Technology and magic

Arthur C Clarke, the science fiction writer, science writer, and futurist, once said “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Here, Peter Swanson, managing director of adhesives specialist Intertronics, explains the poignancy of this quote in modern day adhesives applications.

We meet with customers and colleagues every day, to talk about their applications and challenges, and demonstrate materials and products which might help them. Well, we don’t expect to be able to show phenomena that can’t be explained by physics and chemistry. Equally, our customers will not be subjected to sleight of hand or illusion. In fact, we are determined to help manufacturers understand the science behind adhesives and dispensing technologies, so that they can use them as efficiently and comprehensively as they can.

This learning is quite mutual; we are clear about what a privilege it is for us to have our customers share their design and production challenges and aspirations with us. We respect this, and grow from it.

Evidence of a substance being used as an adhesive dates back to 4000 BC. Archaeologists studying burial sites of prehistoric tribes found foodstuffs buried with the deceased in broken pottery vessels that had been repaired with sticky resins from tree sap.

Today, we have synthetic polymeric adhesives that can bond to (almost) any substrate and provide structural strength through wide extremes of temperature and exposure to water, weather, or chemical attack. We can apply them with exceptional precision to exacting tolerances in processes that are fully controlled and repeatable. Materials can be accurately dispensed in quantities of 0.001 ml or less, with positional accuracy of 0.001 mm or better. We can cure them in only a few seconds using light emitted from a solid state semiconductor device.

These capabilities would certainly be magic to a prehistoric tribesman. Many of the adhesive chemistries we offer today, like epoxies and cyanoacrylate adhesives, were first offered commercially in the 1950s. To engineers from that decade, the durability, robustness, and process-ability of our current formulations would surely impress, if not astound, them. And yet my colleagues and I are not fazed by this technology at all; we understand it, we use it, we demonstrate it.

With our help, and a visit to our Technology Centre, visitors can learn about and apply these technologies and understand how they can deliver robust and reliable performance for their products. They can determine the return on investment they will achieve by adopting new processes. Critically, many of these processes can deliver significant productivity enhancements, improving their competitiveness and their bottom line. And that, to us, is magic.


Station Field Industrial Estate
Banbury Road

+44 (0)1865 842842

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