Velcro

August 04, 2022

It has been getting so hot over the last weeks that the plastic I put over the back door began to melt off.  Actually, it is not the plastic that is melting, it is the sticky glue on the back of the Velcro I used to seal the plastic to the door.  I was surprised as we had not had this problem before.  Then I realized we only put up our DIY porch greenhouse two winters ago, and last year we had taken the plastic off during the summer.  I had taken it off again this year, but Zena did not recognize the screen and went through the door, then the raccoon got into the bird seed.  Putting it back up solved the problem of both Zena and the racoon.  Now it is melting off the door during the day and I have been resealing it every night.  Melissa took Zena outside when we got up Sunday and the plastic had again fallen to the ground.  Zena saw a squirrel and took off, and since the plastic was not there as a deterrent, she went right through the screen again.  That meant it was time to buy new Velcro and redo the plastic over the bottom of the door.

When I looked online, I found Velcro was the creation of Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral, who had been inspired by a walk in the woods with his dog in 1941.  When they returned home de Mestral noticed the burrs attached to his pants and his dog’s fur.  When de Mestral examined the burrs under a microscope he saw the tips of the burr contained tiny hooks that attach themselves to fibers in clothing, like a hook-and-eye fastener.  The first challenge was finding a fabric he could use to create a strong bonding system.  He tried cotton but found it too soft and unable to stand repeated openings and closures.  After repeated testing, de Mestral learned synthetics worked best, and settled on heat-treated nylon.  To mass-produce his product, de Mestral needed to design a special loom that could weave the fibers in just the right size, shape, and density.  By 1955, de Mestral completed his improved version of the product.  Each square inch of material contained 300 hooks.  This was a density strong enough to stay fastened, yet easy enough to pull apart when needed.  De Mestral named his product “Velcro,” from the French words “velours” (velvet) and “crochet” (hook).  In 1955, he received a patent for Velcro from the Swiss government and began mass-producing Velcro in Europe and eventually expanding to Canada and the US.  Now if they could only develop a glue that did not melt in the summer heat.

While it took a while for Velcro to be accepted, it is now used everywhere from healthcare (blood pressure cuffs, orthopedic devices, and surgeons’ gowns) to clothing and footwear, sporting and camping equipment, toys and recreation, and more.  Velcro was used in the first human artificial heart transplant to hold parts of the device together.  Velcro has been used by the US military but has recently undergone modifications.  Velcro can be too noisy in a combat setting and tends to become less effective in dust-prone areas (deserts), causing it to be temporarily removed from military uniforms.  In 1984, on his late-night television show, comedian David Letterman wore a Velcro suit and had himself catapulted onto a Velcro wall.  His successful experiment launched the new trend of Velcro-wall jumping.  The game took off in New Zealand then moved to the US in 1991.  To no one’s surprise, this became a favorite bar game activity in the 1990’s.

𝗧HOUGHTS:  The process de Mestral used to develop Velcro by examining an aspect of nature and using its properties for practical applications has come to be known as “biomimicry.”  Biomimicry is about valuing nature for what we can learn, not what we can extract, harvest, or domesticate.  In the process we can learn about ourselves, our purpose, and our connection to each other and the earth.  Biomimicry has three elements at its core values and essence.  It learns from and emulates nature’s forms, processes, and ecosystems to create more regenerative designs.  It has the ethos of understanding how life works and creating designs that support and create conditions conducive to life.  Finally, as a concept it can (re)connect humans as part of nature to find our place in the Earth’s interconnected ecosystems.  This seems like affirmable ideals.  Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.

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