” he adds.

If the dilemma between conductive and non-conductive adhesives and ADAS systems sounds murky, that could be because auto makers send mixed signals through their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specs, suggests Steve Allison, technical service and development engineer for Dow.

“I think it is important to point out—people see these electronics integrated into the windshield and they think, ‘Oh, you’ve got to use non-conductive [adhesives],’” Allison says. Dow supplies adhesives to a number of OEMs. As such, “We supply a lot of these cars that are integrating electronics into the windshield,” he adds. In many of those cases, he says the adhesives specified aren’t classified as non-conductive—even when vehicles are equipped with ADAS.

“I don’t want guys to think, ‘Oh, it’s got ADAS. I’ve got to use non-conductive [adhesive],’” Allison says. “It’s not necessarily true.” Instead, he recommends that auto glass shops refer to OEM specifications for every ADAS-equipped vehicle, then select products that are designed to match.

What Installers Want

The auto glass industry has certainly changed over the past 20 years—in more ways than just the advent of ADAS. Another change includes the use of thicker, or more viscous, urethanes. In fact, both Wacker and Grafe say a high-viscosity urethane is the most important factor for them when making selections.

“High viscosity gives a better working material,” Wacker says. “If you have a glue that is runny or oozing, it causes problems.”

Installers also say they want a fast, safe drive-away time [mini-mum cure time].

“I am strictly mobile so this is extremely important,” says Wacker. “And I work in a fast-paced city with people on the go.”

Grafe currently uses a urethane with a 30-minute minimum drive- away time from Dow, but when asked what he would like to see in a perfect world, his answer was simple: “Maybe like [an adhesive with] a 15-minute minimum drive-away time,” he says.

AGRR surveyed auto glass technicians to learn what is most important to them when choosing an adhesive and, once again, short, safe drive-away times were toward the top of the list (see, box page 22). That information doesn’t fall short of the attention of adhesive manufacturers, either.

“For us, if there was a strong de-sire from our customers—from the market—to have whatever drive-away time, that’s something that we’ll work on,” Allison says. At the same time, however, he says there are some compelling reasons to wonder if 15 minutes is best.

Even if 15-minute cure times were deemed beneficial—and possible—Allison says there are other factors to consider. For instance, 15 minutes might not give technicians the time they need, after setting windshields, to perform follow-up tasks—like replacing mouldings, cleaning up the worksite and going over paperwork with customers.

“Thirty minutes seems to be that sweet spot that allows enough time to go through, button up the vehicle, get the paperwork completed and then turn back over to the customer,” he says.

In addition to fast, minimum drive-away times, Grafe also mentioned another factor that is important to him, and one we didn’t even add to our list of options: lack of odor.

“Smell is a big thing. Customers don’t like it if the urethane has a strong smell,” he says.

Ron Combs, national account manager for Sika Corp., offered some perspective from the supplier side.Combs says his company tries to take the lead in terms of what technicians are looking for.

“Some say they like a heavy thick product [more viscous],” he says. “But if you are in Michigan, a thick product could be deleterious and hard to get it positioned, etc.”

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for urethanes. “It’s all about finding that right balance,” says Rea. “The urethane obviously has to hold up the wind-shield, have good decking, etc. You are constantly balancing that with meeting all the different conditions.”

What’s the Weather?

Many of those conditions are also dependent on weather, particularly in cold climates.

“Technicians tell us: ‘You guys have to find a way to develop products that allow us to do work in these [cold] conditions.’ So the motivation has been to address the needs of the industry by developing products that deliver optimal performance in an appropriate fashion,” says Combs.

All of his company’s products work in temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but there are some implications as to how you prep the glass, he adds.

Allison says some of Dow’s products are designed to be heated for colder working conditions. The company’s new Express 30 adhesive, for instance, can be placed in a urethane heater for up to 24 hours prior to application, which he says makes it easier to dispense.Wacker has weather issues of an-other sort to deal with, while working in the hot Arizona sun.

“I have installed in some of the hottest cities in the world,” says Wacker. “I’m always chasing the shade.”

And while many installers are figuring out how to keep their urethane warm in frigid temps, Wacker is doing the opposite. He keeps his glue in the air conditioning and “has never had any issues.”

Adhesives of the Future

Timm Herman is president of Meritool, a company that offers what it deems “dispensing equipment.”

In fact, tools such as those his company offers have become more popular as urethane has become more viscous.

“Materials today require twice the force [to dispense] than the materials of ten years ago,” he says.

In terms of future technology, Herman has some pretty impressive plans.

“We have looked into things like: ‘What if we could measure the amount of urethane used?’” he says. Or what if his tools could be shut off at certain times, he asks.

“I was talking to an installer out West and he said, ‘You know what I hate? My guys doing side jobs on the weekends.’ I answered, ‘What if we could program our tools to not work on Saturdays and Sundays, while also keeping track of urethane usage and time of usage?’”

If that sounds like something out of the Jetsons, then you should know that it may not be that off base. Power tools with geo-location-based features already have surfaced, including the ability to track and remotely disable their functions.

“It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say if we had RFID technology that when you place it on the tool the tool can say okay here is the lot and serial number of stats on that day.”

Herman says no one has told him that is a dumb idea.

If that happens, ADAS won’t be the only injection of artificial intelligence seen within the auto glass industry.

Tara Taffera is the editorial director for AGRR magazine. She can be reached at

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.


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