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Velcro

Velcro

Overview
Velcro is the brand name of the first commercially marketed fabric hook-and-loop fastener, invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955, subsequently refining and developing its practical manufacture until its commercial introduction in the late 1950s.

The word Velcro is a portmanteau of the two French words velour
Velour
Velour or velours is a plush, knitted fabric or textile. It is usually made from cotton but can also be made from synthetic materials such as polyester. Velour is used in a wide variety of applications, including clothing and upholstery....

s
("velvet"), and crochet
Crochet
Crochet is a process of creating fabric from yarn, thread, or other material strands using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the French word "crochet", meaning hook. Hooks can be made of materials such as metals, woods or plastic and are commercially manufactured as well as produced by...

("hook").

Hook-and-loop fasteners consist of two components: typically, two lineal fabric strips (or, alternatively, round "dots" or squares) which are attached (e.g., sewn, adhered, etc.) to the opposing surfaces to be fastened.
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Encyclopedia
Velcro is the brand name of the first commercially marketed fabric hook-and-loop fastener, invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955, subsequently refining and developing its practical manufacture until its commercial introduction in the late 1950s.

The word Velcro is a portmanteau of the two French words velour
Velour
Velour or velours is a plush, knitted fabric or textile. It is usually made from cotton but can also be made from synthetic materials such as polyester. Velour is used in a wide variety of applications, including clothing and upholstery....

s
("velvet"), and crochet
Crochet
Crochet is a process of creating fabric from yarn, thread, or other material strands using a crochet hook. The word is derived from the French word "crochet", meaning hook. Hooks can be made of materials such as metals, woods or plastic and are commercially manufactured as well as produced by...

("hook").

Hook-and-loop fasteners consist of two components: typically, two lineal fabric strips (or, alternatively, round "dots" or squares) which are attached (e.g., sewn, adhered, etc.) to the opposing surfaces to be fastened. The first component features tiny hooks; the second features even smaller and "hairier" loops. When the two faces are pressed together, the hooks catch in the loops and the two pieces fasten or bind temporarily. When separated, by pulling or peeling the two surfaces apart, the velcro strips make a distinctive "ripping" sound.

The first Velcro sample was made of cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, which proved impractical and was replaced by Nylon
Nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

 and polyester
Polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

. Velcro fasteners made of Teflon loops, polyester hooks, and glass backing are used in aerospace applications, e.g. on space shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

s.

Variations on the standard Velcro hook and loop fasteners include hooks on both faces, button
Button
In modern clothing and fashion design, a button is a small fastener, most commonly made of plastic, but also frequently of seashell, which secures two pieces of fabric together. In archaeology, a button can be a significant artifact. In the applied arts and in craft, a button can be an example of...

s, zipper
Zipper
A zipper is a commonly used device for temporarily joining two edges of fabric...

s, laces
Shoelaces
Shoelaces, which are also called shoe-strings, shoe laces, or boot laces, are a system commonly used to secure shoes, boots and other footwear. They typically consist of a pair of strings or cords, one for each shoe, finished off at both ends with stiff sections, known as aglets...

, and buckle
Buckle
The buckle or clasp is a device used for fastening two loose ends, with one end attached to it and the other held by a catch in a secure but adjustable manner. Usually overlooked and taken for granted, the invention of the buckle has been indispensable in securing two ends before the invention of...

s.

George de Mestral's patent expired in 1978, but the term Velcro is a registered trademark
Trademark
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or...

 in most countries. Generic terminology for these fasteners includes "hook and loop", "burr
Burr (fruit)
A bur is a seed or dry fruit in which the seeds bear hooks or teeth which attach themselves to fur or clothing of passing animals or people. The hooks or teeth can be irritants and very hard to get off of clothing, such as wool or cotton...

" and "touch" fasteners. However the Velcro brand is an example of a genericized trademark
Genericized trademark
A genericized trademark is a trademark or brand name that has become the colloquial or generic description for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, rather than as an indicator of source or affiliation as intended by the trademark's holder...

 as its brand name has become the generic term in many languages. The Velcro company headquarters is in Manchester, New Hampshire
Manchester, New Hampshire
Manchester is the largest city in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, the tenth largest city in New England, and the largest city in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It is in Hillsborough County along the banks of the Merrimack River, which...

, USA
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

History


The hook-and-loop fastener was invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer
Engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

, Georges de Mestral
Georges de Mestral
George de Mestral was an electrical engineer who invented Velcro.-Biography:He was born to Albert de Mestral, an agricultural engineer, and Marthe de Goumoëns in Colombier, near Lausanne, Switzerland. De Mestral designed a toy airplane at age twelve and patented it. He attended the École...

 who lived in Commugny, Switzerland.
The idea came to him one day after returning from a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

. He took a close look at the burrs
Burr (fruit)
A bur is a seed or dry fruit in which the seeds bear hooks or teeth which attach themselves to fur or clothing of passing animals or people. The hooks or teeth can be irritants and very hard to get off of clothing, such as wool or cotton...

 (seeds) of burdock
Burdock
Burdock is any of a group of biennial thistles in the genus Arctium, family Asteraceae. Native to the Old World, several species have been widely introduced worldwide....

 that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog's fur. He examined them under a microscope, and noted their hundreds of "hooks" that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair. He saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion, if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops.. This inspiration from nature or the copying of nature's mechanisms (called bionics
Bionics
Bionics is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology.The word bionic was coined by Jack E...

 or biomimesis) is viewed by some like Steven Vogel or Werner Nachtigall
Werner Nachtigall
Werner Nachtigall is a German zoologist and biologist.After graduating from high school in Augsburg, he studied at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in the fields of natural sciences biology, physics, chemistry and geography with a diploma in Technical Biology and Bionics...

 as a key example.

Originally people refused to take him, and the idea, seriously when he took his idea to Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

, which was then a center of weaving. He did manage to gain the help of one weaver, who made two cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 strips that worked. However the cotton wore out quickly, so de Mestral turned to synthetic fiber
Synthetic fiber
Synthetic fibers are the result of extensive research by scientists to improve on naturally occurring animal and plant fibers. In general, synthetic fibers are created by forcing, usually through extrusion, fiber forming materials through holes into the air, forming a thread...

s. He settled on nylon
Nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

 as being the best synthetic, which had several advantages. Nylon doesn’t break down, rot, or attract mold, and it could be produced in threads of various thickness. Nylon had only recently been invented, and through trial and error he eventually discovered that, when sewn under hot infrared light, nylon forms hooks that were perfect for the hook side of the fastener. Though he had figured out how to make the hooks, he had yet to figure out a way to mechanize the process, and to make the looped side. Next he found that nylon thread, when woven in loops and heat-treated, retains its shape and is resilient; however, the loops had to be cut in just the right spot so that they could be fastened and unfastened many times. On the verge of giving up, a new idea came to him. He bought a pair of shears and trimmed the tops off the loops, thus creating hooks that would match up perfectly with the loops in the pile.

Mechanizing the process of weaving the hooks took eight years, and it took another year to create the loom that trimmed the loops after weaving them. In all, it took ten years to create a mechanized process that worked. He submitted his idea for patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

 in Switzerland in 1951 and the patent was granted in 1955. Within a few years he obtained patents and began to open shops in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, Great Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. In 1957 he branched out to the textile center of Manchester, New Hampshire
Manchester, New Hampshire
Manchester is the largest city in the U.S. state of New Hampshire, the tenth largest city in New England, and the largest city in northern New England, an area comprising the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It is in Hillsborough County along the banks of the Merrimack River, which...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Columnist Sylvia Porter made the first mention of the product in her column Your Money's Worth of August 25, 1958, writing "It is with understandable enthusiasm that I give you today an exclusive report on this news: A 'zipperless zipper' has been invented — finally. The new fastening device is in many ways potentially more revolutionary than was the zipper a quarter century ago." A Montreal firm, Velek, Ltd., acquired the exclusive right to market the product in North and South America, as well as in Japan, with American Velcro, Inc. of New Hampshire, and Velcro Sales of New York, marketing the "zipperless zipper" in the United States.

De Mestral obtained patents in many countries right after inventing Velcro as he expected a high demand immediately. Partly due to its appearance, though, Velcro's integration into the textile industry took time. At the time, Velcro looked like it had been made from leftover bits of cheap fabric, and thus was not sewn into clothing or used widely when it debuted in the early 1960s. It was also viewed as impractical.
Velcro got its first break when it was used in the aerospace
Aerospace
Aerospace comprises the atmosphere of Earth and surrounding space. Typically the term is used to refer to the industry that researches, designs, manufactures, operates, and maintains vehicles moving through air and space...

 industry to help astronaut
Astronaut
An astronaut or cosmonaut is a person trained by a human spaceflight program to command, pilot, or serve as a crew member of a spacecraft....

s maneuver in and out of bulky space suit
Space suit
A space suit is a garment worn to keep an astronaut alive in the harsh environment of outer space. Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of loss of cabin pressure, and are necessary for extra-vehicular activity , work done outside spacecraft...

s. However, this reinforced the view among the populace that Velcro was something with very limited utilitarian uses. The next major use Velcro saw was with skiers, who saw the similarities between their costume and the astronauts, and thus saw the advantages of a suit that was easier to don and remove. Scuba
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

 and marine gear followed soon after. After seeing astronauts storing food pouches on walls, children's clothing makers came onboard. As Velcro only became widely used after NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's adoption of it, NASA is popularly — and improperly — credited with its invention.

Later improvements included strengthening the filament by adding polyester
Polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

.

In 1978 de Mestral's patent expired, prompting a flood of low-cost imitations from Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 onto the market. Today, the trademark is the subject of more than 300 trademark registrations in over 159 countries. George de Mestral was inducted into the national inventors hall of fame for his invention. He once offered some advice to Velcro executives:

"If any of your employees ask for a two-week holiday to go hunting, say yes."


The big breakthrough George de Mestral made was to think about hook-and-eye closure
Hook-and-eye closure
A hook-and-eye closure is a very simple and secure method of fastening garments together. It consists of a metal hook, commonly made of flattened wire bent to the required shape, and a eye of the same material into which the hook fits....

s on a greatly reduced scale. Hook and eye fasteners have been common for centuries, but what was new about Velcro was the scale of the hooks and eyes. Shrinking the hooks led to the two other important differences. Firstly, instead of a single-file line of hooks, Velcro has a two-dimensional surface. This was needed, because in decreasing the size of the hooks, the strength was also unavoidably lessened, thus requiring more hooks for the same strength. The other difference is that Velcro has indeterminate match-up between the hooks and eyes. With larger hook and eye fasteners, each hook has its own eye. On a scale as small as that of Velcro, matching up each of these hooks with the corresponding eye is impractical, thus leading to the indeterminate matching.

Genericized trademark


The Velcro brand is an example of a genericized trademark
Genericized trademark
A genericized trademark is a trademark or brand name that has become the colloquial or generic description for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, rather than as an indicator of source or affiliation as intended by the trademark's holder...

 — a brand name that has become the generic term for a type of product. The Velcro company has forbidden its employees to use the term "Velcro", in an effort to stop this. Instead the employees must use the generic terms "hook and loop fastener", "hook tape", or "loop tape". The company is very protective, and refer to their product as "the Velcro brand hook-and-loop fastener". The company publishes detailed trademark guidelines designed to preserve the strength of the Velcro brand.

Besides being used as a generic term for hook and loop fasteners, the word "Velcro" has also become a verb, as in "Velcroed", which means to be attached by Velcro. It has been used as such since approximately 1972.

Strength



Velcro is strong enough that a two inch square piece is enough to support a 175 pounds (79.4 kg) person. The strength of the bond depends on how well the hooks are embedded in the loops, how much surface area is in contact with the hooks, and the nature of the force
Force
In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, a change in direction, or a change in shape. In other words, a force is that which can cause an object with mass to change its velocity , i.e., to accelerate, or which can cause a flexible object to deform...

 pulling it apart. If Velcro is used to bond two rigid
Stiffness
Stiffness is the resistance of an elastic body to deformation by an applied force along a given degree of freedom when a set of loading points and boundary conditions are prescribed on the elastic body.-Calculations:...

 surface
Surface
In mathematics, specifically in topology, a surface is a two-dimensional topological manifold. The most familiar examples are those that arise as the boundaries of solid objects in ordinary three-dimensional Euclidean space R3 — for example, the surface of a ball...

s, e.g. auto body panels and frame, the bond is particularly strong because any force pulling the pieces apart is spread evenly across all hooks. Also, any force pushing the pieces together is disproportionally applied to engaging more hooks and loops. Vibration can cause rigid pieces to improve their bond. Full-body Velcro suits have been made that can hold a person to a suitably covered wall.

When one or both of the pieces is flexible, e.g. a pocket flap, the pieces can be pulled apart with a peeling action that applies the force to relatively few hooks at a time. If a flexible piece is pulled in a direction parallel
Parallel (geometry)
Parallelism is a term in geometry and in everyday life that refers to a property in Euclidean space of two or more lines or planes, or a combination of these. The assumed existence and properties of parallel lines are the basis of Euclid's parallel postulate. Two lines in a plane that do not...

 to the plane of the Velcro surface, then the force is spread evenly as it is with rigid pieces.

Three ways to maximize the strength of a bond between the two flexible pieces are:
  • increase the area of the bond, e.g. using larger pieces of Velcro
  • ensure that the force is applied parallel to the plane of the fastener surface, e.g. bending around a corner or pulley
    Pulley
    A pulley, also called a sheave or a drum, is a mechanism composed of a wheel on an axle or shaft that may have a groove between two flanges around its circumference. A rope, cable, belt, or chain usually runs over the wheel and inside the groove, if present...

    .
  • increase the number of hooks and loops per area unit.


Shoe closures can resist a large force with only a small amount of Velcro. This is because the strap is wrapped through a slot, halving the force on the bond by acting as a pulley system (thus gaining a mechanical advantage
Mechanical advantage
Mechanical advantage is a measure of the force amplification achieved by using a tool, mechanical device or machine system. Ideally, the device preserves the input power and simply trades off forces against movement to obtain a desired amplification in the output force...

), and further absorbing some of the force in friction around the tight bend. This layout also ensures that the force is parallel to the Velcro strips.

Advantages and disadvantages


In favor of Velcro, it is easy to use, safe, and maintenance free. There is only a minimal decline in effectiveness even after many fastening and unfastenings. The tearing noise it makes can also be useful against pickpockets
Pickpocketing
Pickpocketing is a form of larceny that involves the stealing of money or other valuables from the person of a victim without their noticing the theft at the time. It requires considerable dexterity and a knack for misdirection...

. Additionally, in the United States Air Force, where Velcro is used to attach patches to flight suits, aircrew have learned that they can remove small cloth pile balls that accumulate on the suits by using the hook side on the back of the patches like a brush to remove them.

Velcro has several deficiencies: it tends to accumulate hair, dust, and fur in its hooks after a few months of regular use. The loops can become elongated or broken after extended use. Velcro often becomes attached to articles of clothing, especially loosely woven
Woven
A woven is a cloth formed by weaving. It only stretches in the bias directions , unless the threads are elastic. Woven cloth usually frays at the edges, unless measures are taken to counter this, such as the use of pinking shears or hemming.Woven fabrics are worked on a loom and made of many...

 items like sweater
Sweater
A sweater, jumper, pullover, sweatshirt, jersey or guernsey is a garment intended to cover the torso and arms. It is often worn over a shirt, blouse, T-shirt, or other top, but may also be worn alone as a top...

s. Additionally, the clothing may be damaged when one attempts to remove the Velcro, even if they are separated slowly. The tearing noise made by unfastening Velcro makes it inappropriate for some applications. For example, a soldier hiding from the enemy would not want to alert the enemy to his or her position by opening a Velcro pocket. It also absorbs moisture and perspiration when worn next to the skin, which means it will smell if not washed.

Textiles can contain chemicals or compounds, e.g. dyes, that may be allergenic to sensitive populations. Velcro products have been tested according to the Oeko-tex certification standard which imposes limits on the chemical content of textiles to address the issue of human ecological safety.

Applications


Because it is easy to use, maintenance free and safe, the hook-and-loop fasteners have been used for just about every conceivable application where a temporary bond is required. It is especially popular in clothing where it replaces buttons or zippers, and as a shoe
Shoe
A shoe is an item of footwear intended to protect and comfort the human foot while doing various activities. Shoes are also used as an item of decoration. The design of shoes has varied enormously through time and from culture to culture, with appearance originally being tied to function...

 fastener for children who have not yet learned to tie shoelaces and for those who choose Velcro over laces. Velcro is used in adaptive clothing
Adaptive clothing
Adaptive clothing is clothing designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, and the infirm who may experience difficulty dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers, or due to a lack of a full range of motion required for self-dressing...

, which is clothing designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, and the infirm who may experience difficulty dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers. As Velcro is easier to manipulate, it makes a good replacement.

Velcro held together a human heart
Heart
The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

 during the first artificial heart
Artificial heart
An artificial heart is a mechanical device that replaces the heart. Artificial hearts are typically used in order to bridge the time to heart transplantation, or to permanently replace the heart in case transplantation is impossible...

 surgery
Surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

, and it is used in nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant
A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station in which the heat source is one or more nuclear reactors. As in a conventional thermal power station the heat is used to generate steam which drives a steam turbine connected to a generator which produces electricity.Nuclear power plants are usually...

s and army tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s to hold flashlight
Flashlight
A flashlight is a hand-held electric-powered light source. Usually the light source is a small incandescent lightbulb or light-emitting diode...

s to walls. Cars use it to bond headliners, floor mats and speaker covers. It is used in the home when pleating draperies, holding carpets in place and attaching upholstery, among many other things. It closes backpacks, briefcases and notebooks, secures pockets, and holds disposable diaper
Diaper
A nappy or a diaper is a kind of pant that allows one to defecate or urinate on oneself discreetly. When diapers become soiled, they require changing; this process is often performed by a second person such as a parent or caregiver...

s, and diaper covers for cloth diapers, on babies. It is an integral part of the game tag rugby
Tag Rugby
Tag Rugby, also known as rippa rugby, flag rugby league or flag rugby, is a non-contact team game in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it, or shorts with velcro patches. The mode of play is based on rugby league with many similarities to touch rugby...

, is used in surfboard
Surfboard
A surfboard is an elongated platform used in the sport of surfing. Surfboards are relatively light, but are strong enough to support an individual standing on them while riding a breaking wave...

 leashes and orthopaedic braces.

NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 makes significant use of Velcro. Each space shuttle has ten thousand inches of a special Velcro made of Teflon loops, polyester
Polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

 hooks, and glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 backing. Velcro is used everywhere, from the astronauts' suits, to anchoring equipment. In the near weightless conditions in orbit, Velcro is used to temporarily hold objects and keep them from floating away. A Velcro patch is used inside astronauts' helmets where it serves as a nose scratcher. During mealtimes astronauts use trays that attach to their thighs using spring and Velcro fasteners.

The US Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 is another big user. It uses Velcro fasteners on combat uniforms
Army Combat Uniform
The Army Combat Uniform is the current combat uniform worn by the United States Army. It is the successor to the Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Camouflage Uniform worn during the 1980s and 1990s. It features a number of design changes, as well as a different camouflage pattern from its...

 to attach name tapes, rank insignia, shoulder pockets for unit patches, skill tabs, and recognition devices, such as the infrared (IR) feedback American flag. They also had a silent version of Velcro developed for use with Army soldier uniform
Uniform
A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as police, emergency services, security guards, in some workplaces and schools and by inmates...

s, as the ripping sound could betray a soldier's position. A new version was created which reduced the noise by over 95%. The manufacturing process to create this noiseless Velcro is, however, a military secret.

There have been some failed uses for Velcro as well. One such failure was a worm collar that consisted of a cylindrical strip that fishers were supposed to slip over their live bait. The Velcro was supposed to snag in the teeth of striking bass. Another failure was a strap-on device for impotent men.

Velcro jumping


Velcro jumping is a game where people wearing Velcro-covered suits take a running jump and hurl themselves as high as possible at a Velcro-covered wall. The wall is inflated
Inflatable
An inflatable is an object that can be inflated with a gas, usually with air, but hydrogen, helium and nitrogen are also used. One of several advantages of an inflatable is that it can be stored in a small space when not inflated, since inflatables depend on the presence of a gas to maintain their...

, and looks similar to other inflatable structures. It is not necessarily completely covered in Velcro—often there will be vertical strips of Velcro. Sometimes, instead of a running jump, people use a small trampoline.

Television show host David Letterman
David Letterman
David Michael Letterman is an American television host and comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC...

 immortalized this during the February 28, 1984 episode of Late Night with David Letterman
Late Night with David Letterman
Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC that was created and hosted by David Letterman. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night franchise and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to Late Show on CBS. Late Night...

 on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

. Letterman proved that with enough Velcro a man could be hurled against a wall and stick, by performing this feat during the television broadcast. This put Velcro in the national spotlight.

Velcro jumping goes beyond David Letterman, though. Amusement companies rent Velcro walls and jumpsuits for $
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

400-$500 a day. It was also done on a regular basis in pubs in both New York and New Zealand, where it is a competition to see how high a person can get their feet above the ground. Jeremy Bayliss and Graeme Smith of the Cri Bar and Grill in Napier, New Zealand, started it after seeing American astronauts Velcroed to walls during space flights. They created their own equipment for the "human fly" contests, and sold it to several others in New Zealand.

The game moved to the U.S. after Sports Illustrated published a story on it in 1991. Adam Powers and Stephen Wastell of the Perfect Tommy's bar in New York city read of the game, and soon became the United States distributor of Human Bar Fly equipment. Velcro wall-jumping now exists in dozens of New Zealand bars and is said to be one of the favorite bar activities there.

Variations on Velcro


Leonard Duffy, noting the disadvantages of Velcro, and taking Velcro as his model, created a new product called the "slidingly engaging fastener". Instead of loops and hooks, it has interlocking islands with undercut edges that slide together. Duffy then created a wraparound cast made from a single plastic sheet sealed with his fasteners to replace similar removable casts with Velcro straps. His sister-in-law had a removable cast with Velcro strips, and complained about the Velcro because it absorbed perspiration and thus smelled, as well as catching on her clothing. With the Unity Wrap, Duffy won the grand prize in NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

's "Create the Future" invention contest. Since then the sliding engaging fastener has become available at Material ConneXion
Material ConneXion
Material ConneXion is a global materials consultancy that aims to help companies source advanced materials to enhance the performance, aesthetics and sustainability of their projects. The company is headquartered in New York City and was founded founded in 1997 by George M. Beylerian...

, a global materials consultancy and library of innovative and sustainable materials, and several designers and a prosthetics
Prosthesis
In medicine, a prosthesis, prosthetic, or prosthetic limb is an artificial device extension that replaces a missing body part. It is part of the field of biomechatronics, the science of using mechanical devices with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems to assist or enhance motor control...

 company have expressed interest.

The advantages of this new Velcro are that it is more durable (it does not wear down over time), is eight times stronger, and makes no noise when fastened or unfastened. However it is thicker and bulkier, which limits some of its applications. It also is not as flexible as Velcro.

Heavy duty variants (e.g., "Dual Lock" by 3M) feature mushroom shaped stems on each face of the velcro, providing an audible snap when the two faces mate. A strong adhesive backing adheres each component to its substrate.

Velcro in popular culture


Velcro has worked its way into popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 and common knowledge. As such, it has been part of many movies, and mentioned in songs and television shows. The early 90s sitcom Parker Lewis Can't Lose
Parker Lewis Can't Lose
Parker Lewis Can't Lose is an American teen sitcom that originally aired on FOX from September 1990 to June 1993. During the last season, the series sported the simpler title Parker Lewis. The series was produced by Columbia Pictures Television and was strongly influenced by the feature film Ferris...

featured a character–Jerry Steiner–with a seemingly bottomless jacket filled with tools and supplies, all of which were removed with the familiar Velcro tearing sound. In the 1996 John Frankenheimer
John Frankenheimer
John Michael Frankenheimer was an American film and television director known for social dramas and action/suspense films...

 film The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996 film)
The Island of Dr. Moreau is a 1996 science fiction horror film, the third major movie version of the H. G. Wells novel The Island of Doctor Moreau about a scientist who attempts to convert animals into people...

,
Moreau's assistant jokingly claims that the doctor won his Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 for inventing Velcro.

Velcro has become part of a recurring joke in various media in which it is claimed that modern humans would be unable to invent it, and that it is in fact a form of advanced technology. For example, K claims in Men in Black
Men in Black (film)
Men in Black is a 1997 science fiction comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith and Vincent D'Onofrio. The film was based on the Men in Black comic book series by Lowell Cunningham, originally published by Marvel Comics. The film featured the creature effects...

that Velcro was originally alien technology, and a 2002 Star Trek Enterprise episode features Velcro as being given to modern society by Vulcans in 1957. As a tongue in cheek reference, one of the Vulcans in the episode was named Mestral, after Velcro's actual inventor. More recently one of the characters in the 2004 film Garden State
Garden State (film)
Garden State is a 2004 comedy-drama film written by, directed by, and starring Zach Braff, with Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Sir Ian Holm. The film centers on Andrew Largeman , a 26-year-old actor/waiter who returns to his hometown in New Jersey after his mother dies...

made a vast fortune from inventing silent Velcro. Sacha Baron Cohen's character Bruno wears a "Velcro" suit in the movie of the same name (which causes him to have everything made of cloth to attach to himself, consequently leading to disastrous results and ultimately causes the loss of his job).

That Velcro has entered popular culture is also evidenced by its use as a verb, as in "He velcroed his shoes." meaning to fasten the shoes with Velcro.

It is also the subject of a classic joke by the legendary punslinger Tim Vine who said: "Velcro. What a rip off!"

See also

  • Adaptive clothing
    Adaptive clothing
    Adaptive clothing is clothing designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, and the infirm who may experience difficulty dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers, or due to a lack of a full range of motion required for self-dressing...

  • Biomimicry
    Biomimicry
    Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate...

  • Metaklett
    Metaklett
    Metaklett is a fastening material made of steel that acts on a similar principle to Velcro. It was developed by REINZ-Dichtungs-GmbH, TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITÄT MÜNCHEN, HÖLZEL Stanz- und Feinwerktechnik GmbH & Co. KG and Koenig Verbindungstechnik GmbH...

  • Mr Velcro Fastener
    Mr Velcro Fastener
    Mr Velcro Fastener is a Finnish electro music duo of Tatu Metsätähti and Tatu Peltonen , originating from Turku. They had first met at school, and started creating music together in early 1990s...

  • Velcro dog
    Velcro dog
    Velcro dog is a slang term among dog fanciers referring to a dog that either displays separation anxiety or otherwise strongly prefers to be near its owner. The term plays on the clinging ability of the Velcro hook-and-loop fastener....

  • Velcro Fly
    Velcro Fly
    "Velcro Fly" is the fifth single off ZZ Top's 1985 album Afterburner. The song peaked at #15 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, and #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1986.A 12" version is featured on the box set Chrome, Smoke & BBQ....


External links