What was born as a small-scale mining venture in 1902 has grown into a global powerhouse whose products improve the daily lives of people around the world. When the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.—as the company that would grow into 3M was known at the time—began more than a century ago, the five founders had a simple goal: to harvest a mineral known as corundum from a mine called Crystal Bay.
Ultimately, the mine didn’t produce much corundum, but something more important was born that year: the spirit of innovation and collaboration that forms the foundation of today’s 3M. The fledgling company turned to other materials and other products, building up sales little by little. Technical and marketing innovations began to produce success upon success. Today’s 3M is responsible for 60,000 products used in homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and more.
Today, one third of 3M’s sales come from products that were invented within the past five years. The company employs thousands of researchers and scientists around the world. With operations in 70 countries and sales in 200, the global 3M team is still committed to creating the technology and products that advance every company, enhance every home and improve every life.
A Rich History of Ideas
- William L. McKnight joined Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. in 1907 as an assistant bookkeeper. He quickly rose through the company, becoming president in 1929 and chairman of the board in 1949. He is known for shaping the company’s culture of innovation and collaboration.
- In 1910, major investor Lucius Ordway established 3M’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, where it remains today.
- We created the world's first waterproof sandpaper, which reduced airborne dust during automobile manufacturing, in the early 1920s.
- A second major milestone occurred in 1925 when Richard G. Drew, a young lab assistant, invented masking tape — an innovative step toward diversification and the first of many Scotch® Pressure-Sensitive Tapes.
- In the following years, teams focused on technical progress created Scotch® Cellophane Tape for box sealing, and soon hundreds of practical uses were discovered.
- In the early 1940s, our organization was diverted into defense materials for World War II, which was followed by new ventures, such as Scotchlite™ Reflective Sheeting for highway markings, magnetic sound recording tape, filament adhesive tape and the start of 3M's involvement in the graphic arts field with offset printing plates.
- In 1948, 3M’s “15 percent” program was born, allowing employees to dedicate almost a full day a week to their own projects, following their ideas and seeing what came of them.
- In the 1950s, we introduced the Thermo-Fax™ copying process, Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector, videotape, Scotch-Brite™ Cleaning Pads and several new electro-mechanical products.
- Dry-silver microfilm was introduced in the 1960s, along with photographic products, carbonless papers, overhead projection systems, and a rapidly growing health care business of medical and dental products.
- We further expanded our market focus in the 1970s and 1980s into pharmaceuticals, radiology and energy control.
- In 1975, 3M launched Pollution Prevention Pays as a means of empowering employees to guide the company’s sustainability efforts. To date, the “3P” program has resulted in the elimination of more than 3.8 billion pounds of pollution and saved us nearly $1.7 billion.
- In 1980, 3M introduced Post-it® Notes, which created a whole new category in the marketplace and changed people’s communication and organization behavior forever.
- In the 1990s, sales reached the $15 billion mark. We continued to develop an array of innovative products, including immune response modifier pharmaceuticals; brightness enhancement films for electronic displays; and flexible circuits used in inkjet printers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.
- In 2004, sales topped $20 billion for the first time, with innovative new products contributing significantly to growth. Recent innovations include Post-it® Super Sticky Notes, Scotch® Transparent Duct Tape, optical films for LCD televisions and a new family of Scotch-Brite® Cleaning Products that give consumers the right scrubbing power for a host of cleaning jobs.
- In 2007, the Scotch-Brite™ brand introduced the first disposable toilet scrubber with built-in bleach. Other products, such as Scotch-Blue™ Painter’s Tape for Corners and Hinges and the Scotch™ Fur Fighter™ Hair Remover designed to grip and trap pet hair embedded in upholstery (2008), continued to exemplify innovative products designed to enhance the home environment.
- Our scientists developed a break-through, ultra-compact LED-illuminated projection engine in 2008 for integration in personal electronic devices, including the 3M Micro Professional Mpro 110 projector, which has since evolved. This was the same year that, in the wake of global concern around potential public health medical emergencies such as an influenza pandemic, various 3M respirators were the first to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use by the general public.
- In 2009, our healthcare business introduced the 3M Littmann® Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200, a next-generation auscultation device featuring Bluetooth technology that wirelessly transfers heart, lung, and other body sounds to software for further analysis. These stethoscopes have successfully allowed doctors to study rural stroke victims and an astronaut on the International Space Station.
- The broad footprint of 3M innovation not only made impact in the field of telemedicine in the health care industry this year, but also in the grinding industry with the introduction of 3M™ Cubitron™ II Fibre Discs and Metal working Belts. Featuring a patented, ceramic abrasive grain shape, the structures of this product increased the life expectancy of the abrasive by as much as four times.
- In 2012, our Renewable Energy Division and Gossamer Space Frames unveiled the world’s largest aperture trough using 3M™ Solar Mirror Film 1100 for concentrated solar power.
- In 2013, 3M topped $30 billion in sales around the globe.
- In 2014, 3M was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the 14th straight year.
- Last year, 3M scientists and researchers earned the company its 100,000th patent.