At 3M we seek to observe, understand and solve. What we believe is simple: We are people committed to helping other people. Every day we help tackle problems, big and small, in pursuit of our vision to improve every life.

3M’s Post-it® Brand re-innovates the whiteboard…again

July 9, 2020

The Post-it® Flex Write Surface proves by rethinking existing products with new technology, you can create new solutions that delight users.

Employees collaborating using a Post-it® Flex Write Surface

Have you ever accidentally written on a dry erase board…and then realized you used a permanent marker?

Or maybe you’ve been annoyed by faded marks on whiteboards and dry erase painted walls that seem impossible to remove? 

Perhaps you have a spot you’d love to have a whiteboard, but the location just doesn’t make sense for a rigid heavy board?

These common frustrations of office workers and facility managers were the inspiration behind the Post-it® Flex Write Surface. It takes whiteboards into new places by easily transforming existing walls, chalkboards and rooms into a space for collaborating and creating. Better yet, Post-it® Flex Write Surface is compatible with both dry erase and permanent markers, so there’s more flexibility to use the markers you want to generate ideas and capture thoughts.  And let’s not forget those facilities teams responsible for keeping whiteboards and dry erase walls clean.  With Post-it® Flex Write Surface, the only “chemical” needed to clean the surface is water.

Building on innovation

3M launched dry erase boards featuring stylish contemporary designs in 2008. Immediately following that launch, product developers at 3M began exploring and developing 3M technologies that could help differentiate and improve upon the classic porcelain and melamine whiteboard. The result? In 2014 the Post-it® Dry Erase Surface was developed. It’s unique stick-and-peel backing offered more flexibility for installation and shipping, and delivered a non-ghosting writing surface compared to the whiteboards of yesteryear. 

Children at school doing lessons using Post-it® Flex Write Surface

Fast forward to 2020 and the launch of the Post-it® Flex Write Surface. 3M has continued to build on established technology to improve the whiteboard experience and meet its customers’ wants. “The idea behind Post-it® Flex Write Surface was to create a film that would be very easy to keep clean, with only water needed. This eliminates the fear of writing with permanent marker because the technology allows even permanent marker to be removed with water. Being able to write on the Flex Write Surface with permanent and dry erase markers together lets people use a whiteboard in ways they haven’t been able to before,” says Erika Saffer, technical supervisor on the project.  

Dictating the need

It was obvious that consumers were looking for more from their whiteboards and dry erase painted walls. Consumer insights revealed the desire for a non-ghosting dry erase surface that was easy to install and clean. In addition, customers helped 3M realize that whiteboard surfaces could be used in new ways if they were compatible with both dry erase and permanent markers. These insights led to the evolution of the Post-it® Flex Write Surface, which builds on technology used in the Post-it® Dry Erase Surface. 

As open-concept office environments tailored for collaboration became more popular, 3M recognized that businesses needed more flexibility to collect and share ideas. Research discovered general dissatisfaction with dry erase paint, which is used to turn full walls into writing surface, because they are hard to erase and clean over time.  The Post-it® Flex Write Surface is a solution that helps create easy-to-clean, collaborative writing surfaces.  

The key innovations in the Flex Write Surface are its compatibility with permanent markers and the ability to clean it using only water, eliminating the need for chemical-based products. “A lot of time was spent creating demos that illustrated the features to customers and users. It took a large effort to gather enough public feedback to decide that the technology behind the Post-it® Flex Write Surface was worth pursuing,” says Mitch Johnson, senior process development specialist at 3M. 

Adapting technology for new purposes

To develop a whiteboard that was permanent marker friendly and easily cleaned with water required using old technology in new ways. The Flex Write Surface works because of its hydrophilic, or “water-loving” writing surface. The surface accepts ink as usual but, because it loves water so much, easily lets go of the ink when water is added. 

The super hydrophilic technology that creates the Post-it® Flex Write Surface has been used in fingerprint technology for electronics and in some cleaning solutions but had never been used on a whiteboard surface. The adhesive that allows for easy installation of the Post-it® Flex Write Surface is a new formulation of the repositionable adhesive used in Post-it® Notes. “The successful launch of this product is a great example of the 3M collaboration culture and a testament to how 3M’s technical teams continue pushing the boundaries and creating new and unique solutions to improve people’s lives,” says Junia Pereira, commercialization leader on the project. Even though the Post-it® Flex Write Surface differentiates itself within the whiteboard dry erase paint market, it couldn’t have been developed without the foundational innovations of other 3M products and technologies.

Creating value

Prototypes of the Post-it® Flex Write Surface were shared both internally to 3M employees and with external customers, including facilities managers, architects and designers. People loved being able to use permanent and dry-erase markers together and were excited by the durable construction and options for cleaning. “My first exposure to customer interest was through presenting at the 3M New Product Expo. The user reactions were phenomenal,” says Amy Hester, Product Engineer on the project.

The Post-it® Flex Write Surface allows office workers to collaborate, create and document ideas in new ways and is a testament to how 3M’s product development teams continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. 

You may also be interested in:

science of return: man in safety gear painting white stripes



3M Research Scientist Jonathan Hester at work in the lab



Lady walking down street in thinsulate coat