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History & development of the Glue Gun
From the outset of the research it soon became apparent that it was going to be difficult to trace the origins of the Glue Gun back to a single person who could be proven to have invented the Glue Gun as we know today.
Indeed, even getting back to the origins of thermoplastic adhesives proved interesting. This may well be because developments were taking place all over the world at the same time, and those that are referenced in literature are probably from the more developed countries.
There are multiple mentions on the internet that Paul Cope invented thermoplastic adhesives in the 1940’s when he was working for Proctor and Gamble, as the water-based adhesives were failing in humid climates. However, thermoplastic adhesives are referred to in literature and patents much earlier than that – indeed as far back as 1907
A Glue Gun is the method commonly used to apply thermoplastic adhesives. The thermoplastic adhesive, usually in stick form, is fed into the gun from the back and then melted. In the molten form it is then passed through the barrel and onto the required area, where it solidifies and sets, forming a secure bond.
In the late 1940s, Boston native George Schultz saw the burned and bandaged fingers of workers at a Haverhill shoe factory. Mr. Schultz watched the shoemakers burn themselves while dipping hot glue from a pot. He invented the industrial glue gun, known as the Polygun, and founded Industrial Shoe Machinery in Boston in 1954. He sold the company to 3M in 1973. It is widely believed Mr Schultz was the inventor of what we now commonly term a glue stick glue gun. Although no early patents were found to substantiate the claim.
Carl Weller “probably the inventor of the glue stick glue gun”.
(Fig 1) Carl Weller (Cooper Industries) is described by many as being the “inventor of the glue stick glue gun”. Patent number: 3744921, Filing date: May 7, 1971 for an Apparatus for Dispensing Thermoplastic Material. Abstract from the patent “All electrically heated glue gun having an elongated tubular melt chamber for receiving a sold adhesive rod”.
The Nordson AD-25 glue gun was seen on market in 1973
(Fig 2) The Nordson AD-25 glue gun was seen on market in 1973, a very industrial looking tool that accepted glue slugs. Described by Nordson “The AD-25 portable hot melt adhesive gun is a self-contained melting /feeding unit designed to increase productivity and reduce high assembly costs”. Although a very impressive tool it never really seemed to make much headway within the glue gun markets. Probably a tool before it’s time…
By the mid 70’s the glue gun revolution was in full flight.
(Fig 3) Many patents where being filed for advancements within the glue gun design. Above we have a design by Herbert C Dickey (Ornsteen Chemicals) Patent number: 3877610, Filing date: Feb 1, 1974, Issue date: 1975 which is believed to be the second air assisted 43mm industrial tool.
First 43mm glue gun (Ornsteen).
(Fig 4) Robert L Ornsteen (Ornsteen Corporation) invented the second industrial 43mm glue applicator, Patent number: 4033484 Filing date: Jan 29, 1976, Issue date: Jul 5, 1977. This design was the forerunner of the current Tec 3200, although the tool has seen numerous design changes.
Power Adhesives Tec 2000.
Power Adhesives Tec 2001.
The second Tec 2000 model (Fig 5) rolled out around 1978, with the upgraded Tec 2001 (Fig 6) was soon to follow. The Tec 3010 was available during the 1980’s, a very popular and robust tool.
The Tec 2000 (Fig 5) had a “flick” stand-by switch. The upgraded Tec 2001 (Fig 6) had an Auto-Standby which is still present in today’s Tec 3200 model.
However, back in 1949 a Plastic Extrusion Gun was created by William R Myers and Albert S Tennant (Fig 7). The main difference between this gun and that patented by George Schultz is that the Myers / Tennant Gun used plastic rather than thermoplastic adhesive.
1949 Plastic Extrusion Gun by William R Myers and Albert S Tennant.
This gun was created for the manufacture of fishing flies, as the plastic was melted and extruded onto fishing hooks, and used ribbons of plastic as opposed to sticks of thermoplastic adhesive. Regardless of these differences, many of the parts and components of the modern hot glue gun can be found in this Plastic Extrusion Gun, and indeed many patents refer to the Myers / Tennant Plastic Extrusion Gun.
Still pre-dating Carl Weller’s patent of 1971, in 1965 a patent was granted to Hans C Paulsen for a Portable Thermoplastic Cement Dispenser (Fig 8).
Hans C Paulsen, 1965 Portable Thermoplastic Cement Dispenser.
As you can see, it really depends on what we are classing as a “glue gun” as to when we say it was originally invented. The modern day glue gun has many features and improvements which are not present in many of these early models, so at what point in time and in the development of what we now class as a glue gun, can we say that it has been influenced by these early applicators. It certainly cannot be denied that they have all influenced certain aspects, not least the concept of a device for applying an adhesive.
Plastitherm PG 751 Glue Gun, second glue gun sold by the Kenyon Group (Gluegunsdirect.com) in 1979.
The second glue gun sold by the Kenyon Group (Gluegunsdirect.com) was in 1979 (Fig 9). The Plastitherm PG751 which accepted a glue slug which had a sleeve around the adhesive which acted as a seal within the tool. This glue gun was developed by Tivoli Kay who were based in Bury, Lancashire. Tivoli Kay range of glue guns included the: Minimatic, Hipermatic and Supermatic models which where commercial sold in the UK from around 1973.
It’s hard to remember what we did in the time BEFORE GLUE GUNS…
Hipermatic TE glue gun from 1974. Power Adhesives and the Tec range of glue guns was started in 1974 and the Hipermatic TE. (Fig 10) was the second industrial 43mm all-electric glue gun available on the market, previously glue guns accepting shaped hot melt adhesives commercially sold where targeted at the DIY markets. The Hipermatic TE really started the modern day industrial glue gun revolution. The main focus markets at time where the shoe manufacturing industry and packaging, carton sealing, tray erecting and a basic range of glue formulations where available covering off these markets.
Three decades of glue guns
There are currently many different Tec glue guns available, ranging from the small hand-held hobby craft type glue gun, those used within schools and therefore often using Low Melt Glue, right up to the heavy duty glue guns and those developed for industrial use. Both corded and cordless guns are now available, meaning that the gun can be taken to the point of application, rather than having to take everything to the gun itself. All of these developments and improvements have made the Glue Gun a truly versatile piece of equipment, which has etched itself in history and made it invaluable to all those who use it.
Whilst the guns themselves have evolved over time, so have the glues that are used in them. The Tecbond glue sticks now come in various different forms, from sticks to slugs to CT Cartridges (used for example with “soft” peelable adhesives). Even in each of these forms there are many variations, particularly with the glue sticks. These come in different sizes (12mm or 15mm), in many different grades for varying applications (different set time, viscosity, formation temperature, and tack). In addition to this, there are numerous different colours ranging from clear to glitter glue sticks. In addition to this, there is the ability to have both hot melt glue sticks and low melt glue sticks. The Tec glue guns and Tecbond adhesives have even evolved to allow sprayable hot melt adhesives with open times of up to 6 minutes.
Current Tec Glue Guns, including the Tec 7100 which is probably the World’s most powerful hand held glue gun, powered by twin 500 watt heaters.
While researching the history of glue guns we found many articles on the internet with interesting information and fantastic pictures of early glue guns, which we have used in our article.
Posted in: Glue Gun Service
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