1. 3M United States
  2. Particles
  3. All Articles
  4. The technology you probably don’t notice on your packages can do double duty underwater
particles - where science matters
  • The technology you probably don’t notice on your packages can do double duty underwater

    By Sue Casement, 3M Storyteller and Eliot Popko, 3M Videographer

    Kathy Vanderwall and Wayne Morris demonstrate how filament tape holds up with cuts

    Click here to watch filament tape in action.

    • Who doesn’t love receiving a box of goodies in the mail?

      Whether it’s a care package from Mom, a meal-kit delivery or your latest online order, you want it to arrive securely bundled.
    • Demo of a car being held by up by 3M Filament Tape

      That security comes in the form of something that’s strong enough to hold rebar in place or even hold up a car – though experts advise don’t try it at home! Many people rely on a tried and true method to safely wrap their packages and more: filament tapes. You can recognize filament tapes from those threadlike fibers that strengthen it. And because of that strength, people use them for much more than safely shipping packages.

      The filaments give tape a big advantage when it comes to tensile strength – the ability to resist breaking when stretched. And 3M has the filament tape with the highest tensile strength available at 1200 pounds per inch.

      Filament tape also has the unique ability to withstand cuts and nicks. “The filaments give them a lot more strength and cut resistance,” says Kathy Vanderwall, a 3M technical manager in high-strength tapes. “If you cut partway through the tape, the next filament will hold the tape. Instead of having a tear that goes all the way across, you have tear resistance, because those filaments are there.”

      Filaments in tape are typically made from glass or polyester fibers. According to Kathy, the type of fiber used depends on the application. “You should use fiberglass strands if you need high tensile strength. So, if you pull on it, it shouldn’t break. If you need it to bend without breaking, then polyester filaments are better,” she says. “It depends on the application.”

    • A peek into the layers

      “We’ve learned over 70 years how to make the tape effectively and efficiently,” says Kathy. “We have maintained the quality of tape, and getting the filaments into the tape by perfecting our manufacturing techniques.”

    Filament tapes differ from other box sealing and high-strength tape by the addition of a layer of filament.

    • 3M Filament Tape holds a metal coil closed

      New uses for filament tapes

      Strapping boxes closed isn’t the number one use for these tough tapes. 3M first started making filament tapes in 1948, and they were made almost exclusively for packaging needs. Today, people still use 3M filament tapes for packaging, but they also find uses in metal working, deep-sea applications and for manufacturing and shipping appliances.

      In metalworking, the filament tapes work especially well for holding metal coils in place. When metal is held in coils, the metal memory from coil release requires lots of tensile strength to keep the end in place.

      Some tapes have glass filaments going both horizontally and vertically, which are used for heavy packages that need strength in both directions. Other filament tapes are used for bundling wires, metal coils and electrical products, plus heavy-duty industrial tapes for oil and gas.

      According to Wayne Morris, 3M application engineer, the modified synthetic rubber adhesive used in the tape allows it to adhere to oily metals. You can use a tab on the end of a coil as well as at the core of the roll to hold the metal in place to the center of the roll.

    Filament tape used to hold a bundle of rebar

    • High-strength filament tape holds together subsea power cables as they are built
      High-strength filament tape holds together subsea power cables as they are built

      “If you think about your roll of aluminum foil you use for cooking at home, think about the end of the aluminum and having to hold that end closed,” he says. “The coil tabbing application would be similar to that, and you would hold the start of the roll to the core at the center as well. That’s an example of metal tabbing – it would just be on a larger scale.”

      He also explains that it’s used to bundle steel and pipes for containing them, often for shipping and delivery to the end location.

      The filament tapes are used as a “third hand” in building flow lines and risers – pipes for drilling down in the ocean. The filament tape secures the metal wire, known as the armoring layer, in place for the next layer of flexible pipe. Crews wrap the tape around the metal armoring layer to prevent the metal wire from opening back up, or bird caging, before the next layer of the pipeline is added around it.

      “Our customers have continually evolving needs. In segments like oil and gas and metalworking, our customers develop new applications,” says Amy Preszler Prince, 3M technical manager. “Oil and gas customers are drilling deeper into the ocean and moving to new locations, so the pipes have different requirements as those locations change. We develop tapes to meet those changing needs.”