Taping a house together

Ever been tempted to make a quick repair with tape? Numerous websites enthuse about the practical uses of tape – from patching a window frame to a broken chair, a leaking pipe, a broken-down car or even shoe that has become detached from its sole. Now, developers have gone a step further, devising a special tape that can be used to build houses.

To date, many components of prefabricated houses are put together with nails or screws but according to the Fraunhofer Institute, the advantage of building with tape is speed and flexibility in construction. Although it is possible to use conventional liquid adhesives to put together many prefabricated house components, the trend has not really caught on to date. One of the reasons for this is that it often takes several hours for the tape or glue to cure and bond the materials together. But the Fraunhofer Institute is aiming to change this. Together with TU Braunschweig, the German researchers have developed a fast drying tape that cures within a minute.

The secret to this new quick drying tape lies in its composition. Unlike standard adhesive tape, this new tape is not simply a backing material with an adhesive. Rather, it contains its own heating system that includes a metal strip with adhesive on both sides. Once a piece of tape is placed between two pieces of wood, heat is applied via an electrical current that flows through the metal strip. As the metal heats up, the adhesive melts into a liquid that flows into the pores of the wood. The liquid adhesive then sets very quickly and creates a durable bond upon cooling.

Currently this process takes about a minute but researchers hope to shorten this time. At the moment, the tape will only adhere wood to wood, but it has shown potential for its application to brass. There is further research under way to develop the tape for use with stainless steel and aluminium.

What are the benefits of building with tape rather than nails and screws? For the same reason it is useful for fixing things around the house: tape is easy and cheap to work with. In the standard process of building prefabricated houses, house components are industrially prefabricated and then simply assembled on a building site. To make a wall for example, manufacturers first make a framed structure out of squared timber in the plant to which they then fit timber-derived boards. Nails and staples hold the building elements securely together.

However, several considerations must be factored in. The squared timber must not be too thin, otherwise the nails and staples will break the wall apart. Also, wherever the boards meet on site, there must be a rib to which the manufacturer can attach the boards. If it were possible to stick these boards and the other timber parts together using adhesive, it would give the building planners a lot more flexibility in component design.

Fast and flexible, building with tape appears to be a future building trend. Scientists plan to next test the adhesive in practical applications.

More information here.