Richard Drew, 3M’s legendary inventor of masking and clear cellophane tapes, was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, on May 4.
Drew, hired by 3M as a lab technician in 1921, when the company was mainly a sandpaper manufacturer, overcame myriad problems by doggedly experimenting with a huge variety of substances until he succeeded, in 1925, creating a masking tape adhesive for automobile painting that could be safely removed without damaging the surface it covered. In 1928, he invented the first transparent tape, the precursor to an entire family of Scotch brand tapes.
Those events marked the beginning of 3M’s long history of innovation in adhesive and bonding technology, including the creation of an almost infinite variety of products for industrial, medical and construction uses, as well as home and office applications. Today, that adhesives technology spawned a range of super strong adhesives, such as 3M VHB (Very High Bond) tape, to release adhesives, such as that used on Command hooks for walls.
Drew is listed as inventor or co-inventor on more than 30 U.S. patents. 3M today markets more than 900 pressure-sensitive tapes. The worldwide market for pressure-sensitive tapes and labels, in which 3M is a leading manufacturer, is projected to reach nearly $97 billion this year.
“Richard Drew embodied the essential spirit of the inventor, a person of vision and unrelenting persistence who refused to give in to adversity,” said Dr. Larry Wendling, staff vice president, 3M Corporate Research Laboratories. “He made an enormous contribution, not only to the growth of 3M, but also to advancement of many modern industries vital to worldwide economic growth. We’re delighted to see his work recognized for future generations at the Hall of Fame.”
Drew is the third 3M inventor inducted in this decade. In 2001, chemists Patsy Sherman and the late Samuel Smith were co-inductees for their development of Scotchgard Protector, a leading brand stain protection and repellency. They jointly hold 13 patents in fluoromaterials polymers and polymerization processes.
Founded in 1973 by the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the National Inventors Hall of Fame honors the work of its inductees at its museum in Akron. Inductees are chosen by national panels comprised of experts in science and technology.
Drew, who retired in 1962 and died in 1980, created and launched several signature 3M products, but his legacy also was his approach to new-product development, which defines the standard for 3M Innovation – “connect a 3M technology to a customer need in a creative fashion.”
Throughout his career, Drew tried to create an environment where people were encouraged to follow their instincts. He was known at 3M as a consummate mentor, encouraging and helping to train many of 3M's young scientists who went on to develop successful products of their own, paving the way for 3M's culture of innovation.
In 1943, Drew established and became director of the Products Fabrication Laboratory (a precursor to 3M's Corporate Research Laboratory) where an uninhibited, constructive approach was the philosophy behind research. Out of the lab's ingenuity came numerous product breakthroughs, including reflective sheeting that helps enhance the visibility of traffic signs and apparel, breathable surgical tapes, foam tapes, electrical insulations, face masks and respirators. The lab also experimented with adhesives that – almost four decades later – led to development of the blockbuster product, Post-it Notes.
In its 20-year lifetime, Drew's lab created technologies that account for as much as 20 percent of 3M's sales today, with products that span all six of 3M's businesses: Consumer and Office; Display and Graphics; Electro and Communications; Health Care; Industrial and Transportation; and Safety, Security and Protection Services. Since the inception of Drew's lab in 1943, 3M sales have grown from $47 million to more than $22 billion today.
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3MColleen Harris, 651-733-1566http://www.3m.com/PressContact