Machines, Tools, & Engineering


Machines and Tools: An Important Part of the Production Process

In 1928, 3M established its first machine shop in the basement of Building 2. The three machinists and eleven millwrights repaired machines and production units in the abrasives and tapes factories and the minerals division.

 When the first section of Building 14 was completed the next year, the department expanded to the basement.

There the crew of 40 began to produce new machine tools and to fabricate custom machinery devised by 3M engineers. The department continued to grow as demands for equipment increased. The shop moved again to Building 20 in 1938 and then to the Herzog Iron Works site, north of the railroad tracks, after 3M purchased the property in 1949.

At the new location, 3M’s machine shop continued to fabricate tools and machines to produce 3M abrasives and tapes. The maintenance division provided service to all the Saint Paul factories.

3M continued to expand its machine shop operations on the Herzog Iron Works site, constructing its last building (Building 99) in 1990.

Engineering: Devising the Machines

The engineering division, which also was established in 1928, and the machine shop have always been closely linked. The engineers designed the tools and developed the machines and controls that the machine shop assembled.

The 3M engineering laboratory was established in 1931 for experiments in the electrostatic coating of abrasives. Besides electrostatics, the engineering laboratory worked in optics, sound and noise measurement, heating processes, radio waves, and the design of electrical control units for various manufacturing processes.

During World War II, 3M’s New Methods Engineers developed machinery and abrasives to speed up production for the war effort.

3M mechanical engineers devised a “skyhook” system to suspend large abrasive rolls from the plant ceiling to alleviate a shortage of storage space.

Architectural Engineering

3M had a group of in-house architects and engineers who designed the company’s factory and warehouse buildings. They worked closely with the engineers who were devising the machinery to promote efficient operating systems.

The 3M tape buildings and several of the buildings on the Herzog Iron Works site were the product of 3M architectural engineers.