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The incredible story of the Post-it®

The incredible story of the Post-it®
The incredible story of the Post-it®

It all began in the period between 1964 and 1966: Spencer Silver, a chemist working for 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company), accidentally invented a sticky adhesive, a new adhesive acrylic polymer (which would be given patent #3.691.140 in 1972). Doctor Spencer's glue had special properties: the new adhesive acrylic polymer had a low adhesive power which was nevertheless sufficient to enable a sheet of paper to be stuck to a surface and unstuck as often as desired, without leaving a mark. Curiously, he discovered it by accident while researching very strong adhesives. He circulated the information among his colleagues in the laboratories, including a certain Art Fry.
In the beginning, he sought to sell his invention in the form of a spray (as it is currently sold to be used in the graphic arts) although without success: the adhesive polymers programme was shelved until 1972.
Around came 1974, the year that would see the birth of the small canary yellow sheet of paper that can be stuck anywhere. Like every Sunday, Art Fry, a researcher at 3M, was singing in the choir of St. Paul's church in Minnesota. He used small pieces of paper to mark the day's hymns in his hymn book. Fed up with his bookmarks constantly falling out, he suddenly remembered a substance invented by one of his work colleagues, Spencer Silver, a glue with low adhesive power. He then had the idea of putting a little of the glue onto a piece of paper. It worked! He could now move his bookmarks from one page to the next without them falling out. He had just invented the "post-it".
Developing a quality product required many years of work in the 3M laboratories and plants. It would then take Art Fry another year and a half to develop the final product, as its manufacture required high precision calculations. The paper needs to be treated several times and the adhesive layer must be sufficiently thin in order to avoid the part with glue being thicker than the paper.
The "post-it" was first sold in the United States in 1980, then in Canada, and finally in Europe in the following year. The Post-it was designed to be used to write messages and stick them on any type of surface without causing any damage. The small 7cm by 7cm canary yellow square of paper is now available in eight different sizes, 25 shapes and 62 bright colours (traditionally yellow, but also pink, green, orange, fluorescent colours, etc.) with a small self-adhesive strip on the back. It is available in a "freeform" version, but also in lined and squared versions. It is sold in 150 countries.
These small sheets of paper are now part of everyday life! It could even be said that it is the perfect invention. Nothing can replace it, not a beep on a telephone or an electronic notepad. It helps to facilitate communication and organisation, and meets the needs of a society obsessed with efficiency, organisations and to-do lists.

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