Icons of our times
R. Drew, ingénieur chez 3M, a l’idée de vaporiser de l’adhésif sur un support cellulosique. Le premier ruban adhésif est né. Comme il ne collait que d’un seul côté, les ouvriers l’ont qualifié de “radin” comme un Ecossais : “scotch” en VO.
Nylon bristle toothbrush
In 1937, Wallace H. Carothers of DuPont de Nemours developed polyamide 6.6, better known as Nylon. Used a year later to replace bristle, this synthetic fibre marked a turning point in the history of the toothbrush.
Since its invention, the success of the nylon stocking exceeded its manufacturers’ wildest expectations. 4 000 pairs flew off the shelves in three hours when they first went on sale on 24 October 1939 in Wilmington (USA). Although production was halted during World War Two, demand soared again in 1945, tailing off only in 1970 when tights appeared on the market.
Nine years after the discovery of polyethylene, the American Earl Tupper started manufacturing injection-moulded polyethylene food containers. Their revolutionary closure system was that a vacuum was created by simply pressing on the lid.
The Danish company Lego was the first to offer children a construction set made of small interlocking plastic bricks. They were initially produced in just two colours (red and yellow) thanks to the acquisition of one of the first injection moulding machines. They are now made of ABS, (discovered in 1946).
George de Maestral noticed that, in nature, many plants used tiny hooks to cling to objects. He managed to reproduce this using nylon. The result was Velcro. Because it does not break down and is cheap to make, his discovery became a commercial hit.
The French industrialist Gerland first used PVC to make a floor covering in 1949. Now made of multilayered PVC, these hard-wearing, easy-to-lay and -clean floor coverings are available in a wide range of colours and patterns.
The plastic disposable nappy was designed in the 1950s by Procter & Gamble, but did not reach the market until ten years later. Since then, superabsorbent plastics have increased their performance beyond measure: they can now hold up to 700 times their weight in water!
Upright vacuum cleaner
The first upright vacuum cleaner, made entirely of nylon, was marketed by Moulinex in 1961, so homemakers no longer had to drag a heavy and bulky canister along the floor.
Vittel led its own revolution in 1968, producing its first plastic bottle. It weighed 36 grams (compared to 300 grams for a glass bottle) and held 1.5 litres of water.
Traditional cheque guarantee cards were revolutionized by the advent of the microchip invented by Frenchman Roland Moreno. This small PVC or polypropylene card has become an indispensable means of payment.
After the Bic® biro, Marcel Bich invented the disposable plastic razor in 1975. It was an entirely new razor system with a non-replaceable blade made in a single piece ensuring a safe and effective shave. Today, millions of units are sold worldwide every day.
Philips and Sony invented the digital CD, replacing the traditional groove on an LP with an aluminium film protected by a layer of polycarbonate. It was followed by the CD-ROM in 1975 and the DVD in 1997.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs decided in 1978 to hide the network of electronic circuits inside a plastic shell. Since then, the product line has become a design icon through the use of ABS for the casing, PMMA and plastic films for ultra-thin screens.