Today’s range of tapes and other electrical accessories from 3M is the culmination of a track record of innovation stemming back some 70 years. Importantly, that range continues to evolve, with improvements to existing products as well as new introductions. Rachel Salisbury, Senior Technical Service Technologist for 3M Electrical Markets Division, takes us through the key milestones and innovation within the business.
The first key milestone occurs during 1944, in the midst of World War II, with Scotch Tape being used to marking wires on aircrafts, to help engineers be even more efficient and fast during those fraught times. This evolved into the Scotchcode range, widely used all over the world, with numbers and letters and colour coding in a dispenser that continues the original theme of making wire-marking simple and rapid.
When the war finished, 3M scientist Don Douglas made a breakthrough in tape, when he inadvertently dropped a rubber band on a hot plate, the resulting misshapen material gave him the inspiration for the world’s first vinyl tape, introduced in 1946.
Beyond tapes, 3M explored other areas of electrical innovation. For instance, in the early Fifties saw 3M launch Scotchlok Electrical Spring Connector for joining wires together safely and easily without the need for soldering or tools.
1968 saw 3M develop the world’s first ‘cold applied’ jointing and terminating technique, Cold Shrink, which removed the need for additional heat to create electrical joints and terminations in medium voltage networks, with a design that supports fast installation with minimal error. 3M has continued to build on its Cold Shrink range, with recent introductions including low voltage and medium voltage products, used by power utilities and other customers all over the globe.
1969, the year that man landed on the moon for the first time, was also the year that 3M introduced the first glass cloth tape for high temperature applications, Scotch Glass Cloth Electrical Tape 69. This is still on sale in the UK.
In 1975, the company launched the first highly conformable, all-weather, linerless, rubber splicing tape. This was the forerunner of today’s Scotch Rubber Splicing Tape 23, still widely sold today.
In 1985, 3M developed ,Scotch Super 33+ Vinyl Electrical Tape which has become the electrical industry’s #1 professional grade electrical tape. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use up to 600v, it meets a need in the market for a highly conformable tape that can withstand extreme weather conditions, with a temperature range of -18°C (0°F) up to 105°C (220°F). If the weather pundits are to be believed, then this tape is likely to be found in many electricians’ toolboxes during the ever colder British winters.
Innovation is at the very heart of 3M and while tapes and other accessories may at first glance not be the stars of the show, innovations such as the ability to deal with difficult exterior conditions, or to support faster, error-free termination, can make all the difference to an electrical project’s overall success. As a company that invests in excess of five per cent of its turnover in R&D, we look forward to sharing future electrical innovations over the years to come.