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The Evolution of the Glue Gun

The Evolution of the Glue Gun

Whether you're laying new flooring, working on your latest scrapbook, or installing drywall, have you ever wondered who came up with the amazing (but somewhat strange) tool that allows you to do what you love? Who thought up the idea of melting sticks of hardened plastic in a handheld, self-heating trigger chamber to glue things together? ... And more importantly, how did the glue gun evolve to include new and dynamic delivery systems that leverage pneumatic power, ergonomic efficiency, and ultra sensitive temperature controls that transform the glue gun from a tool to POWERtool?


Although rudimentary adhesives have been around for centuries, Proctor and Gamble employee Paul Cope created the first thermoplastic adhesive in 1940. His invention blew traditional water-based adhesives ... well ... out of the water by overcoming performance barriers when using adhesives in damp applications or humid climates.

These early heat-activated adhesives were melted in a pot before being poured or brushed onto their desired substrates. The process was messy, time consuming, and offered little by way of precision. Nevermind the burnt and blistered fingers. Thankfully, George Schultz thought of a better way to harness these adhesives' potential.

Schultz invented the Polygun, the world's first industrial glue gun, in 1954. Although the trigger system was simple and glue loading was bulky, the Polygun marked a profound innovation breakthrough in the adhesive industry. Not surprisingly, 3M purchased the rights to this technology in 1973 and began the march toward perfection that they are famous for today. Almost a half century later, 3M is still a leading name in the glue gun and adhesives market. 

Throughout the 70's, a wide variety of companies vied for control over the glue gun market. Iterative improvements brought more precise application tips, standby settings, and stick and slug differentiators. Interestingly enough, basic glue guns such as the 3M Scotch-Weld AE II Entry Level Glue Gun have not changed much over the years. Obviously, if it isn't broken - no need to fix it.


Although basic glue gun design hasn't needed to change much over the years, heavy-duty guns built with industrial applications in mind have adopted principles of manufacturing ergonomics to take this technology one step further.

Ergonomic science first came to the forefront during World War II to help improve production safety and efficiency on manufacturing lines, and became wildly popular in the 80's and 90's when large corporations such as John Deere and AT&T published case studies touting double-digit improvements to their bottom lines and employee production stats as a result of ergonomic and LEAN improvements.

It makes perfect sense that glue gun design enjoyed an influx of new, ergonomically conscientious improvements as a fast follow to this movement. The wave of innovation that followed led to major enhancements such as pneumatic applicators, sleek, scientifically balanced gun designs, as well as weight and grip accessories -- all culminating in remarkably high-performing tools such as the 3M Polygun PG II Pneumatic Glue Gun.

Whether you're using a simple, 1970's style point and glue applicator or one of 3M's most luxurious glue guns complete with all the bells and whistles, this tiny, every-day innovation is responsible for a world of creativity.