Thursday, April 21, 2011

3M Premium Teflon Tape: More Than Most Will Ever Need!

The Good: Does what it claims to.
The Bad: Impractical bulk for most, Has to be cut (may fray slightly)
The Basics: So durable, the tape takes an exceptional amount of time to weather, 3M's thirty-six yard roll of Premium Teflon Tape is more than most any business will ever need.

There is something truly laudable about how eagerly I tackled my first small business a decade ago. Fresh out of college, I looked at my spending habits and I decided to make a small business out of what I loved, becoming a trading card dealer for Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Lord Of The Rings trading and gaming cards. While I worked away at making the business work and grow, I made necessary investments in products that would allow me to stay in business indefinitely, like purchasing an AIE-200 Impulse Sealer (reviewed here!) in order to be able to seal up sets of cards in poly bags. When the market tanked on collectibles and I was left with just enough money to declare bankruptcy and a stack of unsellable cards and office equipment, nothing made me feel more ridiculous about how I thought I was going to be successful than the roll of 3M Premium Grade Teflon Tape I had purchased early on.

When I worked with an AIE-200 machine at an art supply store during high school, I learned that no matter how careful one is with the elements, the Teflon tape which protected the elements and prevented melting plastic and poly bags from sticking to the machine will wear out. It is the nature of the beast; an impulse sealer sends an electric current through a metal element which, in turn, melts plastic and poly bags, sealing them up. All that protects the element is a thin layer of Teflon tape. Well, recalling those days at the at supply store how we would shift the Teflon tape around until it was torn in multiple places desperate to get as much use out of it as we could before having to dispose of it (usually after thirty to fifty thousand successful seals created on bags!), when I first started my business, I invested $250 on a roll of 3M Premium Grade Teflon Tape (3M 5453). My thought was that I would never have to purchase another roll so long as I lived. That, to date, probably remains true.

3M 5453 Premium Grade Teflon Tape is a roll of Teflon tape which is one inch wide. There are thirty-six yards of the tape on a roll and this is brown in color and backed with paper. The paper backing is because there is an adhesive on the tape which allows it to be set into place and prevents the tape from moving around. For those who have never worked with Teflon tape, the actual tape is about as thick as duct tape (in terms of "depth), which is still less than a millimeter thick. The tape is actually like a very tight cloth of Teflon-coated strands. As a result, it is virtually impossible to tear this tape, so it must be cut in order to separate it from the roll.

The purpose of Teflon tape is simple, but thus far, I've found it to be exceptionally specific. Teflon tape is intended to stick to a surface while preventing anything that comes into contact with the tape from staying on it, most notably melting plastic or polypropylene. The adhesive works exceptionally well. It is silicone-based, so it does not stop functioning despite the heat from the impulse sealer, nor does it smell at all. After cutting the necessary amount of Teflon tape from the roll, simply peel the brown kraft paper backing to expose the adhesive strip and press the tape firmly into place being sure that it is completely flat to prevent damage to the tape and the impulse sealer from wrinkles. Once it is pressed into place, it is virtually impossible to get off the metal surface of the impulse sealer (or anything else one sticks it to) without damaging the Teflon tape.

For my purposes, I have only used 3M Premium Grade Teflon Tape for my impulse sealer. For that, I cut an 8" strip from the roll using my household scissors (it is tough, but cuts remarkably easily) and remove the metal plates from the impulse sealer. Usually when I do that, I also am sure to clean off any adhesive residue from the prior Teflon tape strip and I make sure the heating element is clean and free of dirt and adhesive residue as well. Then, I lay the Teflon tape over the element - using the holes for the screws that attach the metal plates that keep the element assembly in place as guides - and press it firmly into place as sure as I am certain it is perfectly flat against the metal of the impulse sealer. This Teflon tape is exceptionally easy to work with as it is stiff, but still pliable enough to be easily managed. Once the tape is in place, I screw in the plates and my impulse sealer is up and ready to go again!

The tape then simply does what it is supposed to. When bags are sealed on the impulse sealer, the Teflon tape prevents the melting plastic and poly from sticking to the element. Over the course of tens of thousands of uses, though, friction will inevitably wear at the Teflon coating on the tape and eventually a "thread" will become exposed. When that happens, the melting poly will pull that thread until a tear forms and the Teflon tape protecting the element on the impulse sealer needs to be replaced. Given that this is usually on the order of thirty thousand uses of the impulse sealer, this is an exceptionally durable product.

Unfortunately, that is also what undoes this otherwise wonderful, if unremarkable, product. Because 3M 5453 Premium Grade Teflon Tape is so very durable, a 36 yard roll of it is more than most people or businesses will ever use. To wit, in the last ten years, I have cut three 8" lengths off this roll. Yes, that means to get my money's worth, I would have to live over five hundred years! While this might be a worthwhile investment for a business that has hundreds of impulse sealers running constantly, the average small business would do better to buy smaller repair kits that most impulse sealers mention in their manuals.

For other accessory reviews, please check out my takes on:
Griffin Technologies Flexgrip Silicone Case for iPod Touch
Nikon L16 AA batteries
MacBook Pro to HDTV connector


For other tool reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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