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Fascinating facts about the invention of
Scotch™ Cellophane Tape by Dick Drew in 1930.
CELLOPHANE TAPE
The development of the first masking tape in the early 1920s showed just how gifted Dick Drew was in devising practical solutions to customer needs.

But Drew was not one to rest on his laurels – or to neglect the ever-changing concerns of 3M customers. Naturally, then, Drew went straight to work when he learned that a St. Paul insulation firm needed 3M's help in devising a waterproof covering for the insulation batts that it was designing for railroad refrigerator cars.

While Drew was pursuing his research, he spoke with a fellow 3M researcher who was considering packaging 3M masking tape rolls in cellophane, a new moisture-proof wrap created by DuPont. Why, Drew wondered, couldn't cellophane be coated with adhesive and used as a sealing tape for the insulation batts?

In June 1929, Drew ordered 100 yards of cellophane with which to conduct experiments. He soon devised a tape product sample that he showed to the St. Paul insulation firm. Unfortunately, the sample didn't adequately solve that particular customer's problem. But the sample definitely showed promise as an aid to packaging other types of products.

Drew kept working. It took over a year for him to solve the many problems posed by his materials. Cellophane could indeed work as a backing for pressure-sensitive tape. But it was difficult to apply adhesive evenly upon it. Also, cellophane split easily in the process of machine coating. But for each such challenge, Drew found an answer. He discovered that if a primer coat was applied to cellophane, the adhesive would coat evenly. As for splitting, special machinery solved that problem. Finally, Drew developed virtually colorless adhesives to improve the aesthetics of the tape.

On Sept. 8, 1930, the first roll of Scotch™ Cellophane Tape was sent to a prospective customer. That customer wrote back with the following sound advice for 3M: "You should have no hesitancy in equipping yourself to put this product on the market economically. There will be a sufficient volume of sales to justify the expenditure."

The customer's word proved to be a considerable understatement. Scotch cellophane tapes went on to become one of the most famous and widely used products in 3M history. Commercial enterprises used it for packaging. Farmers found it handy for patching cracked turkey eggs. Homeowners used it to repair toys and torn book pages. New uses continue to be discovered – and product sales continue to grow – up to the present day.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of Masking Tape   from The Great Idea Finder
History of Office Equipment   from The Great Idea Finder
A Century of Innovation at 3M   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
Cellophaneby Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustra.) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake receive entertaining cartoon embellishment but are actually serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids.

The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident, from animal crackers to the zipper.

ON THE WEB:
Scotch Transparent Tape
Milestones in the evolution of Scotch brand tape.
Scotch Tape Timeline
The first Scotch® Masking Tape was invented in 1925 to help auto manufacturers solve a problem.
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Richard Drew(1886-1956) deatured for his invention of transparent adhesive tape.
Three-M History
For an overview of 3M's history, including more tales of the tape, visit their Innovation Network.
Becoming the Clear Leader
In 1930, Drew conceived the product that would bring 3M worldwide fame—transparent tape. Like masking tape, this invention was inspired by customer need. National Engineering Week article.

DID YOU KNOW?;

  • 3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, makes hundreds of industrial, consumer and packaging tapes. But the best-known and most widely used is our No. 810 tape, better known as Scotch® Magic™ tape. Today's tape is a far cry from the early versions of Scotch® Transparent Tape.
  • Dick Drew, saw cellophane tape as coming with an ongoing sequence of 3M innovative efforts. "Would there have been any masking or cellophane tape if it hadn't been for earlier 3M research on adhesive binders for 3M™ Wetordry™ Abrasive Paper?" he once wondered. "Probably not."
Trademarks or registered trademarks of 3M.  All rights reserved.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised March, 20005.
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