Stick around – Inventors Digest


On the 80th anniversary of its original idea, Velcro still has the power

When the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral noticed smudges stuck on his dog’s coat, he came up with a practical application for a similar concept.


If you’ve witnessed the Mad Cuckoo’s self-propelled flight on “Late Night With David Letterman” on February 28, 1984, the picture won’t drop.

Letterman started the segment attached a few feet high against a flat wall filled with the ubiquitous hook-and-loop fastening product known as Velcro®. His space suit-like outfit, covered with extra-strong velcro, held him in place.

That was not all.

He was helped off the wall and got a brief demonstration from a Velcro representative regarding the many uses of the product. Letterman also grabbed a Velcro basketball. With his chest.

The final demonstration became one of the iconic moments in the history of the show. A small trampoline was placed in front of the large Velcro wall.

Letterman got off to a good start, hopped on the trampoline, soared into the air towards the wall and leaned face down on him, hands outstretched above his head, as the audience roared.

Walk an idea

This unforgettable demonstration of the holding power of Velcro (a YouTube classic) was far from a man walking in the woods with his dog.

This is what George de Mestral, a Swiss electrical engineer, did on a ski trip when he devised his invention in 1941. Technically, the burrs that stuck to his dog’s coat were an invention of nature. ; de Mestral wondered if he could adapt it to develop a practical use.

He examined a burr under a microscope and observed that each was covered with hooks that hooked onto anything with a loop, such as fur, human hair, or clothing fibers.

After years of research into making some sort of synthetic burr, de Mestral came up with the idea for two strips of fabric: one with thousands of small hooks, another with thousands of small loops that would attach to the hooks. Its name, Velcro, is a combination of the words “velor” and “crochet”.

De Mestral obtained a Swiss and American patent in 1955 and opened a Velcro USA factory in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1957. It is still there.

A beep what?

One of the most visible uses for its product came in the early 1960s, when NASA astronauts used it to keep packages of food, equipment and other items from blowing off. But de Mestral’s larger plan to see Velcro become a mainstay of the garment – a “zipper without a zipper” – has failed in more ways than one.

Jack K. Mates, president of Velcro USA, told the Washington post: “We had girls’ petticoats and bras that opened.

Detractors saw the Velcro as ugly. Some said it didn’t last long enough. Others have complained that it makes too loud a tearing noise when removed.

In fact, Velcro’s patent expired on April 2, 1978. Velcro USA took care of improving its product and raising its profile, evidenced by Letterman’s stroke.

The company received another bullet in the arm when the U.S. military added velcro to its uniforms in 2004, according to Time magazine, But it only lasted six years: The product’s little curls became clogged with dust in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the soldiers didn’t like the ripping sound they made in places where calm was rather essential.

Companies such as 3M Corp. and Japan-based YKK became competitors with similar hook-and-loop fasteners. These are not scams (sorry I couldn’t resist) because of the expired patent, but they cannot be called Velcro as this name is a registered trademark.

In 2017, the company launched a campaign to remind the public of its trademark rights, especially when competitor’s products are mistakenly referred to as Velcro. A group of lawyers singing in an original and creatively scandalous music video called “We ® the world ”pleaded,“ Don’t just say Velcro. You call it Velcro, but I beg you, it’s a hook and loop * beep *. “

Don’t jump in the air

Velcro remains a constant force in the medical (blood pressure cuffs, hospital gowns), children’s shoes (more laces) markets and has many uses in the home and in the car.

But back to the fun stuff.

Should Letterman be credited as the inventor of the Velcro jump? Shortly after his leap into the air, the practice spread to entertainment companies and bars around the world. Illustrated sports published an article about it in 1991.

We cannot endorse the Velcro jump, as a wall or wetsuit without sufficient Velcro closures could prove hazardous to your health. Or, according to Letterman’s most famous quote: “For god’s sake, folks, don’t try this at home.


Patent path

U.S. Patent No. 2,717,437, issued September 13, 1955 to George de Mestral, relates to a velvet-like fabric and a method of producing the same.

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