Comparing applicator guns for one-component adhesives: Manual vs. pneumatic vs. electric

Choosing the right adhesive product is only part of the whole application process. At some point, you need to choose a tool that can apply the adhesive you have chosen.

When it comes to one-component adhesives, it can get difficult to know how to apply the adhesive. There are a range of applicators and guns. You will likely have stumbled across manual guns, pneumatic (air-powered) guns, or electric guns. But how do you know which one is right for your application?

Here at Forgeway, we manufacture a range of structural adhesives. We help companies with their bonding problems and how to improve their adhesive processes. We know that choosing the right applicator is a critical part of the application process. However, we don’t manufacture applicator tools.

At the end of the day, we want to help you. That’s why we wrote this article. It will guide you on all of the different factors you need to consider before choosing an adhesive applicator for your one-component adhesive.

After reading this article, you will know which adhesive applicator is best for your one-component adhesive application.

What are the different types of adhesive applicators?

We should clarify that this article is only talking about applicators for one-component adhesives. And all of the applicators we discuss are compatible with foil packs (sausages) or cartridges

This article is not discussing applicators for silicone sealants. MS polymers and polyurethane adhesives tend to be more difficult to apply. Hence the reason we are discussing the applicator guns for those types of adhesives.

There are three main adhesive applicator guns you can choose from. 

  • Manual applicators – These are the most standard applicators. The traditional squeeze grip is the cheapest and most common type of applicator. You can get different variations of this type of applicator.  
Manual adhesive applicator
  • Pneumatic applicators – These applicators are powered by air. Compressed air forces the adhesive out of the packaging.
pneumatic adhesive applicator
  • Electric (battery-powered) applicators Very similar to a manual applicator. The difference is that an electric motor moves the plunger to force the adhesive out of its packaging.
Battery-powered adhesive applicator

What should you consider before choosing an applicator gun?

What facilities do you have?

Manual and electric applicators are portable so you can take them anywhere. However, pneumatic applicators require pressurised air. You can’t always get pressurised air. 

So if you don’t have the capability to put pressurised air systems in place, we don’t recommend you consider pneumatic applicators any further.

What are the working conditions like?

If you don’t have much room to work with, you will need to carefully consider which applicator could work for you. There are often applications where you won’t be able to fit a large applicator gun. If this is the case, you will have to use a cartridge with a manual applicator to reduce weight and size. 

A larger and heavier gun will be a lot more difficult to work with in tight spaces.

Applying coloured sealant to a bus

What adhesive are you applying?

The type of adhesive you are applying will massively impact which applicator gun you choose. A highly viscous adhesive will be difficult to apply. 

When using a viscous adhesive, we recommend choosing a non-manual applicator. You can use a manual applicator. However, it won’t take long before it starts getting uncomfortable to use the applicator.

The same applies if you are using the adhesive in large quantities. We would say that whatever adhesive you are using, anything more than an hour of use will start to cause discomfort.

What structure are you bonding?

All adhesives have an open time. It is the length of time you have to put the structure in place before the adhesive starts curing. This section applies to situations where you apply adhesives that have a short open time to large surface areas.

Because of the short open time, you won’t have long before the adhesive starts curing. So this means you need to apply the adhesive as quickly as possible so that you have as much time as possible to bond the substrates in place.

Structures with a large surface area will need to have an adhesive with a longer open time

A manual application gun will be too slow in this instance. When applying an adhesive with a long open time to a large surface area, you will want to stay away from a manual gun.

How much do you want to spend?

As with most things, the more you are willing to spend, the better the options available to you. However, you don’t need to break the bank to get the right applicator for your adhesive. 

Applicators can cost anything from £5 – £300+. If you are willing to spend up to £300 on an applicator, you will have a much wider variety of options available. However, if your budget is tight, you will have limited options.

  • Typically, a lower-quality manual applicator would cost £5 whereas a better-quality option would cost £25. 
  • Pneumatic applicator guns will cost in the region of £100.
  • High-quality electric applicator guns cost around £300.

So you need to decide how much you are willing to spend before choosing an applicator.

Choosing the best applicator for your situation

Now that you have learned about the applicators, you will need to apply that knowledge to your situation. Choosing which applicator will almost always come down to how much money you are willing to spend. 

Here at Forgeway, we manufacture a wide range of structural adhesives. We understand that choosing the right applicator is nearly as important as the adhesive product itself.

We would recommend choosing a manual application gun if:

  • You have a tight budget
  • You aren’t going to use it for extended periods
  • You need to apply the adhesive in tight spaces or for detail work (like coloured sealants)

We would recommend choosing a pneumatic application gun if:
Alternatively, if you have a little more money to spend, want to use the application gun for extended periods, and need a fast extrusion rate, we recommend using an air-powered application gun.

We would recommend choosing an electric application gun if:
However, if you don’t have access to compressed air but want the benefits of a pneumatic gun, we recommend using an electric application tool.

You can read about the best battery-powered applicators in this article.

Ultimately, you will have a much easier experience if you use a better application gun. This article will have given you a guide on how to choose the right one for you. 

But you might still need some help. A member of our team would be more than happy to give you that help to choose the right application gun.

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