Pop, Pop! A Brief History of Bubble Wrap – A Favorite of Kids Everywhere

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Among the most entertaining of packing supplies used all over the world, bubble wrap serves as efficient packing material (and wondrous fun) for both children and children-at-heart. But how did this miracle material get its beginning? What prompted its inventors to produce it? To answer these questions and more, one must delve into the history books.

What About Wallpaper?

It was back in 1957 that two engineers named Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding accidentally invented the packing material that we now know as bubble wrap. Originally setting out to create plastic wallpaper that would be textured, Chavannes and Fielding tried to fuse two shower curtains together to come up with this new type of material. While this textured plastic didn't end up having much success as a wallpaper on the market, it was soon remarketed as greenhouse insulation, as the air bubbles caught between the two layers of plastic served as a protective barrier. Unfortunately, bubble wrap was also unsuccessful as insulation, since it didn't have the properties that would make it a useful material for the purpose. It was only after the unfortunate failure of these ventures that bubble wrap's future purpose began to unfold.

Material for Protective Packing

It wasn't until late 1959 when IBM began to use bubble wrap as a material to protectively pack things that this plastic began to sow its future legacy in the packing business. It was Frederick W. Bowers, an employee at Sealed Air, who came up with the idea that the material created by Chavannes and Fielding a few years earlier would be the ideal material in which to pack the 1401 variable word length computer that was being produced by IBM. After Bowers shared the idea and the capabilities of this new material with IBM, the company started to purchase this material to take care of the 1401 computer and many other computer products that required this new shipping material. In 1993, IBM's use of bubble wrap and its success as a packing material prompted the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame to induct Fielding and Chavannes as members, in recognition of their positive impact on the industry of packing and shipping.

Bubble Wrap Today

To this day, more than $400 million worth of bubble wrap is sold every year. As one of the premier materials still used for packing and shipping today that can keep fragile items safe and protected, bubble wrap has maintained its prominence and popularity in the world of shipping and supplies. Whether it's something you've used in the past to protect your fragile materials while moving or you loved to play with it as a child, bubble wrap is a material that has had an impact on nearly everyone's life, whether or not they know it! While bubble wrap is something that the kids enjoy popping, it's unlikely that most people are aware of the history behind this textured plastic. From its unsuccessful beginning as a textured wallpaper to its modern packing supply success, bubble wrap is a testament to the power of new ideas!

1 comment:

  1. i always save the bubble wrap too from the packaging materials, because i could always use them :)