Adhesive Bonding in the Rail Industry

Adhesive bonding in the rail industry

Bonding Solutions with Acrylic Adhesives

Methyl methacrylate (MMA) structural adhesives, a common type of acrylic resin, are known for their high strength and durability, which make them an ideal choice for a wide range of applications. In addition to these key attributes, MMA acrylic adhesives are widely used in many industries for their metal bonding success, their ability to bond dissimilar materials with little or no surface preparation, withstand harsh environments, and provide long-term fatigue & impact resistance.

One of the primary advantages of the Plexus® range of adhesives is its success in metal bonding, plastic bonding, and composite bonding. Plexus adhesives offer versatility beyond simple metal to metal bonding / adhesion. They’re excellent at bonding dissimilar materials. Multiple markets including, commercial trucks, buses and cars require similar metal bonding to the rail industry. Plexus adhesives are known for their ability to bond dissimilar materials to yield the most favorable failure modes from substrate bond to cohesive bond. Consider the construction of rail cars and locomotives where steel, aluminum, plastics, and composites are all commonly used in their construction. Plexus adhesives successfully bond these materials together, creating a strong, seamless bond that provide high resistant to vibration, impact, and other stresses.

Environmental Conditions

Managing environmental cycling and stress resistance are key properties of Plexus structural adhesives. Rail cars and locomotives are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions, including extreme temperatures, moisture, and long periods of high dynamic stresses such as vibration and aerodynamic loads.

Uses of Acrylic Adhesives in the Rail Market

Underfloor supports are a common application for a Plexus metal adhesive due to their ability to bond aluminum with high strength and a good adhesion bond. Plexus is used to provide further structural stiffening between the wagon structure and floor panels. Physical properties of Plexus also help absorb loads from foot traffic and torsion created during travel. The metal bonding is just part of what is happening beneath the surface: Plexus adhesives distribute stress, reducing vibration and fatigue, eliminating down time, maintenance, and extending the lifespan of rail cars and locomotives.

Although metal bonding and its bonding strength are some of the top reasons MMA adhesives are chosen, there’s more to the product than being a metal adhesive or metal to metal adhesive. Plexus MMA adhesives are also known for their favorable ratio between working and cure times, making them ideal for bonding small parts like brackets, trim, and inserts that are used in rail interior structures and panels. MMA adhesives cure quickly, often in a matter of minutes, meaning high productivity and efficiency, as well as a superior product that will not fail in use.

Easy to Use with Several Advantages

In addition to their fast cure times, methacrylate adhesives are also easy to use. They are typically packaged in cartridges, pails, and drums, for use with manual or pneumatic dispensers, as well as bulk pumping systems that are suitable for hand-held or robotic application. A structural adhesive bonding metal to another substrate can benefit from industrial certification as well. Many Plexus adhesives are certified EN45545-2 and are used at key rail OEMs and tier one suppliers around the world. A couple examples would be Plexus MA300 and Plexus MA310 which are both two-part acrylic adhesives designed for structural bonding.


The advantages of MMA adhesives in the rail industry are numerous. Their ability to bond metals, composites, plastics as well as dissimilar materials, withstand harsh environments, cure quickly, and offer long-term durability make them an ideal choice for rail cars & components.

Additionally, their ease of use and cost-effectiveness make them a smart investment for rail companies looking to improve their operational efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. As the rail industry continues to evolve and demand for high-performance materials grows, Plexus MMA adhesives are likely to play an increasingly important role in the construction, maintenance, and repair of rail cars and locomotives.

If you are considering metal bonding in the rail industry, please contact our Technical Services group for support on finding the right methacrylate adhesives for your application.

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Further reading: Thixotropy, Viscosity and Rheology … Oh my!, What is fixture time anyway?, and Is it strong enough?.  

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ITW Performance Polymers is an international leader in structural adhesivesgrouting and chocking compounds, and wear-resistant coatings and repair products. Contact us to learn more about these products and their applications.