Tesa SE's silent technical revolution

Cutting-edge technology in use and research underway at big German brand in Norderstedt
02 March 2018
Tesa Gebäude in Hamburg

In Germany, tesa stands mainly for sellotape. But visitors to tesa SE’s new headquarters near Hamburg quickly realize that there is far more to this company. Only a stone’s throw from Hamburg Airport, the company unites everything under one roof. This building houses both the tesa research and technology centre and the headquarters of a company with 51 subsidiaries and eight production sites worldwide. The spirit of openness and internationality is immediately palpable. A light-filled hall welcomes visitors. Transparent structures are visible throughout the impressive complex. The open food court is a meeting place for employees who greet complete strangers with a welcoming smile. More than 1,000 employees from all corners of the world work here. 

Gunnar von der Geest, Corporate Communications Manager at tesa, remarked: “When it comes to the development of adhesives and the associated coating technology, we have over 120 years of experience.” More than 7,000 products and the first technical tape for patching bicycle tyres was developed in 1896 by Dr. Oscar Tropowitz, one of the founding fathers of Beiersdorf AG to which Tesa belongs. Von der Geest added: “Tesa is known by 98 per cent of the population and is one of the strongest brands in Germany. “The industrial sector in particular has enormous growth potential. Our future markets lie in consumer electronics, electro mobility, construction technology and pharmacy.”

At forefront of mobile phone market

Mobile phone manufacturers are under enormous pressure to come up ever more innovations. Every new generation of devices must be thinner, sharper, stylish and faster. Perfection is in demand and design is the key to success. Additionally, there is a need for short innovation cycles and rational production processes that make mass production possible. A glance inside a cutting-edge mobile phone quickly reveals the connection to tesa. Hardly any screws can be found because almost everything is glued using ultra thin adhesive tapes, which serve multiple functions at a time. Von der Geest explained: “The bonding of a mobile phone’s bezel is often only one millimetre wide and must withstand enormous shocks”. The company achieves this using finely-tuned adhesives and by including the consumer electronics industry in the development process.

Electro mobility driving innovation 

Even in conventional automotive engineering, modern adhesive technologies are playing an increasingly important role. Gluing speeds up assembly significantly and the bonding technology also ensures reliable connections and saves weight at the same time. In the world of electric mobility, the adhesive technology will be even more important as mainly lightweight materials are used to connect electric vehicles sturdily with each other. At present, ultra-thin films and adhesive tapes play a crucial role in every e-mobile. 

Von der Geest explained: “Special tesa films are used e.g. in batteries to reliably isolate the individual cells,” and pointed to a patented, special orange tape for hybrid vehicles. He added: “During the lifespan of a car, it cannot fade even in high temperatures and must be able to indicate that this cable is under power and represents a serious health hazard when cut.”

Gluing instead of drilling and screwing 

The construction industry is also increasingly opening up to new procedures and rational assembly techniques. This is where tesa sees a significant future market and is developing innovative solutions to replace fastening by drilling and screwing with modern bonding technologies. Tesa ACXplus adhesive tapes are just one example. Typically used for fastening facade panels or solar panels, their elasticity and viscous characteristics mean they cope with tension and combine very high bonding strength with exceptional temperature and weather resistance. Equally fascinating are new assembly techniques for the interior. For this purpose, tesa products such as Powerbond and Powerstrips now have new features for hanging up pictures or attaching lighter objects to a wall without having to drill holes. The latest novelties include a wall mounting technology for loads in the kilogram range. Now, anything can be hung on costly bathroom tiles and without having to drill holes. And the attachment points can even be removed at any time and do not leave any visible traces. This solution is ideal for assembling accessories in hotels quickly or reversible fixings in homes with frequently changing tenants.


Revolution in medicine 

The company has built a cutting-edge clean room production facility for pharmaceuticals at the tesa plant in Hamburg-Hausbruch. The clean room has been certified to global standards and new types of active substance plasters are produced there. The plasters are simply attached to the skin to deliver medically active substances over a long period of time. Fast-dissolving oral films that dissolve quickly on the tongue and release active medical substances are one of the latest pharmaceutical developments. Tesa’s extensive know-how in coating technology will allow the company to tap into this future market.

Von der Geest pointed out: “Hugo Kirchberg, a tesa man of the first hour, thought as early as 1936 that the tesafilm he developed would only be worth half, if he did not offer a practical application aid at the same time.”

Consequently, the inventor developed a roll-off device and registered it as a patent. This spirit of proximity to customers and their demands and constantly working on new solutions has remain unchanged to this day. “The belief that self-adhesive technology offers unlimited possibilities has made us one of the world’s largest manufacturers of adhesive tapes,” von der Geest added. 

The company’s relocation to a EUR 60 million building complex with short distances in Norderstedt has boosted tesa’s revenue. Recently published figures indicate a 10.6 per cent rise last year. In nominal terms, tesa’s sales have increased 9.7 per cent from EUR 1.146 million in 2016 to EUR 1.257 million. Tesa SE is an example of a company steeped in Hanseatic tradition and that has remained true to its philosophy and innovative spirit.