Designing Products to Thrive in Harsh Environments

Posted by Casey Cephas | 6/24/21 9:00 AM

Toughness. Ruggedness. Resilience. These are admirable personality traits that help individuals get through difficult times or challenges. And in some cases, they are also attributes required for products used in harsh environments.

It’s one thing to design a product that works in the lab. It’s another to make sure it’s ready for real-world conditions and usage. That’s where the selection of innovative and durable materials can make or break a product.

What is considered an extreme environment? 

There’s no definition or black-and-white criteria that determines a “harsh environment.” Instead, an extreme environment can include any factor (natural or man-made) that affects the performance or durability of a material, component, or entire product. 

Here are some challenging conditions that need to be accounted for during product development. It’s also important to keep in mind that a product may be subjected to multiple harsh elements at once. 

Artboard 2 Extreme temperatures – Both high heat and cryogenic temperatures can degrade or impact material in a negative way.


Artboard 3 Chemical – Chemical exposure can cause adverse reactions and lead to corrosion of a product’s materials.


Artboard 4 Friction – Intense or repeated exposure to friction can accelerate wear and reduce the product’s service life.


Artboard 5

Water – Unsealed products can become damaged when submerged in water.



Artboard 6Outdoors – Products used outdoors can be exposed to various conditions such as rain, wind, humidity, UV light, wind, etc.

Artboard 7Space – Possibly the most extreme condition of them all, products used in space must contend with radiation, lack of gravity, temperature changes, and much more.



Designing products for extreme conditions

The bad news is that you can’t always control or avoid a challenging environment. The good news is that thanks to advancements in materials science, you can design a product to better withstand and thrive in these harsh conditions.

Here are a few examples of rugged applications:

  • Industrial labels – For labels that serve a functional purpose (not just aesthetic), durable materials and specialty inks can be used to withstand outdoor conditions, high friction, chemicals, and more.
  • Membrane switches – Special laminates can be added to a membrane switch to create a user interface that is resistant to scratches, cleaning chemicals, and frequent use. Antimicrobial film can also be incorporated, which can be beneficial in medical, industrial, or public settings. 
  • Electronics materials – Depending on how and where your electronic device will be used, various solutions are available to improve temperature tolerance, add waterproof capabilities, withstand high friction, and more.
  • Tapes and foams – Strategically placed tape or foam can provide sealing (for water or chemical exposure) or reduce friction. 
  • Wearables – Innovative materials can be used to make a product skin-friendly while withstanding sweat and stretching. 

Partnering with Tapecon for durable products

With extensive experience serving the medical and industrial industries, Tapecon knows a thing or two about creating products used in demanding environments. We have strong relationships with leading materials suppliers and can guide material selection to “toughen up” your design as needed. We also offer a wide range of converting services to turn the raw material into a customized component that will improve the durability and performance of your product. 

Let’s make something great 

With over 100 years of manufacturing experience, Tapecon works with product teams to solve challenges, create products, and enhance lives. Learn more about our custom materials converting services.  

Topics: Custom Converting

Written by Casey Cephas

Casey is the Marketing Coordinator at Tapecon Inc.

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