Sticking to the problem

Published on May 25th, 2012
Sticking to the problem

The amazing story of masking tape…

When you think of a scientist, do you imagine some white-coated guy hiding away in a lab every day? Well, the best kind of scientists are actually walking around among us, observing how we go about our daily lives.

Now, before you get freaked out by that, consider why they’re doing it. First of all, they’re just naturally curious about the world and how it works. And, secondly, their minds are wired to think about what could be. To think, “What if…?”

Take Scotch® Masking Tape, for example. It was developed by a 3M engineer, Richard Drew, way back in the 1920s when 3M’s main clients were car manufacturers. At that time, people liked their cars to have two colours – one for the top and one for the bottom. And one day, while visiting his customers and observing their work, Drew kept noticing that the car painters were struggling to paint a straight line between the two colors.

Like all good scientists, Drew got down to work, trying to solve his customer’s problem. After months of experimentation, Drew and his team created a cream-coloured paper with pressure-sensitive glue on one side. This allowed car painters to quickly cover – or mask – one portion of a car so they could paint the uncovered section, and have a clean, sharp line between the colours.  And that’s how Scotch® Masking Tape began… with a scientist who observing people carefully and asked that critical question, “What if…?”