Learn about the stories behind 10 extraordinary inventions. In this video, you'll learn about Velcro.
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Male Speaker: In 1948, a Frenchman named Georges de Mestral returned from a relaxing nature hike with his dog, to find himself from the dog covered burrs. Little did he know these annoying prickly seeds will be inspiration for one of the world's most popular fasteners Velcro. Georges de Mestral was born near Lausanne, Switzerland June 19, 1907. Through hard work, De Mestral was able to put himself to college, eventually graduating as an electrical engineer. De Mestral worked in the machine shop at a Swiss engineering firm following graduation but he never forget his first love, inventing. And outdoors when De Mestral returned from one of his many hikes in 1948 to find his dog as well as himself covered in burrs. But instead of brushing them off as usually he did de Mestral examined the clingy seeds under as his microscope. What he saw from the lens amazed him. Burrs are plant seeds covered in small hooks. These hooks attach to the fur of animals, spreading the plant as for as the carrier animal travels. De Mestral realized that these hooks could form the basis of a new type fastener. By creating pieces of cloth with burr like hooks woven into them, two pieces of De Mestral's fastener could be joined. Laurle Wilson: What seems like a lot of the kinds of inventions that happened, happened just that way. Someone sees something interesting happen and then figures out of away of making it into a useful product. De Mestral experimented with various cloths and hook making processes for three years. Usually working with small batches of custom woven cotton. The velvet like appearance of this original cloth let the product its name, which De Mestral derived from the French words for velvet, velour and hook Crochet. The result was Velcro. In 1951 he applied for a patent. Amber Rao: Well, it's very important to have the patent rights. Mclean X for example has become almost a generic for tissues. Xerox became almost a generic for copying machines. And it is very important for the manufacturer, for the marketer to make sure that the brand name is protected. De Mestral's original invention utilized two pieces of similar cloth, both sides had hooks for grabbing. By 1988, the process of manufacturing combined with advances in plastic and especially nylon led to what we today commonly think off as Velcro. Today, most hook and loop fasteners have hooks on only one side. A strip of heated plastic is fed through special rollers, which deform the plastic into hooks. The resulting hook is attached to soft cloth strips, which are woven thickly to provide an adequate number of loops for the hooks to grab. Today the Velcro Company is one of the largest producers of hook-and-loop fasteners, which are used in almost every field and industry, from fashion to space exploration. It just goes to show inspiration can come from the last place you would expect. The next time you are great outdoors, keep your eyes open, you never know what you might come up with.
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