d.Choose a technology below to see how our ideas live on, in connection with others, to help solve problems around the world.
Loud, unpleasant noises aren’t just irritating, they are also a threat to our health and safety. 3M has engineered selected non-wovens, visco-elastic polymers and other materials to absorb sound, dampen vibration and control undesirable noise. In vehicles, these materials create a quieter passenger compartment. In computer disk drives, they reduce irritating sounds and help increase access speed and storage capacity. In the work place, they reduce distraction, protect hearing and allow communication.
3M display materials manipulate the transmission and reflection of light. By combining our expertise in multi-layer films, lenses and micro-replication, we are able to increase the clarity, durability or brightness of virtually all types of electronic displays: from liquid crystal displays in hand-held devices to LCD monitors and televisions, to gigantic projection displays. These materials are also used in privacy filters for laptop computers and for automated teller machines.
The world turns to 3M technology for new ways to generate and store energy. 3M is a global leader in fuel cell components, particularly in the design and manufacture of cost-effective membrane electrode assemblies. We are also active in the development of lithium ion materials for battery systems. In the photovoltaic industry, 3M is advancing technologies (including barrier films and Fresnel concentrator lenses) and supplying products such as very-high-bond and conductive foil tapes.
Innovations in filtration, separation and purification led to pharmaceutical, food and speciality chemical manufacturing demand components of the highest purity. To meet the rigorous standards of these and other industries, 3M offers multiple options, including electret, micro-porous membrane, carbon and non-woven fibre technologies, for liquid and gas filtration and separation. This expertise has also been applied to 3M’s personal respirators and masks, consumer air filters for homes and cars, and home water treatment systems.
For more than half of 3M’s products, the last step in the manufacturing process is the conversion of a film, abrasive, tape or other material into the specific shape and size that a customer requires. Our ability to rapidly reconfigure how a product is cut, shaped and finished allows efficient customisation with consistent quality. And our manufacturing agility is matched with flexible packaging that preserves and protects the finished product, as well as the branding strategy of the seller.
Using advanced, proprietary materials and manufacturing techniques, 3M has become a pioneer in the manufacture of electronic circuitry on flexible polymer films. Inkjet printer cartridges were among the early uses of these low-cost, lightweight and bendable circuits. Today, this technology is also used in hard-disk drives, medical diagnostic devices, large flat-panel displays and other applications that require reliability and flexibility.
3M understands visual communication. We made the first thermo-fax machine for transmitting images. We redefined advertising with the first digitally printed, wall-sized graphics. We invented multi-layer optical films that create crisp, vibrant images for electronic displays and counterfeit-resistant security marks. We’ve refined our inks and pigments to ensure true, bright colours that last even under the harshest conditions. Building on decades of experience in print and digital technologies, 3M continues to introduce sophisticated films, inks and software for print, electronic displays and signage.
Begin with 3M’s intimate understanding of advanced materials. Combine materials in thin films in hundreds of layers. Integrate with 3M’s unmatched ability to create microscopic structures on films (and other surfaces). By mixing these and other technologies, 3M manipulates light to transform everyday products. Signs are brighter and easier to read. Security markings seem to float above documents. Electronic displays are more vivid and more colourful, but draw less power.
With 3M mechanical fasteners, customers can attach materials and then detach them―over and over again. We create these durable structured surfaces using a combination of our unique technologies, including micro-replication, polymer processing, adhesives and non-wovens. Our ‘catch and release‘ fasteners have transformed products from baby nappies to abrasives; they are also used in transport, health care, sporting goods and electrical products.
With the growth of online services such as internet telephony and video on demand, the demand for greater bandwidth is escalating rapidly. Based on our expertise in materials science and precision processing, 3M’s fibre-optic splices and connectors help service providers build and maintain networks to satisfy customer expectations for speed and reliability. Our strength in optoelectronics is also reflected in 3M display components, flexible electronics and sensors for medical, security and defence markets.
Porous materials and membranes show up in thousands of 3M products, including respirators, filters, fuel cells, transdermal patches and wound dressings. 3M manufactures porous films and other structures, with the pore size and spacing engineered to the application. Membranes and other materials can also be chemically modified to capture particles. Today, 3M technology ensures that air and other fluids flow at the right rate and particles as large as a grain of rice or as small as a nanometer-sized molecule don’t.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) has become an extremely reliable, valuable and pervasive tool for monitoring the movement and status of items. 3M first developed this wireless tracking technology for use in library circulation systems. Today, our customers use it to keep tabs on pharmaceutical shipments, airplane engine maintenance, tissue samples, legal and medical files, and much more. With constantly improving software and hardware, 3M RFID helps increase productivity while cutting the costs associated with theft and loss.
To create products for the health sciences, 3M applies its unusual combination of strengths in materials science, surface characterisation, filtration and biology. Among the results: remarkably durable dental restoratives, biocompatible surgical tapes and dressings, transdermal patches for drug delivery, anti-microbial cleansers and sterilisation sensors.
Pharmaceuticals can enhance and sometimes even save lives. It is important that they are delivered in the correct dose to the correct location at the correct time. 3M has been a pioneer in the development of metered-dose inhalers (for delivering drugs to the respiratory tract) and transdermal patch systems. Our expertise in formulation chemistries and drug delivery technologies is complemented by decades of experience in regulatory affairs, quality assurance and precision manufacturing.
In more than 6,000 hospitals around the world, 3M’s advanced software and consulting services help organisations capture and classify health care data, allocate resources, comply with regulations, manage revenue and, ultimately, improve the quality of patient care. Our solutions bring significant cost savings to health care organisations, and help governments and health policy agencies worldwide manage costs and improve the outcomes of their local and national health care systems.
3M technologies are on the front line in the fight against dangerous microbes. Drawing on its knowledge of speciality materials, coating, nanotechnology, signal processing and micro-replication, 3M has developed fast and easy-to-use systems for detecting, identifying and quantifying pathogens and other organisms. These are used in hospitals, medical labs, clinics, and food-handling and preparation facilities. We are also developing microbial detection and characterisation technologies based on genetic markers.
The faint flutter in a new-born’s heart, a crucial shift in temperature that destroys a vaccine’s potency, a genetic marker for cystic fibrosis—these and other indicators can be detected and communicated by 3M sensors and other sensors relying on 3M components. Our technologies respond to a comprehensive array of stimuli, including heat, light, pressure, radio, chemical, biological and other signals. Our sensor applications are also comprehensive, ranging from low-cost indicators—such as single-use sterilisation test strips—to advanced, automated diagnostic devices.
Whenever a patient’s skin is compromised through surgery, an accident or an IV insertion, they are at the risk of infection. Advanced adhesives, films, non-wovens and speciality materials have been applied in 3M health care products—such as our absorbent and transparent dressings, surgical tapes and drapes, as well as skin preparation products and cleansers—to promote faster healing and reduce the threat of infection.
3M began as an abrasives manufacturer. For more than a century, we have refined our original technologies and complemented them with breakthrough inventions developed by other 3M businesses. Today, our abrasives rely on traditional strengths, such as adhesives and coating, as well as the most modern technologies, from micro-replication to ceramics and non-woven materials. The result is a comprehensive range of abrasives that shape, finish and polish with ease and precision.
So strong, they can hold a structural panel for the life of a building...so gentle, they yield to a child. Because 3M adhesives have been engineered to fit our customers’ needs, they are used in diverse products such as airplane and mobile phones, vehicles and medical dressings. We excel in curable adhesives and epoxies. And, of course, pressure-sensitive tapes, which 3M invented more than 80 years ago.
When 3M scientists begin work on a customer’s problem, they draw on a remarkable array of advanced and speciality materials: polymers, composites, ceramics, fluoromaterials, nanomaterials and more. Our labs constantly add to this palette with new formulations and breakthrough modifications of existing materials. And 3M is unmatched in the application of these novel materials to the demands of real-world manufacturing.
3M started here, turning minerals into sandpaper. Over more than a century, we have forged inorganic ceramic materials into a surprising range of products: the rugged granules that protect your roof, the complex touch screen at your ATM, the aesthetic dental restorative and the coarsest abrasive, the brilliant bead that defines your lane on a rain-soaked main road and the ultra-strong fibre woven into a power line. These are all derived from 3M’s long history in inorganic ceramics.
3M introduced the first tooth-coloured restorative material in 1964, a breakthrough that addressed patients’ concerns about aesthetics and dentists’ demands for a durable material. Since then, we have drawn on advances in chemistry, biology, ceramics and digitisation to become a world leader in dental composites, adhesives, impression materials, orthodontic supplies and other products. In particular, we have pioneered the use of highly viscous restorative materials that are cured quickly and comfortably in the patient’s mouth and impression technology that produces accurate replicas of the patient’s dentition.
Advances in electronic components—from semiconductors and interconnections to data storage and displays—often begin with breakthroughs in the organic, inorganic and metallic materials from which these components are fabricated. 3M contributes to improvements in manufacturing and performance by applying its strengths to many of the other building blocks of today’s electronic devices, including fluorochemicals, adhesives, abrasives, membranes, electrodes and electrolytes.
3M’s engineered films serve a vast multitude of uses. One product line enhances the brightness in LCD displays, while another blocks sunlight from coming through windows. 3M films are used to create building-sized graphics and to prevent graffiti. Some are single-layered, with humble applications, and others combine hundreds of layers that are tuned to transmit or reflect specific wavelengths. Still other films provide very high barriers to oxygen and moisture, a requirement in next-generation electronic displays.
3M fluorochemicals are the active materials in 3M’s extensive line of protective coatings. They are also used as thermal management fluids and as surfactants that improve the flow of high-performance paints and coatings. Dyneon fluoropolymers have outstanding temperature and chemical resistance, making them ideal for many products that operate in extreme and hostile environments. They are used in wire coatings, seals, gaskets, non-stick coatings, fuel hose liners and other critical, high-performance applications.
By infiltrating dense arrangements of ceramic fibres or particles with aluminium alloy, 3M creates composite materials and articles that combine extraordinary strength, lightness and stiffness. 3M’s first commercial application for this technology is a high-strength overhead electrical conductor that can carry more than twice the power of conventional lines of the same size. Additional work continues on products and components for other uses, including structural and mechanical applications. The advantages of this material are magnified when the component is subjected to high acceleration loads that magnify the weight savings.
3M scientists and researchers are exploring a new world at the nanometer level, where materials exhibit unique physical, chemical and biological properties. These unusual properties are already being exploited in our hard coatings, dental restoratives and brightness-enhancing optical films (used in LCD displays). Many 3M technology platforms, including adhesives and pharmaceuticals, are being influenced by the emergence of nano-sized particles.
After half a century of exploring uses for non-woven materials, 3M is still finding new ways to refine and apply them. In medical tapes, they provide comfort to patients. In abrasives, they improve durability and ease of use. As insulators, they make your car quieter and your jacket warmer. Thanks to 3M’s expertise in advanced materials and sophisticated manufacturing technologies, new opportunities for non-wovens are being developed in health care, consumer products and heavy industry.
3M excels at the development and modification of low-volume, high-value materials for its customers and its own use. Among these are speciality additives and chemicals, including catalysts, protective resins, photo-initiators, surfactants, microspheres, bubbles, easy-clean coatings, battery electrolytes and lubricants. 3M also develops ceramic textiles and composites for use in aerospace, petroleum refining, metal processing and other industries. Among other unique materials, 3M has a growing expertise in strong, lightweight metal matrix composites.
3M has pioneered the use of tiny, precisely shaped structures to give materials new physical, chemical or optical properties. Micro-replicated prisms are used in road signs, electronic displays and exterior building illumination to capture and reflect light more brilliantly. Minute pyramids make 3M’s structured abrasives work better and wear more evenly. And micro-replicated channels can even direct fluids using capillary action, an application with enormous potential for biomedical products.
At 3M, precise optical lenses and complex shapes are formed using advanced moulding technologies. We also use moulding to create micro-replicated patterns in structured abrasives, and brightness enhancement and security films. Driven by the extremely high tolerances required by these products, 3M has developed an unmatched expertise in the multiple sub-technologies needed to process thermoplastic and thermosetting materials, such as mould tooling design, process measurement and thermal cycling.
3M’s ability to create and disperse particles—in solids, films and liquids—allows it to give unique characteristics to its abrasives, dental restoratives, inks, window and optical films, and a host of other products. Our understanding of physical, chemical and interfacial interactions allows us to apply precisely distributed particles and nanoparticles (such as glass beads, carbon, metals and metal oxides) to affect a material’s strength, refractive index, conductivity, IR absorption, catalytic activity and other characteristics.
Over the decades, 3M has become a world leader in the development and use of polymers, turning these unique molecules into films and objects through extrusion, coating and other processing techniques. Today, nearly all 3M technology platforms, and the majority of 3M products, rely on polymer processing. This expertise is particularly important in health care, electronics, display and graphics markets.
In the past, high-volume manufacturing could mean wide variations in output. Not any more, thanks to advancements in coating, drying, curing, web handling and other technologies. 3M engineers are designing production equipment that combines finely controlled processes with the economic efficiency of roll-to-roll manufacturing. The result: 3M’s environmental performance continues to improve, and product tolerances become more and more minute—as small as half a wavelength of light for some surface patterns.
Harnessing sophisticated computer modelling and simulation technologies, 3M researchers and engineers can predict the properties of yet-to-be-made materials and accelerate the development of better manufacturing processes. Thanks to these virtual experiments, 3M has been able to speed up the delivery of valuable new products for electronic displays, flexible circuits and radio-frequency identification.
The materials in many 3M products are modified or enhanced through chemical reactions caused by radiation processing, such as curing, setting, cross-linking and polymerisation. We use ultraviolet and electron beams, fast-paced laser pulses, corona, flame and other technologies to create minute patterns in our structured abrasives and brightness films, images in our security films, unique surface characteristics in our reflective sheeting and additional features in thousands of other products.
More than any other company, 3M delves into the surface of things. We create unique surfaces, using our micro-replication technology. We also modify the surfaces of films and web materials, using corona, heat and vapour processing technologies. These sophisticated tools allow us to improve a material’s receptivity to fluids and adhesives, alter its hardness, enhance its reflectivity or create other novel characteristics.
Critical performance characteristics often depend on precise coating with metals, oxides or polymers. With decades of experience, 3M has refined vapour coating into an art. Many of our current products owe their unique durability, reflectivity, barrier properties and chemical properties to the company’s expertise in this specialised manufacturing technology.
3M products are designed for outdoor elements. Customers can expect our traffic safety materials, signage and other products to perform reliably after years of brutal exposure to weather. To ensure a high level of performance, 3M has developed technologies that replicate the extremes of light, heat, cold and moisture found outdoors around the world. By combining real-world and accelerated exposure, 3M has developed an unparalleled ability to measure, analyse and respond to the demands made by the toughest environmental conditions.
New-to-the-world technologies generate solutions for our customers, and a host of questions for our scientists: What is this? How does it work? Can we make it better? To answer these questions, 3M has developed an unrivalled capability for measuring, characterising and understanding materials and processes. With resources located around the world, 3M scientists can draw on our analytical strengths during all phases of product development, from concept to commercialisation and manufacturing.
Application software controls, monitors, interacts with and enables many 3M innovations, ranging from air filtration to enterprise-wide RFID solutions for tracking medical records. Application software may run within a web browser, on standard desktop computers and hand-held devices or may be embedded in special-purpose electronic hardware and systems. 3M utilises state-of-the-art tools and techniques to develop application software that is robust, secure and easy to use.
3M has built its competence on electronics and software technologies. Today, electronics are found in many 3M products—from projectors and dental scanners to 3M™ Littmann® Electronic Stethoscopes and 3M™ Border Management Systems. 3M’s advanced software embodies the ‘brains’ behind these products by providing ‘smart’ (math and computer science) algorithms to push these products higher up the value chain. By combining world-leading materials, processing and engineering expertise, 3M electronics and software provide a powerful platform to create smart materials, smart devices and smart systems, while also providing smart service.
The extreme precision of 3M’s manufacturing—in some cases, tolerances are less than a wavelength of light—require similarly precise tools for measuring and inspecting product quality. 3M has created optical, infrared and UV-sensing systems, gauges and other proprietary tools for measuring performance, strength, colour, reflectivity and thickness. These and other parameters provide exact, high-speed confirmation that our processes are operating at peak efficiency and uniformity and our products conform to all customer specifications.
Complex systems require comprehensive engineering. By integrating software, electronic and mechanical expertise, 3M creates systems that complement each other and enable exceptional performance. These disciplines are further enhanced by predictive modelling, human-factor engineering and industrial design. The result is a blend of functionality and elegance in products as simple as a tape dispenser or a sanding tool and as complex as 3M’s multi-dimensional circulation and security systems for libraries.
Precise, consistent, cost-competitive and safe: expectations are high for sophisticated manufacturing technologies. Few companies in the world can compare with 3M in the design and operation of the most demanding continuous processes, especially web handling, coating and drying. Strengths include predictive engineering and modelling, process sensing and feedback systems, and 3M’s decades of experience in chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering. The result for customers is apparent in every high-quality 3M product, and every rapid modification in those products to meet local market needs.