How do They get Tape on a Roll?

Crystal Brackman

Anyone who has ever wrapped a present, tried to make paper chains, or just needed a quick, simple way to attach two things together may have reached for a roll of tape. Tape on a roll may be one of the greatest inventions of all time. If you've ever pulled off too much and tried to roll it back up, you know how hard it is to get it back on the roll. How exactly do they get it so neatly on those little rolls anyway? Basically, the secret is they don't. They actually manufacture tape on a roll in one giant roll at a time and then cut the smaller widths that you buy at the store.

Tape comes in a wide variety of widths.
Tape comes in a wide variety of widths.

Tape starts with a center cylinder. Then, a giant roll of cellophane is spun onto the tape roll. Once it is rolled up, it is unraveled slowly, and fed through a press that adds the sticky adhesive. It is then rolled onto another center tube where it goes through a machine that cuts it into different sizes.

In 1879, gummed paper was invented by Thomas Edison.
In 1879, gummed paper was invented by Thomas Edison.

Tape on a roll can come in various sizes from the small rolls you take to work or school, all the way up to king-sized rolls that wrap around large boxes. The adhesive itself may be one of the most useful creations. Adhesives are made from different polymers like resin and rubber. The strength of the adhesive depends on how they mix the polymers.

Tape itself has many different strengths. Duct tape is much stronger than Scotch® tape on a roll, and masking tape or painters tape is made to peels off relatively easily.

Thomas Edison invented a gummed paper in 1879. He intended to use it to wrap packages and seal them. This may have been the first tape.

Most tapes are classified as PSA's. PSA stands for pressure sensitive adhesive, and it means just what is says. You must press down on the adhesive to get it to stick.

You may wish that you could make your own tape, but unfortunately the secret to the perfect adhesive, one that sticks when you want it to, is closely guarded. Scotch® tape, by its brand name, is copyrighted so that no one else can use their formula, but luckily we can all use their tape on a roll.

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Discussion Comments


I have to admit I wondered how they made rolls of tape, too. It never occurred to me that individual rolls would be sliced off one large roll. I think that's what happens with toilet paper, too. The paper gets rolled onto large spools and then blades or wires cut through them to form smaller rolls.

I just wish there was an easier way to roll excess tape back onto the dispenser. It always wants to stick to itself, or wobble off to the left or right of the roll.

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