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Hi. Welcome back to Thanks for the click today. We’re in Hutchinson, Minnesota, at the tape manufacturing headquarters of 3M. Why? Well the JATC , the NECA/IBEW team’s official training arm, has forged a new partnership with 3M to make sure that tomorrow’s electricians are as trained, and as safe as they need to be.

Ask any electrician about what brand of electrical tape is the best, in the cold of winter, or the sweltering heat of summer,  and the answer you’re likely to hear the word Scotch and a product number like 33 Plus or 88.

3M manufactures these Scotch Brand tapes, and found out this unprecedented level of brand-loyalty out through a series of focus groups – and rather than riding that wave now without a concern for the future, they realized they had to re-double their outreach efforts and return the favor to the industry.

3M’s plan begins with a new sponsorship with the NJATC – becoming a new platinum level training partner – with the best electrical training organization in the country.

Marty Riesberg –  Director of Curriculum Development

“We see a huge value in the training partners in that nobody knows their product better than they know them. We know a way to use a product, but we want to make sure we represent the manufacturer’s product in the best possible light.”

This means that coast-to-coast, in the NECA/IBEW team’s 285 local training centers, nearly 40,000 union electrical apprentices are using 3M products, while getting the best hands-on learning and instruction in the world.

Marty Riesberg –  Director of Curriculum Development

“If an apprentice learns with 33, then chances are when they’re making the purchasing decisions, they’re going to purchase the 33 on their jobs. So the training partners see a lot of the value in working with us to that end. And we get the value, the educational value, in showing the applications of that particular product.”

Jeremiah Blair – Global Product Manager, Electrical Tapes, Electrical Products Division, 3M

“We’ve been thinking about ways to help educate the future generation of electricians for some time. This is such a natural opportunity for us because there’s no other place you can go to get that sort of initial introduction to the next generation of electricians.”

“3M has the opportunity to do some training with the electricians, teach them classes. We’re going to be providing a lot of materials, whether that’s electrical tape, or wire connectors, medium-voltage splices and terminations, all different types of products to really give the students a chance to learn with ands-on applications or learning opportunities.”

Those massive, colorful rolls you see behind Mr. Blair are ‘jumbos’ of vinyl film, ready to be coated with adhesive and then wound and slit into smaller rolls and shipped out to customers, including the NECA/IBEW team’s training centers… and we’re here today to see how it’s made.

Jeremiah Blair – Electrical Tapes Global Product Manager, Electrical Products Division, 3M

“I think people see a roll of black electrical tape or colored electrical tape and they just say, ‘Oh, it’s a roll of tape.’ But there’s a lot of science that goes into it, and a lot of technology that 3M’s been building over 65 years in order to make the tape that the electricians prefer.”

“And so to have the chance and the ability to show people what goes into the process, and why it’s special, why it’s different, is an opportunity that we really wanted to put out there.”

This Electric TV version of ‘How It’s Made’ begins here, in the mill, where the adhesive is manufactured.

An elevated mixer heats up different rubber compounds to a specified temperature, once reached it drops the rubber onto the mill. The operator cuts the rubber compound into pieces called ‘pigs’ which get transported here – the second step in the adhesive manufacturing process.

A highly-secretive and proprietary process prohibited our cameras from filming this step, but essentially the ‘pigs’ are mixed with other ingredients which make up 3M’s adhesive recipe.

The liquid adhesive is then pumped into a storage tank and held for application on the vinyl tape backing.

Mary Carlson – Electrical Markets Division, Manufacturing Director, 3M

“I think there are some pretty precarious projects out in the field, out in the weather, the elements. I think having a quality tape that you can depend on, and not have to worry about, or you get onto that project in a precarious position and you have to go down and get another roll of tape, I think that would be the worst.”

The second step, the production of the tape film backing, begins as raw materials are mixed, extruded, heated and fed through a die, creating a long singular vinyl rope.

The hot vinyl is fed down into a series of calendar rolls, which heat and flatten into a thin sheet of vinyl which will become the tape backing.  It’s cooled over a second set of rolls and wound onto ‘jumbos’ which will be transported to the third stage of the manufacturing process, coating.

The jumbo from the prior step is moved to an adhesive coater and unwound, the thin vinyl backing material is then coated with a primer.  The adhesive material made earlier is pumped from its storage tank and coated on the same side as the primer.  It then goes into a long oven to cure – and once baked, wound back onto a second ‘jumbo’.  This is now manufactured tape.

The jumbo’s are then transported here for storage, and as you can see, black isn’t the only color.

Mary Carlson – Electrical Markets Division, Manufacturing Director, 3M

“Over the many years that we’ve made the tape, one of the things we’ve learned is the importance of the application for safety, for performance, and or the applicant, the electrician using it. Those different criteria are what we continue to build into the tape and we test for it. We try to do everything we can to make sure that each roll that goes out there is going to meet the specifications that, really, the customers have written for us.”

Before it’s packaged, the quality testing process includes a stretch test called a ‘tensile test’

After it passes, an electrical charge test called ‘dialectric testing’ is done.

And last but not least – they need to ensure that it sticks to their high specifications – in a cold room to mimic the harsh conditions the tape will be called on out in the field.

The tested and approved tape is then sent for spitting and packaging, which begins by winding it from the large rolls, onto smaller cores, to a specified length and transported to the slitter.

These long and thin tape tubes, are then mechanically cut, quality control checked, loaded into plastic cases, with individual labels, and boxed for delivery.

From start to finish, there are so many things to like about this story and 3M as a company, not the least of which is their professional electrical tape. But also their commitment made-in-American values, quality craftsmanship, all things that are in line with the NECA/IBEW team.

Thanks for tuning in to See you again next time.