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Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Henkel Adhesive Technologies

Structural bonding: the key to operational sustainability

Discover the benefits of structural bonding as an alternative to welding or mechanical fixing. It enables lightweighting, reduces CO2 emissions and reliance on scarce skilled labor, facilitates automation, and offers a wider choice of manufacturing materials.

Victoria Cardine
Market Segment Manager for RV, Specialty Vehicles & Heavy Equipment

5 min.
An image from Shutterstock illustrates green CO2 sustainability concepts

Heavy equipment, from trucks to tractors, is vital to many of our most important industry sectors, driving agriculture, mining, construction, logistics and more.

Minimizing the environmental footprint of heavy equipment, without compromising its financial viability, is a key goal.

While alternative power sources will have the greatest impact, as discussed in another Henkel blog, the focus on sustainability needs to go across the whole value chain, from materials sourcing through manufacturing, operation, maintenance and decommissioning. These elements do not always get the same attention as power; as a 2020 article on auto manufacture points out.

"Because the manufacturing stage is somewhat invisible to the consumer, we tend to forget about its impact on the environment."

There are opportunities throughout the heavy equipment value chain to make it more sustainable. Here, we consider how structural bonding can replace welding and mechanical fixings to deliver a more sustainable manufacturing process that is more efficient, less reliant on skilled labor, produces less CO2, and delivers a lighter, more maintainable end product.

Structural bonding and sustainability

Like other manufacturing industries, heavy equipment production has historically relied heavily on joining steel or aluminum components using welds, bolts or rivets. Adhesive bonding and the use of materials other than metal have been limited mainly to non-structural areas, mainly because of limitations in strength and durability.

Advances in materials and bonding technologies are increasingly offering sustainable alternatives to welding or mechanical fixing that deliver the required strength and resilience with significant environmental and cost advantages.

An image from Shutterstock depicts heavy equipment being delivered by a truck

Structural bonding offers an alternative to welding or mechanical fixing that.

Enables lightweighting – A 2022 Henkel blog on lightweighting in automobile manufacture highlights how replacing heavier rivets and welds with 2.2lbs of adhesive can reduce vehicle weight by 55lbs without compromising structural integrity or safety.

Heavy equipment spends a lot of its working life being transported to where it is needed. This lightweighting offers major benefits to towing operations, as well as directly reducing direct fuel consumption.

An April 2022 article in the American Journal of Transportation explores the benefits of lightweighting commercial vehicles in more detail.

Reduces CO2 emissions – Using structural adhesives in place of mechanical fixings or welds simplifies the production process, reducing the amount of inventory and materials that need to be sourced and stored. This can deliver significant reductions in CO2 emissions from production and transportation.

Minimizes reliance on scarce skilled labor – A 2022 story reports that the American Welding Society estimates a 400,000-worker shortage by 2024. Replacing welds with structural adhesives where feasible reduces reliance on skilled labor, and can be more easily automated.

Facilitates automated process monitoring and control – automating the process of dispensing structural adhesives enables factors such as quantity, chemical composition and temperature to be continually monitored, measured, controlled and optimized. Henkel’s Digiline framework demonstrates how intelligent monitoring and management can transform the efficiency, and therefore the sustainability, of bonding processes.

Enables a wider choice of manufacturing materials – Alternatives to aluminum and steel are playing an increasing role in automotive manufacture, because of their lighter weight and lower environmental footprint. A 2020 study projects the automotive composites market will virtually double in size from $7.2bn in 2020 to $14.3 in 2028. Structural bonding can be applied across a wide range of substrates, enabling greater choice in manufacturing materials.

Beyond bonding

Chemical based solutions for heavy equipment go far beyond structural bonding. Using state-of-the-art chemical solutions in key processes such as seam sealing and gasketing delivers benefits for sustainability, efficiency and cost. For example, using chemical gasketing greatly reduces the production, inventory and MRO (maintenance, repairs and operations) overheads involved in using pre-cut gaskets, replacing multiple bespoke components with a single, globally available solution.

How Henkel creates value

Henkel’s position as a global market leader in materials solutions, and our commitment to innovation and collaboration with OEMs and operators, make us an ideal partner for driving sustainability across the heavy equipment value chain.

Henkel’s materials technology has delivered success with brands and technologies for over 140 years.  Henkel offers market-leading solutions and extensive technical know-how in a wide range of materials technologies applicable to heavy equipment production:

  • Adhesives
  • Sealants
  • Gap pads and fillers
  • Potting materials
  • Gasketing
  • Thermal interfaces
  • Magnet bonding
  • Printed circuit boards


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