“Looking back, I always enjoyed and did well with science projects and science competitions,” she says. “I just never realized it was part of who I am.”
All the while, she was constantly curious about how things work.
“I remember always asking questions like, ‘How many city blocks are in a mile?’ ‘How many calories are in a pound?’ or ‘How do records produce music?’”
Little did she know, this sense of wonder would later help foster the innovation of a tiny object that has a big impact in many homes.
Margaret has applied that sense of curiosity to adhesives for more than 30 years as a division scientist at 3M. She joined a long line of scientists who work on a unique type of adhesive that removes without leaving residue behind.
One of these scientists is Jim Bries – a pioneer in developing, patenting and launching the Command™ Brand as we know it today.
The scientists explored the use of stretch-release adhesives to help alleviate the frustration caused by damage created from mounting methods available at the time.
“People were frustrated with nails they put in the wall or those permanent adhesive hooks. You’d remove them only to find that the drywall was damaged,” says Margaret. “Nails and drywall screws both leave holes that are difficult to repair.”
In the ‘90s, scientists were able to provide an alternative option: the Command™ Adhesive Strip.
“It provided a high-holding power solution that people could put on their wall surface and then remove when they were done,” says Margaret. It brought the joy back into decorating. “People can be fun with how they decorate and organize. You don’t have to worry about surfaces. It’s simple and easy.”
The strip is designed for damage-free removal. This type of mounting requires you to stretch the strip parallel to the surface when you remove it. If removed at a more severe angle, you’d be pulling the strip away from the surface, which could result in damage to the wall.
“The whole notion that now you have to stretch this strip in a certain way to remove it – that’s a whole behavioral and mindset change when you think about an adhesive,” says Jim.
While you probably use these strips to decorate many areas of your home, you may never have realized the amount of technology that goes into them. The strips wouldn’t work the way they do without two main components: the backing and the adhesive.
Most strip backings have a composite film-foam-film backing. “The film is what gives the backing the strength so that when you stretch it, it doesn’t break,” says Margaret. “The foam makes it conformable to semi-rough surfaces – like drywall or concrete.”
Laminated to the backing, you’ll find the adhesive. Some adhesives are rubber-based. Others are silicon-based, which can help the strips withstand a wider temperature range and still be able to work when exposed to outdoor elements long term.
While scientists use different chemistries to create these adhesives, the adhesives are similar because they both have adhesive and cohesive strength.
“The adhesive has adhesive strength, which is the strength between the strip and the substrate, or the surface you’re sticking the strip to. It also has cohesive strength, which is how strong the adhesive is internally,” explains Margaret. “We want that cohesive strength to be greater than the adhesive strength, so when you stretch it, it comes off cleanly.”
The science in the strip has evolved to meet different needs, both indoors and outdoors.
Margaret has been a part of this evolution. In the ‘90s, she applied her expertise in polymer physical chemistry to help create a new version that is moisture resistant for use in the bath and shower. It’s special, because it adheres to glass and ceramic in high-humidity and wet environments.
Margaret now works on all types of strips, including outdoor strips, which are also designed to be water-resistant. They can withstand a temperature range of minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit to 125 degrees. This allows the adhesive to work at both low and high temperatures, which is why the same strip you apply to hang outdoor winter wreaths can stay up to display your spring wreath.
And over the past two decades, the Command Brand team has continued innovating to expand applications for different surfaces and different environments.
Margaret appreciates Jim’s mentorship and acknowledges that the advancements that she and her team have made wouldn’t have been possible without the foundation Jim and other scientists left behind.
Margaret looks forward to passing her team’s wisdom along to the next generation at 3M.
And although the Command Strip has been around for more than 20 years, the team is still thinking ahead, continuously asking themselves, “Where else can you put a Command Product?’”
Jim says, “The ideas are limitless.”