Explore 3M's core technologies to see how our ideas live on, in connection with others, to help solve problems around the world.
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 resin formulation, adhesives and coating, as well as the most modern technologies, from microreplicated ceramics, nonwoven materials and precision shaped grains. The result is a comprehensive range of abrasives that cut, grind, 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 such diverse products as airplanes and cell phones, automobiles and medical dressings. We excel in curable adhesives and epoxies. And, of course, pressure-sensitive tapes, which 3M invented more than 90 years ago.
When 3M scientists begin work on a customer’s problem, they draw on a remarkable array of advanced and specialty 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 highway and the ultra-strong fiber woven into a power line―these are all derived from 3M's long history in inorganic ceramics. The future will be enabled with these materials as we address key megatrends in consumer electronics, intelligent transportation and air/water quality.
By infiltrating dense arrangements of ceramic fibers or particles with aluminum alloy, 3M creates composite materials and articles that combine extraordinary strength and stiffness with light weight. 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. In addition, 3M™ Nextel™ ceramic fibers can reinforce oxide ceramics and enable the production of high-temperature, thin walled, thermal shock and oxidation resistant Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC). This high performance material allows numerous applications in industrial furnaces, for the production of kiln furniture and in the field of burner technologies.
3M Oral Care Solutions Division uses the latest advances in chemistry, biology, ceramics, and digital imaging to help dentists and orthodontists improve the lives of patients all over the world. We combine this broad range of unique materials and systems/software expertise with many other 3M technology platforms to create solutions that truly promote life-long oral health. Our expertise in oral microbiology and fluoride chemistry help doctors combat tooth decay with toothpastes and protective coatings; and we help give patients back their ability to smile by applying knowledge of ceramic materials and processing to produce crowns, bridges and orthodontic appliances. Our in-depth understanding of resin technology and software and device engineering is focused to create breakthroughs in 3D printing for the oral care industry. We have been consistently recognized as one of the most innovative suppliers in the dental industry and our products are used to provide a continuum of care throughout a patient’s lifetime.
Advances in electronic components―from semiconductors and interconnects 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 in many of the other building blocks of today’s electronic devices, including fluorochemicals, adhesives, abrasives, membranes, electrodes, and electrolytes.
From one to hundreds of layers, 3M engineered films are used to enhance and protect electronic displays, increase energy efficiency, provide graphics inside and outside of buildings, vehicles and traffic signage, as well as provide the basis of tapes for the office, industrial assembly, and health care. 3M films are fundamental to a wide variety of products in every business group. By understanding and manipulating the materials and process and the complex interactions between them, 3M creates a broad spectrum of film-based products.
3M fluoromaterials represent a class of high performance technologies and products that provide unequal performance in many customer applications . They include an extensive line of protective coatings that provide stain protection and repellent properties to variety of substrates. Fluorinated materials are used as thermal management fluids, corrosion resistant coatings, and as surfactants for high-performance paints and coatings and electronic applications. Dyneon fluoropolymers, fluoroplastics and fluoroelastomers, have outstanding thermal and chemical resistance, making them ideal for many products that operate in extreme and hostile environments. They are used in wire coatings, seals, gaskets, nonstick coatings, fuel hose liners, and other critical, high-performance applications.
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. Many 3M technology platforms, including adhesives, advanced composites, wound management, ceramics and electronic materials are being influenced by the emergence of nano-sized particles.
After sixty five years of exploring uses for nonwoven materials, 3M is still finding new ways to refine and apply them. In health care, medical tapes improve comfort for patients. In industrial settings, respirators help protect employee health. In workshops, abrasives improve product finish and performance. In automotive, insulators make cars quieter and more efficient. Thanks to 3M's expertise in advanced materials and sophisticated manufacturing technologies, new nonwoven materials are being developed for use in transportation, filtration, health care, industrial, and consumer products.
Porous materials and membranes show up in thousands of 3M products, including respirators, filters, fuel cells, transdermal patches, and wound dressings. 3M manufactures membranes and other porous structures engineered to perform in a wide range of applications. In addition these materials can be chemically modified to enhance contaminant capture, improve selectivity, and optimize capacity. Today, 3M technology ensures that water, air and other fluids can be processed to achieve the required fluid quality in an efficient and cost effective manner.
3M excels at development and modification of unique, high-value specialty materials that bring differentiated performance in 3M customer applications or for internal use to enhance performance of 3M products. Among these are specialty additives and chemicals including catalysts, protective resins, photoinitiators, 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.
At 3M, we use molding to create complex and customized components in thermoplastic and thermosetting materials using advanced technologies that deliver high-performance solutions to our customers. Driven by the high tolerances demanded by these applications, 3M has developed unique expertise in tool design, precision machining, metrology, and mold processing. The result is a diverse blend of products that include 3M’s personal protective equipment, dental restorative material dispensers for oral care solutions, automotive aftermarket paint application solutions, and precision optical components for electronics and communications markets.
3M has pioneered the use of tiny, precisely shaped structures to give materials new physical, chemical, or optical properties. Microreplicated prisms are used in road signs and electronic displays to capture and reflect light more brilliantly. Microreplicated microlouvers protect display privacy. Fine triangular microreplicated ceramic particles make 3M’s coated, bonded and nonwoven abrasives cut faster and last longer. And microreplicated adhesives enable graphics films to be applied more easily without trapping air bubbles.
3M’s ability to create and disperse particles―in liquids, coatings, films, adhesive, and composites - allows it to give unique characteristics to its abrasives, dental restoratives, inks, window and optical films, carbon fiber reinforced composites, 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 / bubbles, carbon, and metal oxides) to affect a material’s strength, refractive index, conductivity, IR absorption, catalytic activity, and other characteristics.
Harnessing sophisticated computer modeling and simulation technologies, 3M researchers and engineers can predict the properties of yet-to-be-made materials, design new products, and accelerate the development of better manufacturing processes.
Thanks to 'virtual' prototyping and experimentation, 3M has been able to speed up the delivery of valuable new products across all 3M businesses and markets.
3M is a world leader in the development and use of polymers, combining and shaping these unique molecules into films, tapes, and other products through extrusion, co-extrusion, extrusion coating and other processing techniques that rely on the viscosity reduction that occurs at elevated temperatures in polymeric materials. Nearly all 3M technology platforms and all business groups rely on polymer processing for products including tapes for automotive attachment and industrial assembly, graphics and traffic signage films, light management films for window and display applications, medical tapes, as well as masking, office and duct tapes.
In the past, high-volume manufacturing could mean wide product performance variability. Not anymore, thanks to advancements in coating, drying, curing, web handling, and other technologies. 3M researchers are designing production equipment that combines finely controlled processes and streamlined, additive processes with the economic efficiencies of high volume, continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing. The results: 3M’s product performance continues to increase and processing precision is improved.
The materials in many 3M products are modified or enhanced through physical or chemical changes―such as heating, polymerizing, crosslinking, ablating, or degrading―that are caused by radiation processing. We use ultraviolet, electron beams, fast-paced laser pulses, microwave, infrared, gamma radiation, and other technologies to produce improved products. Radiation processing touches a majority of 3M’s 46 technology platforms and is a critical element for product platforms ranging from adhesives and abrasives to dental and healthcare.
More than any other company, 3M delves into the surface of things. We create unique surfaces using our microreplication technology. We also modify the surfaces of films and web materials using corona, heat, and vapor 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 a precise coating with a metal, oxide, or polymer. Over decades of experience, 3M has created this valuable vapor processing platform through the refinement of vacuum and non-vacuum technologies that coat or removal of nanometer amounts of materials. Many of our current products owe their unique durability, reflectivity, barrier, and chemical properties to the company’s expertise in this specialized manufacturing technology.
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 those questions, 3M has developed an unrivaled capability for measuring, characterizing, 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 through commercialization and manufacturing.
Featured Products: 3M™ Diamond Grade™ DG³ Reflective Sheeting
Application software is designed to perform a group of coordinated functions, tasks, or activities for the benefit of the user. It controls, monitors, interacts with, and enables many 3M innovative technologies, including medical coding applications for hospitals, digital impressioning for dental and orthodontia clinics, and mobile biometrics for law enforcement. Application software may run on smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers, or may be embedded in special-purpose electronic hardware and systems. 3M uses state-of-the-art tools and techniques to develop application software that is secure, easy-to-use, scalable and globally deployable.
3M has built competence on Electronics and Software technologies. Today, electronics and software are found in many 3M products – from 3M™ Active Safety and True Definition Scanner to 3M™ Littmann® Electronic Stethoscopes and 3M™ Border Management Systems. 3M’s advanced software embodies the “brains” behind these electronic products by providing “smart” (math and computer science) algorithms to push these products higher up the value chain. By combining 3M’s world leading material, processing, and engineering expertise, cloud technology, data analytics, and mobile based solutions, Es provides a powerful platform to create smart materials, smart devices, and smart systems, while also providing smart service.
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 for efficient customization with consistent quality. And this manufacturing agility is matched with capacity for flexible packaging that preserves and protects the finished product―and the branding strategy of the seller.
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, color, reflectivity, and thickness. These and other parameters provide exact, high-speed confirmation that our processes are operating at peak efficiency and uniformity and that our products conform to all of our customers’ 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 modeling, human factors engineering, industrial design and regulatory engineering. The result is a blend of functionality, usability, and elegance in products such as 3M’s powered-air respiratory systems for personal safety, biometric and electronic monitoring systems for public security, and intraoral scanning systems for oral care solutions.
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 sensing, collecting data, modeling, and control systems with 3M’s decades of experience in engineering leading to flexible, integrated, and sustainable manufacturing. The result of SMART manufacturing for customers is apparent in every high-quality 3M product… and every rapid modification in those products to meet local market needs.
The faint flutter in a newborn’s heart, a crucial shift in temperature that destroys a vaccine’s potency, a genetic marker for cystic fibrosis, a power outage that leaves thousands in the dark―these and other indications 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, high voltage and other signals. Sensor applications are also comprehensive, ranging from low-cost indicators―such as single-use sterilization test strips―to advanced, automated diagnostic devices.
3M products are designed for the outdoor elements. Customers can expect our traffic safety materials, signage, and other products to perform reliably after years of brutal exposure to the weather. To ensure that 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 exposures, 3M has developed an unparalleled ability to measure, analyze, and respond to the demands made by the toughest environmental conditions.
Loud, unpleasant noises aren’t just irritating―they are also a threat to our health and safety. 3M has engineered select nonwovens, viscoelastic polymers, and other materials to absorb sound, dampen vibration, and control undesirable noise. In automobiles 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 workplace they reduce distraction, protect hearing, and allow communication.
To create products for the life sciences, 3M applies its unusual combination of strengths in material science, surface modification, microbiology, biology, and biochemistry. Among the results: remarkably durable dental restoratives, filtration media for pharmaceuticals, biocompatible surgical tapes and dressings, transdermal patches for drug delivery, tissue antiseptics, and sterilization 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. Today, our expertise in formulation chemistries and drug delivery technologies is complemented with decades of experience in regulatory affairs, quality assurance, and precision manufacturing.
Displays have become omnipresent in our daily lives – putting information and communication at our fingertips. At 3M, we develop a wide range of technology and products for displays to enhance the visual quality, reduce the energy consumption, protect display surfaces, keep information secure, and enhance the user interface. By combining our expertise in films, light management, adhesives, nanotechnology and microreplication, we develop solutions to enable the next generation of displays.
As the world searches for new ways to generate and store energy, it turns to 3M technology. From consumer electronics to electric vehicles to flow batteries for grid storage and backup power for telecommunications towers; 3M’s battery and fuel cell technologies help to efficiently and reliably store and deliver energy when and where it’s needed. The company is a global leader in fuel cell and redox flow battery 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.
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, bendable circuits. Today, this technology is also used in medical diagnostic devices, such as real-time X-ray detectors and ultrasonic transducers, in electronic interconnect for LED lighting, and other applications that require superior reliability and flexibility.
Featured Products: Flexible Circuit Foundry including flexible circuits for printer cartridges and medical diagnostic devices
Pharmaceutical, food, and specialty chemical manufacturing demand components of the highest purity. To meet the rigorous standards of these and other industries―3M offers multiple liquid and gas filtration, separation, and purification options, including electret, membrane, carbon, and nonwoven fiber technologies. This expertise has been applied to 3M’s personal respirators and masks, consumer air filters for homes and cars, purifiers for pharmaceuticals, home water treatment systems, and other products.
Imaging includes a wide range of technologies and applications. 3M redefined advertising with the first digitally printed, wall-sized graphics. We invented multilayer 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 colors that last, even under the harshest conditions. And, 3M utilizes advanced image acquisition and analytics technologies such as document readers, biometric capture systems, traffic cameras, and advanced algorithms for border control, law enforcement, and traffic management.
Begin with 3M's intimate understanding of advanced materials. Combine those materials in thin films with 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 see. Buildings are more energy efficient. Security markings seem to float above documents. Electronic displays are more vivid but draw less power.
In more than 6,000 hospitals around the world, 3M’s advanced software and consulting services help organizations 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 organizations and help governments and health policy agencies worldwide manage costs and improve the outcomes of their local and national health care systems.
With 3M mechanical fasteners, customers can attach materials and then detach them―over and over again. We create the durable structured surfaces using a combination of our unique technologies including microreplication, polymer processing, adhesives, and nonwovens. These “catch and release” fasteners have transformed such diverse products as infant diapers and abrasives; they are also used in transportation, health care, sporting goods, and electrical products.
3M technologies are on the front lines in the fight against dangerous microbes. Drawing on its knowledge of biotechnology, specialty materials, coating, nanotechnology, signal processing, adhesives, optoelectronics, and microreplication, 3M has developed fast and easy-to-use systems for detecting, identifying, and quantifying pathogens and other organisms. 3M products also are widely used to eradicate potentially pathogenic bacteria on skin and mucosal tissue as well as on instruments and environmental surfaces. These are used in hospitals, medical labs, clinics, and food-handling and preparation facilities. We are also developing microbial detection and characterization technologies based on genetic markers.
Since the widespread introduction of the Internet, and the subsequent proliferation of data-intensive applications relying on this infrastructure, data traffic has grown rapidly. The need to accommodate this growing traffic is driving optics into all parts of the infrastructure including telecommunications switches, fiber optic networks at the long-haul, metro, WAN, access, enterprise and LAN hierarchies, as well as data centers and hyperscale installations. 3M’s fiber optic splices, connectors, and components for optical packaging―based on our expertise in materials science and precision processing― enable customers to build and maintain the optical communications systems satisfying customer expectations for speed and reliability.
Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) has become an extremely reliable, valuable, and pervasive tool for monitoring the movement and status of a variety of items. 3M utilizes this wireless tracking technology in a wide range of products, ranging from electronic passport readers and underground locating and marking systems, to electronic probation monitoring and safety inspection compliance systems. 3M RFID hardware and software systems increase speed and efficiency by delivering complete end-to-end Internet of Things solutions.
Dangerous infection is a risk whenever a patient’s skin is compromised through surgery, an accident, or an IV insertion. Advanced adhesives, films, nonwovens, and specialty 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―that promote faster healing and reduce the threat of infection.