The N95 mask has been the most in-demand mask across the world. It is because of the ability of the N95 mask to filter particles and bacteria. The most trusted brand for N95 masks is 3M. The company manufactures some of the widely used medical products like medical tapes, medical-grade face shields, and other medical-surgical supplies. 3M is based in Minnesota and has US$250 Million yearly sales. Despite having millions of dollars in sales, 3M has a rich history.
The roots of 3M
It was in the year 1902 when the five founders only wanted to mine corundum; a substance used for sandpaper making and grinding wheels. Instead of corundum, the five founders discovered anorthosite, a low-grade mineral. But that did not stop the five founders from building the company.
Initially, 3M was an industrial company mostly associated with mining. In 1905, the company moved from Two Harbors to Duluth, Minnesota. This was to make sandpaper with abrasive materials. From that point, the company’s building was built – a two-story building sandpaper plant.
1910 when 3M moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. A plant was established in St. Paul, thanks to their major investor Lucius Ordway who helped the company in building their first plant – the first step to expansion.
Who are the five founders?
3M was founded by the five founders. These five founders began their story in 1902, building Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. These men were Dr. J. Danley Budd, Henry S. Bryan, Wiliam A. McGonagle, John Dwan, and Hermon W. Cable. Without these people, 3M would not make it out there.
3M in the Medical Industry
In the 1970s it is when 3M began creating N95 masks. But their N95 mask was only intended for industrial use. Therefore, mining companies were the first to use the N95 mask. 3M’s N95 mask was primarily intended as dust protection.
It was in the 90s when 3M began to manufacture medically-grade N95 masks. This was after Peter Tsai invented the N95 mask with virus blocking technology. Through the observation of the United States Centers for Disease Control, the medically-grade N95 mask was born. 3M’s N95 mask design and Tsai’s innovation and material were merged. This is now the N95 mask that medical professionals enjoy.
How did 3M revolutionize the N95 mask?
Peter Tsai was largely credited for the invention of the N95 mask. But it was 3M that made the N95 mask known to the world. It was through 3M’s efforts that the N95 mask was enjoyed across the globe.
Several models of the N95 mask have been on the market. Two of the most common are the unvalved N95 mask and the valved N95 mask. The most common variant of the N95 mask that is used in hospitals is the unvalved N95 mask. This is because the unvalved N95 mask is a closed type mask. Meaning, once the N95 mask is donned, there are only a few percentages for leakage to happen. Valved N95 masks came into the scene. The valve aids the wearer of the N95 mask in their breathing. The exhalation valve lessens the struggle of exhaling, making it easy to breathe. Air flows freely from in and out of the N95 mask without accumulating humidity on the inside. The valve is made of medical-grade plastic and is a one-way valve that aids breathing.
The revolution of the N95 mask even expanded when 3M began to create other variants of the N95 mask. There are N95 masks suited for other professions. This makes the N95 mask known to fields like Construction, Engineering, and Mining.
3M and the Pandemic
3M is the largest N95 mask supplier in the United States and the world. However, the company itself expressed a scarcity for the N95 mask. This is asserted for a number of reasons.
- The mask’s overwhelming demand.
The N95 mask is considered the most effective mask to be utilized in this time of need. However, due to the overwhelming demand for N95 masks, the mask experienced scarcity. Hospitals and Medical supply chains are now running short of the supply of the N95 mask. In addition, hospitals in the United States did not worry about their stockpile; not until the cases were about 8,000.
Due to the scarcity, hospitals were forced to reuse their N95 mask. Reusing the N95 mask can endanger the lives of the hospital workers. Without an ample supply of the N95 mask, more workers are getting infected with the virus.
- The Defense Production Act
The Defense Production Act did not allow 3M to export pieces of US-made N95 masks to countries in Latin America, including Canada in the north. The government required the company to prioritize the federal government.
The incident of looting worsened the scarcity. Several people were seized by authorities due to confirmed incidents of looting pieces of the N95 mask. These people have reportedly sold the N95 mask as much as five times its original price.
3M’s Legacy over the years
Over the years, 3M has been really successful in inculcating technology to the world. This led the world to innovate with them across time. Without 3M, N95 masks would not make it. The pandemic would have worsened in these times. Due to the efforts of 3M, millions of lives are saved. Millions of people were helped. Millions of people are still trusting the brand. These acts of safety, charity, and trust are all marks of 3M’s legacy.