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Adhesive Education Series: History of Adhesives

The adhesives that we manufacture have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Glue, in various forms, has been used for thousands of years to bond objects together. From tree sap to beeswax, archeologists have discovered all different kinds of materials that have been used as adhesives. Even with their primitive beginnings, adhesives have evolved and have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Below is a brief history of adhesives:

  • The first known use of a substance being used as an adhesive dates back to 4000 B.C. Archeologists have found pottery and other clay vessels that were repaired with a sticky resin, thought to have been from tree sap.
  • Between 1500-1000 B.C., paintings and murals were created that showed gluing operations. Other findings, such as excavation of tombs in Egypt, show caskets and other burial items were bonded together with some form of adhesive, typically thought to have been some type of animal glue.
  • From 1-500 A.D. is when the Greeks and Romans began using different kinds of glue for bonding thin sections or layers of wood. It was during this time that the traditionally used animal glues were refined and combined with other substances such as egg whites, milk, cheese, grains and animal hides to increase bond strength and durability. Additionally, the Romans were the first to use beeswax as a sealant on their boats and ships.
  • Glue as a means of assembly gained use in the 1500’s, as woodworking and furniture making became a larger part of society.
  • In 1750, the first glue patent was issued in Britain for type of glue made out of fish. After this first patent was issued, many more were issued for adhesives made of natural rubber, animal bones, fish and casein.
  • During the 1920’s, glue manufacturing was a vital part of the Industrial Revolution. New materials were created that allowed for easier formulation of many adhesives. It was during this time that the first plastic polymer was synthesized into a cellulose nitrate, commonly used in billiard balls.
  • World War II caused the rapid growth of the synthetic adhesive industry. It was during this time that manufacturers started to take into consideration the flexibility, toughness, cure time and temperature/chemical resistance of the adhesives they would use on their assembly line.
  • Today, adhesives are being used for endless applications. Numerous manufacturing processes are using adhesives to replace stitching, stapling and fastening.

Adhesives have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. There are various types of adhesives available derived from both natural and synthetics sources. How can you keep up with all of this ever-changing technology? Stick with us to stay up to date on industry news and trends!

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