Bubblewrap is probably the most iconic material in the history of packaging. But how did this staple of packaging services come to be?
Like so many great moments in product design, bubble wrap was actually a mistake. In 1957, two engineers, Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, sealed two shower curtains together so that air bubbles were trapped between the two curtains. According to the legend, they were trying to produce a new kind of wallpaper. While that seems a bit far-fetched – imagine inflatable wall paper that shrivelled every time the air pressure rose or the temperature fell – they stuck to their guns. In fact, it would take three years of failed attempts to sell the material, first as wallpaper and then as greenhouse insulation, before Fielding and Chavannes realized its true value.
When they did get it together, however, the business took off. The first customer of the Sealed Air Corporation, the company the pair founded together, was IBM. Their product, officially branded as “Bubble Wrap,” was used to protect the IBM 1401 computer during transport.
The rest is history, but here are a few more fun facts about everyone’s favorite packaging material:
Fielding and Chavannes were inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame in 1996
Sealed Air Corporation has official “Stress Relief Stations” where employees can pop bubblewrap
There are over 250 Facebook pages dedicated to bubblewrap
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