Who is the inventor of sellotape? (Richard G. Drew)

The name of the inventor of sellotape is Richard G. Drew, who was an American citizen and a chemical engineer by profession. Drew worked as a researcher in the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now known as 3M after initial letters of the first three words). There, he got considerable experience of working with adhesive materials, as this company has been manufacturing sandpaper using silica and aluminum oxide or crystal particles since 1926.

The contribution of Richard Drew in the invention of sandpaper was also noteworthy. Around this period, two-tone motor cars were becoming popular in America. However, difficulty was experienced in the automobile plants at the time of removing the masking tape used for demarcating paints of different colors applied on the upper and lower parts of the motor cars. This masking tape had to be scraped off in order to remove it and the scraping affected the tonal quality of the paint. Drew and his team devised a new masking tape of brown paper which could be peeled off without leaving adhesive substance behind.

In 1928, Richard Drew made an invention that had a much greater commercial potential than the brown paper tape. His new tape was inspired by transparent cellophane paper for packaging various products, which had been introduced in the market about four years ago. This was not only transparent and thin (only 0.03 millimeters thick) but was also moisture and heat resistant as well as stronger than ordinary wrapping paper.

While the demand for cellophane paper – made from cellulose – was growing rapidly, there was no appropriate adhesive substance for effectively sealing it. Ordinary brown paper gum tape was extensively used in those days, but it required wetting with water before use. This was hardly convenient; moreover, in damp weather, rolled up gum tape would stick on the paper beneath it.

Drew overcame both these problems by using cellophane paper as the base of his adhesive strip, resulting in the transparent sticky tape we know today. He patented this invention in 1928. A few years, later under commercial arrangement with Drew, 3M Company launched this newly invented adhesive tape in the market on September 8, 1930, under the brand name Sellotape.