George de Mestral created one of the most ingenious and practical inventions of the 20th century. This two-sided, lightweight, hook and loop fastener was originally made from cotton, in the 1950s. Later on in the manufacturing process, he found cotton was too expensive to mass-produce the product. After much trial and error, Mestral discovered that nylon was the best material to make his new invention called, Velcro, which could stick two things together.
The manufacturing process was difficult in the beginning because there was not a piece of machinery that could effectively mass-produce the product. Eventually, the shuttle loom would become the equipment to lead the manufacturing charge. The shuttle loom had a spindle-shaped apparatus that wove crosswise threads through lengthwise threads to create the cross-stitch needed for the fasteners.
In 1979, the needle loom, a more modern and efficient piece of manufacturing equipment, replaced the shuttle loom. The machine bonds non-woven webs by directing fibres through the webs. This process is also known as needle punching or needling. This manufacturing change was necessary to keep up with the demand for the product, especially since the original patent expired and other companies were beginning to make similar products.
Trademark Velcro and imitation products are seen on practically everything we use in a modern society. It is used on clothing, shoes, bags, coats and jackets, to name a few. It is used on medical devices, such as blood pressure cuffs and wheelchairs. NASA uses Velcro in space to keep items attached to solid surfaces so the effects of weightlessness do not prevail.
Hook and loop fasteners, made by Velcro, are pre-coated in the factory with special adhesives. Peel and stick varieties have a general purpose and are used in and around the home. Most are latex-free and come to the consumer ready to use. Peel-and-stick adhesive varieties are made for high and low temperature conditions and for indoor and outdoor use. Velcro brand heat and solvent-activated adhesives are often used for commercial purposes.
Today, the Velcro company has grown to make specialised products for virtually every industry, even the United States military. Velcro has designed military specified hook and loop fastener tapes for more than 30 years. Velcro also makes fire retardant hook and loop fasteners for blankets, seating and carpeting. Knit nylon loops and moulded hook fasteners have all been added to the family of Velcro products in the past 50 years.