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Unusual surfaces have met their match with Post-it® Extreme Notes

September 13, 2019

One Minnesota craft brewery is putting Post-it® Extreme Notes to the test.

Brewery worker at Liftbridge brewery

Some days Randy Ust begins his workday before the sun comes up.

Despite the hours, Randy likes the excitement that comes with working at Lift Bridge Brewing Company. Every day is different, and the hands-on nature of his work makes the early shifts worth it. “The product you produce is beer; how exciting is that?”

Whether it’s 5 a.m. or 7 a.m. the moment he walks into the taproom, it’s likely he will be picking up where someone else left off. “There’s a constant need to communicate what needs to be done,” says the cellar manager and brewer. “Everything from dumping a tank to dry-hopping or harvesting a yeast, to what needs to be cleaned and more.”

Working in this unique environment comes with challenges. The brewery is in Stillwater, Minnesota – a state known for its booming craft beer industry – but also known for its bitter winters. Walk through the brewery on a brisk spring day, and the temperature inside fluctuates from hot to cold. The aroma from the hops will fill your nostrils as the brewing gets underway, and when the crew begins canning the beer, it’s likely to get a little wet. There is a lot of movement, lifting things and multitasking because this is not your typical 9-to-5 desk job.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48 percent of people work in jobs outside of the typical office. These industries include construction, manufacturing, restaurants and more. For Randy and the rest of the staff at Lift Bridge, communication is crucial. “I make notes on our cellar sheets, we label our kegs or pallets of beer so we know where they are going, and our taproom staff labels the beer flights so our customers know what they are drinking,” he says.

Taking on the communication challenge

Just like the invention of the original Post-it® Note, a collaborative effort between multiple scientists at 3M helped create the solution to this communication challenge.

Brewery workers looking at computer

Willem Bastiaens, a 3M lab manager, knows a thing or two about taking notes outside of the office. He spends his days working around office supplies and his free time working on his alpaca and horse ranch. “It’s difficult to communicate with your staff when you can’t stick notes on the surfaces in the barn.”

Willem enlisted Margaux Mitera, a technical team lead for the 3M Stationery and Office Supplies division. “We were challenged to come up with a new Post-it® Product that could solve a customer need that wasn’t met with the current portfolio of products,” says Margaux.

Meanwhile, in a lab not too far away, a pair of 3M product development engineers were working to develop a new 3M trade secret coating process and to identify materials to produce new notes for new applications. That process would later evolve into a technology used to solve the issue of communicating in extraordinary environments. Intaek Lee began his career at 3M working side-by-side with corporate scientist Ying-Yuh Lu – the man behind the adhesive used in Post-it® Greener Notes.

Post it under a microscope

Ying-Yuh had been working on developing this coating technology with other colleagues for several years. “We started with the process development and then developed the technology to solve consumer issues,” Intaek explains.

“Ying-Yuh was a great mentor, and I was like a sponge absorbing all this knowledge.” Intaek spent half of his time working on the coating process and the other half working on developing a new adhesive – one that was strong enough to stick to hard-to-stick surfaces and still remove cleanly. “Because of the collaborative nature at 3M, we came up with a new adhesive in less than two years.”

Dan Tipping didn’t have plans to go into product development when he came to 3M. Nonetheless, the one-time product engineer gravitated toward this project because of his curiosity with solving a customer need. He also had experience working with the manufacturing plants, which the team needed to leverage to create a whole new product. “The team just kind of clicked. We did do a lot of things quickly, because we all wanted to get in on developing this technology and get together to develop a new solution.”

Post It Extreme Notes beer flight

Developing an extreme solution

Developing a new product takes time and effort. Developing a whole new technology – and finding a way to use it to address a need – takes a village. Margaux and her team set out to create new notes for new places for new uses. They knew they needed an extreme solution. They began by bringing together different people – a rock-climbing guide, a chef, a construction worker – and asked them about their communication challenges. They developed prototypes and let consumers interact with them and provide feedback. “It was really great to see the spark and the excitement behind these new Post-it Note concepts with people that we wouldn’t have normally talked to with our conventional Post-it Notes,” says Margaux.

post it notes sticking to cling wrap

The team ultimately landed on Post-it® Extreme Notes – designed to facilitate effective communication in the toughest of conditions. Tougher paper and adhesive means the notes can stick on rough, textured or curved surfaces, like the outside of a keg, and still withstand tough weather conditions both indoors and outdoors. And Randy’s team loves that the notes are water resistant, so even if they spill some beer, they can rest assured that the ink won’t smear.

Margaux and the team love to talk about one of the tests along the development process, which showed that the notes can adhere to surfaces such as wood, concrete, brick, glass, stone and stainless steel. They created panels with 22 different surfaces to see how the notes would withstand nature’s elements. They put these panels in Arizona and Florida in the middle of summer, and had them at 3M in Minnesota during the winter for several months. These notes stayed stuck on all the different surfaces. “It’s so exciting when you know that you’re enabling people to solve a need that they couldn’t before,” says Margaux. “That’s the best part of the job.”

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