How Foil Backed Pavement Tape is Made

Foil backed pavement tape is a simple product consisting of 5 basic layers, beads, paint, aluminum, scrim, and adhesive.  These layers are combined or laminated together to form the rolls of pavement tape that you see being used in construction zones for road striping, and in warehouses for delineation.  The process of creating pavement tape is actually quite simple.

The wide roll of coated aluminum is then pulled on rollers over statically charged microscopic glass beads.  The static charge causes the beads to attach themselves to the still wet acrylic coating as it passes over.  This method is used to create an even coating of beads.

The History / Invention of Foil Backed Pavement Marking Tapes (Pt 2)

invention pavement tapeIn 1974, 3m patented pavement marking tapes.  Tapes we now know as Stamark pavement marking rolls.   These tapes were meant to provide quick temporary striping for roads and are still widely used in construction zones.  An issue that arose with this particular product was clean removability.  When peeled from a roadway, temporary pavement marking tapes often fell apart or came off in pieces.  So there was no easy way to remove them when a job was done and paint or thermoplastic was ready to be applied.

flex o lite foil pavement tapeIn 1982 Lukens General Industries Inc filed to patent an invention that would allow for more cleanly removable temporary pavement striping.  In 1984 the patent was granted.  This product would differ from 3m’s pavement tape in that its main component was aluminum sheeting or foil film.  As you can see from the patent filing information below, this new tape consisted of an aluminum sheet, coated with paint and glass beads, layered with a polymer scrim, and then coated with an adhesive.  So the layers are as follows from the top down – reflective glass beads, paint, aluminum, polymer scrim, and adhesive.  The aluminum and polymer scrim helped the tape hold together during removal, which was one of the main goals of the invention.  Also, the aluminum construction allowed the tape to mold or conform to the surface leaving very little edge, much like a coat of paint.  From experience using this product, removal is as simple as peeling an edge and pulling it up.  Or a torch can be used to flash the tape and cause it to release.  The aluminum construction allows heat to quickly pass into the adhesive layer and vaporize it, thus releasing the tape.

Here is a excerpt from the patent filing that goes over what the invention is –

From Patent – A multilayer reflective tape for use on roadways to provide temporary marking and demarcation of traffic lanes is disclosed. The tape has a thin malleable strip of aluminum, the top of which is coated with a high visibility paint in which reflective glass beads are embedded. Bonded to the bottom of the aluminum strip is a nylon felt scrim, the bottom of which is provided with a pressure-sensitive adhesive.


From Patent – This invention relates to marking tapes for use on roadways to provide temporary marking and demarcation of traffic lanes. More specifically, this invention relates to removable marking tapes of high visibility and reflectivity having a long service life.
Temporary roadway marking tapes are known in the prior art, but have presented several problems. The most apparent and serious problem has been the difficulty of providing a tape that can withstand the substantial shear stresses applied by vehicle wheels. These stresses often cause the tapes to slide on the roadway, thereby detaching the tape. These stresses can also cause tearing, ripping and wrinkling of the tape.
A related problem is that a tape of sufficient adhesion to resist dislocation and damage is extremely difficult to remove when the location of the marker is to be changed. Prior tapes often tended to come off in bits and pieces instead of in the long strips in which they were applied. This was especially true of the metal-based tapes in the prior art, which although more resistant to wear, were nearly impossible to remove.
Yet another problem is that to resist the tearing and ripping caused by the stresses applied, the tape had to be thick. This thickness caused the tape to protrude from the roadway, subjecting it to even greater stresses as well as increased abrasion. The thickness also added to the weight and bulk of the tape, causing inconvenience in the shipping, storing, and handling of the tape.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION – from patent text

It is therefore an object of this invention to provide a removable, reflective marking tape that solves these problems.
More specifically, it is an object of this invention to provide a removable, reflective, multilayer marking tape based on a thin, malleable sheet of aluminum. The top surface of the aluminum is covered with a pigmented vinyl binder. High index glass beads are embedded in the vinyl binder. A scrim of polymer felt is bonded to the bottom side of the aluminum sheet with an adhesive. The adhesive soaks into and saturates the scrim, forming a composite backing. Finally, a pressure-sensitive adhesive is applied to the bottom of the scrim.
The resultant tape solves the many problems of the prior art. The aluminum base is strong and lightweight. It provides improved tear resistance over the polymer-layered tapes of the prior art. Furthermore, the aluminum is malleable so the tape will conform to the road surface. While the polymer scrim has some memory, the entire tape has a very low system memory and thus will conform to the shape of the road and not spring back or “remember” its original configuration as was the case with the polymer-based tapes of the prior art.
Another advantage of the aluminum backing is aluminum’s superior resistance to shrinkage, weathering, and embrittlement at low temperatures. Unlike the polymers used in the prior art, aluminum is unaffected by sunlight and petrochemicals present in the roadway environment. Aluminum also has a higher durability and wear resistance.
Another advantage of the aluminum is that it is impervious to water so that water cannot soak up behind the pigmented binder causing blistering and peeling of the pigmented binder.
Another advantage of the aluminum is that it provides superior strength and less volume and weight than the polymer tapes of the prior art. Thus a given length of this tape requires less space and weighs less than those of the prior art. This facilitates shipping, storing and handling of the tape.
Yet another advantage of the aluminum base is that when the tape is gouged so that the paint and beads are removed, the gouge exposes bare aluminum which in itself is reflective. Thus the reflectivity of the tape, although diminished, is not eliminated.
The composite backing of polymer, felt scrim and adhesive reinforces the aluminum to help it resist tearing, not just while in use, but also during removal. The scrim prevents the tape from tearing during removal and thereby allows the tape to be removed in the same long strips in which it was applied. This greatly reduces the labor, time and expense spent in removing the tape, and offers a significant improvement over the metal tapes of the prior art.
While adding strength, the scrim-adhesive composite does not add significant thickness to the tape. Thus the tape does not protrude very much from the roadway, reducing stress on the tape and increasing its useful life. Furthermore, thin tape offers advantages in storing, shipping and handling. Finally, the thinness of the scrim and its lack of compressibility reduce the flexing of the tape’s surface, prolonging the life of the pigmented vinyl binder and glass beads affixed thereto.
The result of this combination is that the multilayered tape of this invention has an in-use life span of over six months, more than double that of any of the prior art tapes.
Conclusion –

In 1988 the patent for Foil Backed Pavement Marking tape would be assigned to a company called Flex-O-Lite Incorporated.  Flex-O-Lite would later be purchased by Potters Beads, the worlds largest producer of retro reflective glass beads.  In 2004 the patent expired which allowed other companies to manufacture foil backed pavement tape.   Aluminum based adhesive pavement tape is now manufactured by several companies.  A few manufacturers are as follows – FOL Tape, Swarco Industries,

To this day, Foil backed or Aluminum based pavement tape is widely used in construction zones, parking lots, and warehouses.  A 2 inch version is also used to mark basketball courts, tennis courts, pickle ball courts and other courts where delineation is needed.  The same features of the original invention prove to be very applicable in all of these applications.  A thin, rugged pavement marking solution never seems to go out of style.


The History / Invention of Temporary Pavement Marking Tapes (Pt 1)

history of pavement tapeIn the beginning, all stripes on roadways and parking lots were comprised of white or yellow paint that was either sprayed down, or rolled on. Today, paint is still used for permanent lines on lower traffic roads, whereas for high traffic roadways, long lasting poured on molten thermoplastic is used.  When MUTCD standards required that roads be marked even when under construction, temporary methods of marking roads and highways became necessary.  Paint can be used for these temporary lines, however, that requires having a paint crew on site at all times.  So a durable tape to mark roads that came in rolls, was easy to install,  was reflective, and removable, would be an ideal solution.

In 1974, a solution was invented.  3m (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) applied for a patent for a removable pavement marking tape. It is described as – A decomposable, paper-backed, retroreflective, pavement-marking tape for use in providing removable pavement markings.

(When it was no longer needed, this tape could either be paved over, scraped up, or left to decompose.)

The tape is further described as follows –

1. A decomposable pavement-marking tape that is less than about 12 inches in width and is wound in roll form, comprising a crepe-paper water-resistant backing that is impregnated with polymeric binder material and that carries on one side a bonding layer of heat-degradable polymeric material; a monolayer of randomly scattered transparent microspheres that are between about 100 and 1,000 micrometers in average diameter and are partially embedded in, and partially exposed above, the bonding layer of polymeric material; and a layer of pressure-sensitive adhesive material carried on the side of the paper backing opposite from the monolayer of microspheres.

Of note is that this entry into temporary parking lot striping by 3m represented decades of research and development in the area of reflective road striping. In 1937, they actually began attempts at creating durable road striping that would come in rolls, however, because of durability issues, they switched their efforts towards a reflective film for signs and created the worlds first engineer grade reflective tape.  In 1974, after reengineering their original idea for reflective road striping, they patented the first reflective road marking tapes. While still not as popular as paint or thermoplastic, 3m’s invention is widely used all over the world today. It also now comes in both temporary and permanent grades. You would most likely know this product by its brand name, Stamark.

invention pavement tape

Click Here for Article 2 – The history of foil back pavement tape.

Picture Page – Parking Lot and Warehouse Striping Tape

On this page we have a collection of images for our Foil Based Pavement and Warehouse Floor marking tapes.  This is a very versatile product and can be used to stripe a wide variety of surfaces.  Our premium version is even used by hunters to mark trails.  This versatility is due to the tapes aluminum construction and its ability to conform to almost any flat surface.  No other tape has this ability, and for almost all floor and pavement striping applications, it is a big advantage.

White Pavement Striping Tapeyellow pavement striping tape

IMAGE ABOVE – As you can see from the image above, we carry two colors of reflective parking lot or warehouse striping tape, White and Yellow.  The pictures above show you the backing of the film as well as the surface.  As you can see, the film is made from rugged aluminum.  In the right hand image, you can see a car tire pressing in the material.  Since the film is aluminum based, a heavy tire easily conforms it to the surface, causing all of the tape to make contact and adhere to the surface.  This is important and something other tapes cannot do.

IMAGES BELOW – in the pictures below you can see how important it is to press the aluminum backed pavement tape in firmly to the surface.  A conformable pavement or warehouse floor tape is only effective if it is conformed to the surface with pressure.  The rougher the surface, the more pressure that is needed.  For smoother surfaces, less pressure is required.  One important point is that simply pressing the tape in with your shoes is not sufficient.  Also, a hard roller is not effective, only a soft bouncy type tire.

installing pavement striping tapeinstalling warehouse striping tapepavement tape install on asphalt

IMAGE ABOVE – the pictures above show a  rough rock and cement surface, a relatively smooth cement surface, and a slightly rough asphalt surface.  Varying amounts of pressure are needed for each.  The key is to observe the edge of the tape to assure that it has formed a seal.  Multiple passes are often necessary.

IMAGE BELOW – the image below shows our aluminum foil backed tape being used in a factory or warehouse setting, and also a loading dock setting.

warehouse floor tape aluminumtemporary road striping

IMAGE ABOVE – as you can see from the pictures above, foil backed pavement or floor marking tape is very versatile.  Meaning it can be used in a large variety of applications or surfaces. One thing to mention is that our pavement / factory floor marking tape can be used in either permanent or temporary applications.  This often depends on the demand that will be placed upon the tape by automobile or fork lift traffic.  Using DAP contact cement can substantially increase the life of the tape in heavy traffic areas.  For temporary applications, do not use any contact cement.  When the tape is needing to be removed, either peel it up, or flash it with a roofing torch to vaporize the adhesive.  Bundle it up and discard it.

Striping a Parking Lot with Aluminum Based Pavement Marking Tape

How to Stripe a Parking Lot with Foil Backed Pavement Tape

1. Begin with a sound surface that is clean and free of dirt, gravel, oil, grease, or flaking paint.  The asphalt does not have to be smooth, but remember, the  rougher it is, the more pressure you will need to use to conform the tape.  Smooth surfaces require less pressure.

tape for striping a parking lot

2. Thoroughly sweep loose particles and dust from area where tape is to be applied. Compressed air or a wire brush may be needed for caked , dirty or flaky areas.  Pavement tape will stick to asphalt and cement, but not caked dirt.

parking lot striping tape 1

3. For better adhesion, an application primer such as DAP contact cement can be used.  To increase longevity with DAP contact cement, simply coat the surface where the stripe will go, let the contact cement dry completely, and then apply the tape.  For areas where cars may be twisting tires when parking, DAP contact cement as a primer is especially recommended. On rough or questionable surfaces you can apply DAP Weldwood Contact Cement to the pavement or cement as a primer, let it dry, and then apply the pavement tape. This will level out the surface a little and will provide much better adhesion. (do not use the water based contact cement)

parking lot striping tape

4.  Lay out your first parking lot stripe.  The length of each section is normally about 18 – 20 feet.  Secure one end, roll out the tape, and cut squarely with scissors. The temperature should be no less than 50 degrees before and after tape application. Allow at least 48 hours after rainfall for the sun to dry pavement. Also, it is best if it does not rain for 48 hours after installation. Always allow sunlight to dry morning dew. Application is not recommended during overcast, moist and humid atmospheric conditions.

parking lot striping aluminum tape

5. Once you have laid out a line, immediately tamp it in with your feet to semi secure it to the surface of your parking lot.

striping asphalt parking lots with pavement tape

6. Apply a minimum of 200 lbs of pressure with a golf cart or automobile tire.  Go straight over the tape and be careful not to twist on it. For better results, wait 24 hours, and then press in one more time.

tamping parking lot striping tape

7. Area is now ready for traffic. Tape adhesive will cure in 48 hours.

reflective parking lot striping tape

reflective parking lot striping tape

Because of glass beads embedded in the material, the lines will be either mildly reflective for our standard pavement marking tape, or more reflective for our premium heavy duty tape.

parking lot striping tape aluminum

Store unused tape in a cool, dry place. Tape should be used within a year of purchase.

NOTE – The actual performance of our standard and heavy duty traffic tapes will be dependent upon surface and atmospheric conditions at the time of the application, application method, traffic, and exposure conditions. The user should test for conformance to his requirements before making large scale applications. Abrasion or heavy wear may substantially reduce the life of the product.

Installation Instructions – Pavement Marking or Warehouse Floor Tape

Installing our pavement or floor marking tape is very easy.  First, the surface must be clean and dry.  Use a broom, blower, or if necessary, a pressure washer to thoroughly clean all dirt, grease and grime from the surface.  The tape needs to adhere to bare asphalt or concrete.  If you use a pressure washer or water for cleaning, make sure to allow the surface to dry completely before applying the tape.  Also, it should not rain for at least 24 hours after application to allow the tape time to seal and set.

installing pavement striping tape

After the surface has been prepared, simply roll off and lay down a section of striping tape.  At first, press it in by walking on it.  Then, once it is firmly in place, roll over the tape with a bouncy rubber tire like on a car or golf cart.  If neither of these are available, a rubber tired dolly with cinder blocks on it will work.  Also, a rubber mallet can be used.  Remember, the object is to conform the tape to the surface so that it becomes the same shape and makes 100 percent contact.  If you do this, the application will be successful. If you do not press it in sufficiently, water and dirt will get under the tape and cause it to lift.

installing warehouse striping tape

Note – for areas where fork lifts or tires will be twisting on the tape, DAP contact cement can be used as a primer.  Apply it to the area where your stripe will go, let it dry completely, and then apply and press down the aluminum based warehouse striping.