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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Who Invented Duct Tape?

It has a light-weight facet, it has a darkish facet, and it binds the universe collectively. No, I’m not speaking in regards to the Pressure from Star Wars, however the handyman’s final secret weapon: duct tape. Basically a self-contained restore equipment, this humble gray tape has seemingly limitless functions. It may be used to bind wounds and remedy warts; make clothes, shelters, and ropes; patch leaky boats and submarines; and has even saved the lives of astronauts in outer area. It’s sturdy sufficient to droop a automobile or restrain a bull elephant, but will be simply torn with one’s naked palms. The sheer versatility of duct tape has is probably finest encapsulated by the favored mechanic’s and engineer’s adage: if it doesn’t transfer nevertheless it ought to, use WD-40. If it strikes nevertheless it shouldn’t, use duct tape. In a earlier video, we checked out one half of the so-called “redneck restore equipment”, exploring WD-40’s shocking origins as a compound for safeguarding nuclear missiles from corrosion and its evolution right into a ubiquitous family product present in toolboxes and provide cabinets around the globe. At present, we take a look at the opposite half, inspecting how a product designed for a secular however very important process in the course of the Second World Warfare turned one of many world’s most versatile and beloved instruments.

Earlier than we start, you will need to be aware that appreciable debate exists concerning the precise identify of this ubiquitous gray tape, with some referring to it as “duct” tape and others as “duck” tape. Worldwide the desire seems to be for “duct tape”, and certainly one of many tape’s first business functions was for becoming a member of and sealing heating and cooling ducts. Nonetheless, the controversy is sophisticated by the truth that one of many world’s largest tape producers, Manco Inc, manufacturers its product as “duck tape”, full with a duck mascot named Manco T. Duck. Certainly, the time period “duck tape” far predates the the product we at present affiliate with the identify, initially referring to plain strips of cotton duck material. First showing in written data in 1899, duck tape was usually used to wrap electrical and structural cables to insulate or shield them from corrosion and harm. It was additionally generally used for trimming clothes and different clothes, setting up footwear and boots, and holding collectively the slats on Venetian blinds. Duct tape as we all know it at present is manufactured with a reinforcing backing of cotton duck material, an it’s from this that the trendy time period “duck tape” is assumed to originate. Or the identify may have originated from the tape’s skill to repel water, as within the idiom “water off a duck’s again.” We’ll doubtless by no means know for positive. However we’re getting forward of ourselves, for with a view to discover the origins of duct tape we should first check out the evolution of adhesive tape itself.

At present the concept of utilizing versatile adhesive-backed tape for repairs may appear to be an apparent and intuitive one, however like each different family product it needed to be invented by somebody. Nobody is sort of positive who invented adhesive tape, however among the many very first business variations was a surgical tape launched by Johnson & Johnson in 1898 for binding wound dressings. By the 1910s, tradesmen may readily purchase friction and electrical tape manufactured from cotton or linen tape impregnated with a rubber-based adhesive. Nonetheless, the primary really fashionable family adhesive tape wouldn’t seem till the Twenties, and its invention was intimately tied to the rise of an enormous in modern client merchandise.

In 1902, 5 Minnesota businessmen got here collectively to type the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Firm – higher often called 3M. The corporate bought a mine with a view to extract the mineral corundum – used within the manufacture of sandpaper. Sadly, the mine failed to supply a worthwhile yield, inflicting the corporate to go bankrupt and be offered off. Missing prepared entry to corundum, the brand new house owners of 3M as a substitute started importing a softer however cheaper abrasive mineral, garnet, from Spain. However regardless of almost a decade of tireless analysis, the corporate struggled to search out an adhesive that might adequately bind its garnet powder to a paper backing, resulting in limitless complaints from prospects. All this could change in 1921 with the hiring of a scrappy younger engineer named Richard Drew. Drew was the basic non-conforming misfit, expressing a profound disinterest within the conventional American office. For a lot of his teenage years Drew earned a residing as a banjo participant for numerous dance bands, ultimately scraping collectively sufficient cash to pay for an engineering diploma on the College of Minnesota. After solely 18 months, nonetheless, Drew dropped out of this system and turned as a substitute to the native labeled advertisements to discover a job. Recognizing an advert for 3M, Drew despatched in a somewhat blunt and sincere utility letter and to his shock was employed on the spot. However with no formal credentials to talk of, the 22-year-old Drew was relegated to the decrease echelons of 3M and despatched out to varied auto physique retailers – the first prospects for 3M sandpaper – to check the corporate’s merchandise within the area. And it was right here that he made an necessary and highly-profitable discovery.

Within the Twenties, two-tone paint schemes on vehicles had been all the fad, however for these tasked with creating such schemes the portray course of was an train in frustration. Painters masked the transition between the 2 paint colors utilizing butcher paper, newspaper, and surgical tape. Nonetheless, the tape’s adhesive tended to carry the paint off the automobile physique, resulting in an limitless cycle of portray, sanding, re-masking, and re-painting. Drew instantly noticed a golden alternative: why not create a specialised masking tape with a milder adhesive that wouldn’t harm paint jobs? Out of the blue impressed, Drew rushed again to the 3M labs and in his spare time experimented with numerous adhesive formulations primarily based on vegetable oil, glycerine, and numerous resins. Drew turned so absorbed by the challenge that he started to fall behind on his work, and was quickly ordered by his superiors to desert his efforts and return to his main duties. Undeterred, Drew continued to pursue the challenge at house, and after two years of labor lastly got here up with a formulation that labored: skinny strips of crepe paper coated in a combination of cabinetmakers’ glue and glycerine that caught firmly to many surfaces and created a crisp masked edge however might be simply peeled away with out damaging the underlying paint. Nonetheless, Drew’s supervisor William McKnight didn’t see the potential within the invention, and refused to pay for a machine to mass-produce the tape. However Drew, defiant to the tip, refused to let the matter relaxation, and as a substitute exploited a intelligent loophole to make his imaginative and prescient a actuality. As a researcher, Drew was licensed to make purchases of as much as $100. So he bought the tape machine piece-by-piece in $99 instalments and assembled it itself. When McKnight ultimately found what Drew was as much as, as a substitute of reprimanding the younger engineer, he commanded him on his creativity and tenacity and launched a managerial coverage that will quickly change into a 3M trademark:

When you’ve got the precise particular person on the precise challenge, and they’re completely devoted to discovering an answer go away them alone. Tolerate their initiative and belief them.

In the meantime,Drew’s masking tape proved successful amongst auto physique painters, permitting elaborate paint schemes to be rapidly and simply created. Nonetheless, it nonetheless was removed from excellent; early variations had adhesive utilized to the perimeters however not the centre of the tape, incessantly inflicting it to fall off the automobile physique. Throughout one area trial, an offended painted growled at Drew:

Take this tape again to these Scotch bosses of yours and inform them to place extra adhesive on it!”

On the time, “scotch” was a slur which means “low cost” or “stingy”. Nonetheless, the identify caught and was utilized by 3M to model all kinds of adhesive tape merchandise – together with Richard Drew’s subsequent nice invention. In 1927, rival producer DuPont launched Cellophane, a skinny, clear, and moisture-proof plastic sheeting which proved fashionable with bakers, grocers, and florists for wrapping their merchandise and holding them contemporary. When prospects started searching for a powerful however aesthetically-pleasing technique of securing and sealing cellophane-wrapped packages, Richard Drew invented the world’s first fully-transparent adhesive tape, which 3M launched in 1930 as “Scotch Tape”. The timing couldn’t have been higher. The Nice Despair had created a tradition of “make do and mend” through which cash-strapped individuals started repairing current family merchandise as a substitute of shopping for new ones. Scotch Tape present superb for this process and just about flew off the cabinets, making 3M one of many few main corporations to thrive in the course of the Despair. As an official historical past of 3M explains:

Nearly every day, new concepts sprang up for utilizing the tape to make outdated issues do. It was used to fix ebook pages, sheet music, window curtains, and even small rips in clothes. Bankers used it to restore paper forex. Secretaries discovered it excellent for patching damaged fingernails. Farmers found they may use it to seal cracked eggs. Housewives used it to cap canned milk, take away lint from clothes, safe bait on mousetraps, and restore cracked ceiling plaster. Goodyear used the tape to cowl the inside ribs and beams of its dirigibles, creating an anti-corrosive protect.

Richard Drew died in 1980 on the age of 81, however his legacy lives on, with Scotch Model masking and cellophane tape nonetheless forming the cornerstones of 3M huge line of merchandise. Nonetheless, Scotch Tape’s reputation would solely be a style of issues to return, for an much more versatile product was about to be invented.

The origins of what we now know as duct tape date again to 1927, when engineers Johnny Denoye and Invoice Gross of Johnson & Johnson’s Revolite division developed a brand new cloth-based surgical tape designed to be torn by hand somewhat than lower with scissors. However it will take a World Warfare and the decided efforts of a devoted mom of two for the true potential of the idea to be realized.

In 1943, 52-year-old Vesta Stoudt was working on the Inexperienced River Ordnance Plant in Illinois, the place she was tasked with inspecting packing containers of clean cartridges used to launch rifle grenades. The cartridges had been packed eleven to field, with the field coated in wax to maintain out moisture. The flaps of the field had been sealed with a wax-coated paper tape, one finish of which was left free so a soldier may pull on it to open the field. However there was an issue: the delicate paper tab typically broke when pulled, leaving troopers scrambling to claw open the packing containers within the warmth of battle. Stoudt, who had two sons serving within the Navy, frightened that this design flaw was placing the lives of American servicemen in danger. Fortunately, she had a easy resolution: seal the packing containers with a stronger, adhesive-backed material tape. Stoudt introduced her repair to her supervisors, and whereas they preferred the concept, they did nothing to implement it. Undaunted, Stoudt did what any cheap particular person would do: she wrote on to Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of america:

Now your son, my son and our neighbors son should pull this tape off a way, maybe together with his enamel or his knife if he’s fortunate sufficient to have one, 9 likelihood out of ten he hasnt any.

I prompt we use a powerful material tape to shut seams, and make tab of similar.  It labored nice, I confirmed it to totally different authorities inspectors they mentioned it was all proper, however I may by no means get them to vary tape.  I’ve two sons on the market some the place, one within the Pacific Island the opposite one with the Atlantic Fleet.  You may have sons within the service additionally.  We willt allow them to down by giving them a field of cartridges that takes a minute or extra to open, the enemy taking their lives, that might have been saved. Had the field been taped with a powerful material tape that may be opened in a cut up second.  I didnt know who to jot down to Mr. President, so have written you hoping in your boys, my boys, and each man that makes use of the rifle grenade, that this bundle of rifle cartridges could also be taped with the right tape.” 

Amazingly, her gamble paid off. President Roosevelt, impressed by Stoudt’s persistence and ingenuity, forwarded her letter to the Warfare Manufacturing Board, which instructed Johnson & Johnson to implement her resolution. For her initiative, Stoudt additionally obtained the Chicago Tribune’s Warfare Employee Award.

The tape that Revolite got here up with was produced by coating a strip of cotton duck with waterproof polyethylene on one facet and a rubber-based adhesive often called “Polycoat” on the opposite. The tape was sturdy, waterproof, but simply utilized, eliminated and torn to size utilizing one’s naked palms. Colored commonplace military Olive Drab inexperienced, the tape was despatched in massive portions abroad, the place it quickly discovered dozens of makes use of moreover sealing ammunition packing containers, reminiscent of taping collectively gas cans and repairing tents, autos, and weapons. As talked about beforehand, the tape was initially often called “duck” tape – both resulting from its use of cotton duck material or for its water-repellant qualities. The Air Pressure additionally referred to it as “100 mph tape” for its skill to face up to excessive pace winds, whereas within the Navy it was often called “EB Tape” after the Electrical Boat Firm, which used the tape extensively within the building of submarines and torpedo boats.

After the warfare, the manufacturing rights to duck tape had been acquired from Johnson & Johnson by the Melvin A. Anderson Firm of Cleveland, Ohio, who made it out there for buy in {hardware} shops. In civilian use the tape discovered dozens of latest and artistic makes use of, together with sealing the joints in metallic air flow ducts. In response to this new utility, within the early Nineteen Fifties, Melvin Anderson started producing tape with a metallic gray end to match metallic ductwork. And thus the trendy time period “duct tape” got here to be.

or so the story goes. In actuality, the time period “duct tape” doesn’t seem in print till not less than 1960, and didn’t enter frequent use till the Nineteen Seventies, making the connection between the time period “duct tape” and the tape’s postwar use in repairing ducts a doubtful one at finest. Certainly, regardless of the tape’s legendary versatility, about the one factor it’s not good at is repairing ducts! In 1998, physicists Max Sherman and Lain Walker at Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Laboratory utilized quite a lot of sealing supplies together with common gray duct tape to the joints of sheet metallic air flow ducts then ran sizzling and maintain air by means of the ducts to simulate common working circumstances. Surprisingly, of all of the supplies examined, the duct tape fared the worst, typically shrinking, drying up, delaminating, or breaking. As Sherman said of the experiment:

“It failed reliably and sometimes fairly catastrophically, and nothing else besides duct tape failed.”

It’s thus greater than doubtless that the time period “duct tape” is solely a corruption of the sooner phrase “duck tape”, or the results of confusion between silver duck tape and comparable wanting heat-resistant metallic tape designed to be used on heating ducts. This, mixed with Manco Inc.’s trademarking and re-popularization of the outdated time period “duck tape” implies that, on the finish of the day, each names are equally legitimate. Chances are high, whichever identify you employ, most individuals are prone to know precisely what you’re speaking about.

However no matter it’s known as, duct tape has acquired a legendary popularity for with the ability to resolve almost any downside beneath the solar. In consequence, a veritable cult surrounds the endlessly versatile substance. It’s the go-to instrument of many popular culture characters from Angus MacGyver to Pink Inexperienced, has had its talents examined – and confirmed – dozens of occasions on the TV present Mythbusters, and is the topic of an annual pageant held each June in Avon, Ohio. Manco, the makers of Duck model tape, even sponsor a “Caught at Promenade” contest, awarding scholarships for the perfect formal put on constructed of duct tape. The tape has additionally developed significantly from its humble wartime origins, and now is available in dozens of sorts, from matte-black gaffer tape for theatre and movie use to fibreglass duct tape for heavy-duty functions – in addition to each color of the rainbow. And the tape is large enterprise: yearly, Manco alone manufactures sufficient Duck model tape to circle the earth 20 occasions, whereas the worldwide duct tape market is valued at a whopping $4 billion. In line with Tim Nyberg and Jim Berg, authors of a sequence of bestselling books on duct tape, the key to the tape’s success is its simplicity and uniquely self-contained nature:

“It’s the fast repair. Whack on some duct tape and also you’re carried out. It comes with no instructions and no expectations as to tips on how to use it. Title some other instrument that’s completely self contained. With hammers you want nails, screw drivers you want screws.”

Certainly, the tape’s myriad functions converse for themselves. Along with repairing home goods and making clothes, duct tape has been utilized by runway fashions to boost cleavage, by athletes to help weak joints, and by veterinarians to restore horses’ hooves. Many first responder manuals comprise directions on tips on how to use duct tape to briefly suture wounds – notably sucking chest wounds – whereas duct tape even has been discovered to be more practical than liquid nitrogen cryotherapy for eliminating warts. However maybe nothing speaks to duct tape’s legendary versatility greater than its storied use by america area program.

On April 11, 1970, NASA’s Apollo 13 lunar touchdown mission was thrown into chaos when an oxygen tank exploded, severely crippling the spacecraft and threatening the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert. With the performance of the Command-Service Module Odyssey compromised, the astronauts had been pressured to retreat into the Lunar Module Aquarius, utilizing it as a makeshift lifeboat. There they confronted a myriad of issues, together with restricted electrical energy and oxygen, freezing temperatures, and Haise growing a urinary tract an infection. However most regarding of all had been the steadily-rising carbon dioxide ranges within the cabin, which threatened to poison the crew inside hours. Just like the CSM, the Lunar Module was fitted with lithium hydroxide scrubber canisters designed to take away CO2 from the air. Nonetheless, they had been designed to help two astronauts on the lunar floor for a day, not three males for six days, and rapidly turned saturated. Worse nonetheless, whereas the LM used spherical canisters, the CSM used bigger sq. canisters that didn’t match within the LM receptacles. Tasked with actually becoming a sq. peg right into a spherical gap, engineers at NASA Mission Management in Houston labored continuous for 2 days to give you an answer, utilizing solely supplies and instruments discovered aboard the spacecraft. The answer they got here up with concerned encasing the sq. CSM canister in a plastic bag and utilizing an area swimsuit oxygen hose to attach it to the LM receptacle. However there have been two main issues: sealing the bag to the hose and supporting the bag so it didn’t collapse in opposition to the canister, slicing off the move of cabin air. The latter downside was tackled utilizing the cardboard cowl of the now-obsolete flight plan, whereas the second was solved utilizing that indispensable a part of the astronaut’s instrument equipment: a roll of gray duct tape. Thanks partly to duct tape, the makeshift restore labored completely and the astronauts survived the remainder of the journey, splashing down safely within the Pacific Ocean on April 17. As Ed Smylie, one of many NASA engineers who got here up with the answer to the CO2 scrubber downside, recalled in a 2005 interview:

[When I knew there was duct tape on board the spacecraft], I felt like we had been house free. One factor a Southern boy won’t ever say is, ‘I don’t assume duct tape will repair it.’”

Duct tape would additionally play an important – if much less dramatic – position within the final Apollo mission, Apollo 17, which launched on December 7, 1972. As on the earlier two missions, the crew of Apollo 17 had been geared up with a folding, battery-powered automobile often called the Lunar Roving Car or LRV with a view to cowl larger distances on the lunar floor. Shortly into their first lunar EVA on December 11, Command Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt by chance caught his geological hammer on the LRV’s rear proper fender extension, breaking it clear off. Whereas on an earth-bound automobile this could have been a minor inconvenience at worst, on the moon it was probably disastrous, for the fender prevented the LRV from throwing up clouds of notoriously abrasive lunar mud. Certainly, after only some minutes of driving with out the extension, the LRV was so thickly lined in mud that the batteries started to overheat. After spending a number of minutes dusting off the automobile with a brush, Commander Eugene Cernan tried to repair the fender extension again in place with an ever-handy roll “good old school American gray tape.” Sadly, the omnipresent mud additionally caught to the tape, stopping it from sticking correctly and inflicting the hastily-repaired fender to fall off after only some minutes. Confronted with the prospect of being unable to make use of the LRV, Cernan and Schmitt tried a unique method. Contained in the Lunar Module Challenger, they used duct tape to laminate collectively 4 paper maps and create a makeshift fender extension. Contained in the comparatively dust-free surroundings of the LM, the tape retained its common stickiness. And when clamped to the LRV fender, the crude extension labored completely, efficiently abating the mud thrown up by the automobile till the very finish of the mission.

Extra just lately, duct tape as soon as once more got here to the rescue in the course of the STS-51-D mission of the Area Shuttle Discovery, launched on April 12, 1985. As a part of its mission, Discovery deployed two communications satellites: the Canadian Telesat-3 and the American Syncom IV-3. Nonetheless, upon being launched from the shuttle’s cargo bay, Syncom didn’t deploy its antennas or the “kicker” rocket motor that ought to have launched it into its desired orbit. After figuring out that the satellite tv for pc’s sequencing lever had not been efficiently pulled throughout launch, the crew of Discovery improvised a pair of instruments nicknamed “flyswatters” from instrument extension poles, plastic pocket book covers, and – after all – duct tape. These had been mounted to the tip of the shuttle’s robotic Canadarm manipulator and used to seize and throw the Syncom sequencing change. Sadly, the satellite tv for pc nonetheless didn’t launch and needed to be returned to earth for repairs. It was lastly launched by the STS-51-I mission launched in August of that 12 months.

Given this illustrious monitor file, we will solely think about that each NASA worker who learn Andy Weir’s 2011 novel The Martian set free a hearty “amen” when protagonist Mark Watney proclaimed:

Sure, after all duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works wherever. Duct tape is magic and needs to be worshiped.

Develop for References

The Man Who Invented Scotch Tape, Priceonomics, https://priceonomics.com/the-man-who-invented-scotch-tape/

Area Shuttle Flight 16 (STS-51D) Submit Flight Presentation, Nationwide Area Society, Could 12, 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v+j-67i-LMzMM&t=707s

Gurowitz, Margaret, Duct Tape: Invented Right here! Kilmer Home, August 11, 2009, https://www.kilmerhouse.com/2009/08/duct-tape-invented-here/

Freeman, Jan, Story of the Tape, Boston.com, March 14, 2010, http://archive.boston.com/bostonglobe/concepts/articles/2010/03/14/tale_of_the_tape/

Gurowitz, Margaret, The Girl Who Invented Duct Tape, Kilmer Home, June 21, 2012, https://www.kilmerhouse.com/2012/06/the-woman-who-invented-duct-tape/

Ewalt, David, The Different Biggest Software Ever, Forbes, March 15, 2006, https://www.forbes.com/2006/03/14/tools-duct-tape_cx_de_0315ducttape.html?sh=5407f84456db

Atkinson, Nancy, 13 Issues That Saved Apollo 13, Half 10: Duct Tape, Universe At present, April 26, 2010, https://www.universetoday.com/63673/13-things-that-saved-apollo-13-part-10-duct-tape/

Johnson, Sandra, NASA Johnson Area Heart Oral Historical past Challenge: Charles D. Walker, NASA, April 14, 2005, https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/historical past/oral_histories/WalkerCD/WalkerCD_4-14-05.htm

Moondust and Duct Tape, NASA, April 21, 2008, https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/21apr_ducttape/

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