Abrasives Products & Manufacturing


Abrasives: The Sandpaper Story

3M began manufacturing a single product, abrasive sandpaper, in 1905 at a plant in Duluth. Sandpaper was still the only product when the company relocated to Saint Paul in 1910. The first important markets for 3M abrasive sandpaper were furniture and woodworking plants and then the automotive industry. William L. McKnight, the first sales manager, his successor Archibald G. Bush, and other salesmen visited workers in the plants and factories to see how sandpaper performed and how it could be improved. Problems with sandpaper quality led 3M to establish its first research lab and quality control program in 1914.

Roofing Granules

Roofing granules were developed in 1932. They are made of crushed rock and coated with ceramics in various durable colors, which can be embedded in asphalt to form shingles or other roofing materials. By 1947, 3M was producing enough roofing granules to cover 1,200,000 houses.

Non-Slip Surfacing

3M introduced “Saftey-Walk” waterproof non-slip surfacing materials in 1940. They helped improve safety on floors, staircases, ramps, and sidewalks, especially those with metal surfaces.


Abrasives Manufacturing

3M manufactured sandpaper, “Three-M-ite” abrasive cloth, and "Three-M-ite Wetordry" sandpaper in its first two buildings in Saint Paul. In 1955, 3M's Maker No. 6 was located in Building 47, which became the world's largest abrasives manufacturing plant.
"The new Maker represents the combined technical skills of 3M’s engineering, research and production staffs and is constructed to produce ‘the coated abrasives of tomorrow’.” — 3M Megaphone, February 1955


Promoting Sandpaper

Most 3M sandpaper and abrasives were made for commercial and industrial uses. However, the company began to market directly to consumers as early as 1921. Sandpaper and other abrasives accounted for almost all 3M product sales in 1925. By 1949, abrasives were only one-fifth of total 3M sales as the company expanded into other products. Nonetheless, sandpaper was actively promoted for household uses.



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