facts about the invention
of Masking Tape by Dick Drew in 1925.
|Dick Drews development
of the first masking tape is an example of his extraordinary gift for solving customer
problems. In the early 1920s, 3M manufactured and sold abrasives.
|One afternoon, Drew wanted to test a new
batch of sandpaper, so he visited an auto body shop in St. Paul, Minn. When he entered the
shop, he heard a group of workers cursing vehemently. He asked about the problem. Two-tone
cars were popular then, but the effect required workers to mask certain parts of the auto
body using a combination of heavy adhesive tape and butcher paper. After the paint dried,
workers removed the tape and often peeled away part of the new paint. Their labor
was undone, and costs mounted for the customer.
|Drew watched as the workers
began to touch up the flawed paint. He could have seen this as an opportunity to sell more
sandpaper, but realized that what the customer really needed was a tape with less
aggressive adhesive. Drew also realized that 3M already had several of the elements of
tape making at its disposal. Sandpaper required a backing, an adhesive and an abrasive
mineral. Hold the mineral and you have an adhesive tape.
Drew took his idea back to the
lab. He began a long and frustrating quest for the right combination of materials to
create what would become the worlds first tape specifically designed for masking.
Drew wrestled with the adhesive and, especially, the backing. After some time,
then-President McKnight told Drew to drop the project and get back to work on improving
Drew agreed for about 24 hours. Then he thought of a new way to handle the
backings and went back to the lab. He threw himself into the task with renewed enthusiasm
and without concern for McKnights direction. In the middle of an experiment, a door
opened and McKnight entered the lab. He looked at Drew, noted the experiment and continued
Drew finally hit on the right combination of materials, and he asked McKnight to
approve funding for a paper making machine needed to manufacture the new tape. McKnight
considered the proposal, but demurred. Rather than give up, Drew simply applied his talent
for innovation. In his capacity as a researcher, he had authority to approve purchases of
up to $100; he began writing a flurry of $99 purchase orders and later confessed his
strategy to McKnight while he was showing him the new machine.
Theres no record of McKnights reaction, except that Drew continued to work
for 3M. The non-exchange between McKnight and Drew in the lab, followed by Drews
openly insubordinate purchase of the papermaker, have echoed through 3Ms research
operations ever since. Together, they set forth a clear ethic for managers: If you have
the right person on the right project, and they are absolutely dedicated to finding a
solution leave them alone. Tolerate their initiative and trust them.
History of Offfice
from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of Duct Tape from The Great Idea Finder
Cellophane Tape from The
Great Idea Finder
of Innovation at 3M from
The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / 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.
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:
Dick Drew and the
invention of masking tape
3M listens to its customers. And when employees discover an important customer need, they
have the freedom to pursue a solution.
Scotch Tape Timeline
The first Scotch® Masking Tape was invented in 1925 to
help auto manufacturers solve a problem.
For an overview of 3M's history, including more tales of the tape, visit their Innovation
Invention Dimension -
Inventor of the Week
Featured Richard Drew for his invention of transparent adhesive tape.
DID YOU KNOW:
- The development of masking tape also established a code of
behavior among 3M researchers: If you are convinced that you are doing the right thing, go
ahead. Dont worry too much about the consequences; it is better to ask for
forgiveness than permission.
or registered trademarks of 3M. All rights reserved.
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised January, 2005.
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