Packaging tape or hot melt adhesive for carton sealing?

Tape vs. adhesive: which is the best packaging solution?

Case & Carton Sealing Material Options

Selecting the right material for your case and carton sealing application is an important decision. While this may seem insignificant compared to other decisions, the wrong choice could be disastrous. Making sure your products are sealed properly to reinforce quality and handle transportation logistics will have a major impact on the sustainability of your business.

The two main material choices for case and carton sealing applications are hot melt adhesive and adhesive tape

  • Hot melt adhesive is a synthetic resin that liquefies when heated and is applied using a small, handheld applicator or a large automated system with multiple automatic applicators.
  • Adhesive tape is a pressure sensitive plastic or nylon-reinforced filament where a polymer is usually the main adhesive element.

Since both materials are viable solutions for case and carton sealing and end-of-line packaging operations, understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each can assist plant managers who are looking for the best solution.

Hot Melt Adhesive


  • Material is less expensive - typically cost 50-75% less than packaging tape
  • Depending on the application and equipment used, the material savings could amount to significant money over time
  • Application flexibility - large variety of material options and nozzle sizes
  • Ideal for high speed case & carton assembly - rapid set time
  • Continuous operation
  • Provides higher structural strength - important for heavy packages
  • Long-term bonds - key for shipping strength
  • Customer experience - open package without knife or scissors
  • Appearance - professional looking seal, no cracks or folds in tape


  • Higher equipment purchase cost
  • Potential higher operation cost
  • Potentially safety risk for operators
  • Operator training time

Adhesive Tape


  • Lower equipment purchase and operation costs
  • Complete seal of flap seams from environment
  • Ideal for slower, less frequent case erecting
  • Package size flexibility at lower volumes 
  • Minimal safety risk for operators


  • Downtime – manual reloading every 1,200-2,000 feet of tape
  • Inconsistency – tape covers several boxes if too close together
  • Tape breaks – resulting from minor nicks or sharp edges
  • Manual application process – operators are more hands-on
  • Storage space – needed for dispensers and replacement rolls 
  • Choosing the right tape – acrylic, hot melt, various grades of tape


In general, hot melt adhesive often provides the most viable material solution for case and carton sealing operations with larger volumes of similar sized boxes. For operations with lower volumes and a variety of box sizes, adhesive tape may be the best material solution.

If each material is still an option to consider, take the time to talk with equipment and material manufacturers about your specific application to help provide a better understanding of potential recurring costs. Understanding any ongoing maintenance requirements and potential issues with the materials may provide the final piece of information to help determine the right decision.

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