Innovative solutions from a highly flexible business

When it comes to finding solutions for customers no problem is too ‘sticky’ for 3M’s Industrial Adhesives and Tapes Division. Based in Bracknell, UK, I had the privilege of meeting personnel at the sharp end of research and development of innovative technologies customised for specific applications – and the opportunity to get a real feel (literally) for their amazing fastening, bonding and protective properties.

“3M Industrial Business Group provides thousands of innovative products including tapes, abrasives, adhesives, speciality materials and filtration systems to dozens of diverse markets from automotive to aerospace to renewable energy and electronics,” comments marketing executive Kirsty Horsfall. “3M is fundamentally a technology-based company. We produce thousands of imaginative products and are a leader in scores of markets from healthcare and highway safety to office products and abrasives and adhesives. Our success begins with our ability to apply our technologies – often in combination – to an endless array of real-world customer needs.”

3M was founded in 1902 in Minnesota, USA when five businessmen agreed to mine a mineral deposit for grinding-wheel abrasives. The UK subsidiary was formally established in 1951.

The world’s first waterproof sandpaper which reduced airborne dusts during automotive  manufacturing was developed by 3M in the early 1920s. A second major milestone occurred in 1925 when Richard G Drew invented masking tape – an innovative step toward diversification and the first of many Scotch brand pressure-sensitive tapes.

In the following years technical progress resulted in Scotch Cellophane Tape for box sealing and soon hundreds of practical uses were discovered. In the early 1940s operations were diverted into defence materials for World War II which was followed by new ventures including Scotchlite Reflective Sheeting for highway markings, magnetic sound recording tape, filament adhesive tape and the start of 3M’s involvement in the graphic arts with offset printing plates.

Innovative products

3M continues to develop an array of innovative products including immune response modifier pharmaceuticals; brightness enhancement films for electronic displays; and flexible circuits used in inkjet printers, cell phones and other electronic devices and structured abrasives (using 3M’s proprietary micro replication technology).

Recent innovations include Post-it Super Sticky Notes, Scotch Transparent Duct Tape and optical films for LCD televisions. One example of the company’s solutions for industry can be found in aerospace which include products that enable weight saving in aircraft and helicopter manufacturing such as low density void filling and thermo foaming core splice films.

Several 3M bonding films have reticulation ability when used for bonding of sandwich structures; these also bring weight saving opportunities without compromising final performance.

Solving the problem of a metal-on-metal roar, securing a safety perimeter around thrashing robots and replacing steel screws have all been achieved when pressing together the two sides of a 3M Dual Lock Reclosable Fastener – where hundreds of mushroom-shaped stems interlock with sufficient strength to replace mechanical fasteners in numerous removable panel applications. For example, rather than drill and compromise the integrity of thick sound abatement panels, one manufacturer used Dual Lock Fasteners to secure the panels to a metal frame around noisy automated assembly equipment; they resist loosening from the constant vibration. Another manufacturer attached clear polycarbonate to metal frames enclosing robotic arms in manufacturing cells that workers needed to observe occasionally without getting too close. Moving, reconfiguring and reassembling the cells was easier with presson fastening than screwing/unscrewing. On a subway car, these fasteners replaced screws for suspending maintenance access panels above passengers.

The applications for industrial adhesives and tapes seem endless and my brief visit was enough to convince me that the engineers at 3M relish a challenge and it is not a case of: “can we do it?” but rather: “how can we achieve it in the most cost effective way for the customer while meeting criteria for quality, durability and aesthetics the end-user demands?”

If you are currently laminating or converting adhesive products into die-cuts give 3M a call on 0870 60 800 50 quoting Converter Magazine to speak to a 3M representative or try some free product samples.


3M Industrial Adhesives & Tapes

T: +44 (0)870 60 800 50