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May 10, 2019

The accidental creation of Bubble Wrap

The invention of bubble wrap in 1957 was actually accidental.  Alfred Fielding and his business partner Mar Chavannes, a Swiss chemist, were trying to invent textured wallpaper by putting two shower curtains together which created a sheet with trapped air bubbles.  They were given a patent for this process and thought of 400 uses most of which were not very successful. Six patents in all allowed their creative ideas to be fully developed. The wallpaper did not appeal to this generation as they had hoped and the use for a greenhouses for insulation was not a success

The breakthrough came a few years later when IBM needed a material to safely ship a popular computer part.  The product was branded Bubble Wrap and it took off for other businesses shipping needs. Previously they were using newspaper which did not give much cushion and was messy because of the print.

The company did not turn a profit until 1971 when an entrepreneur D. J. Dermot Dunphy took over and diversified the product. They now make a plastic without bubbles for food product wrap.  And they developed a swimming pool cover that was very popular and that part of the company was eventually sold. Marc Chavannes was a visionary and Al Fielding was a first-class engineer,” says Dunphy, who at 86 years young still works every day at his private equity investment and management firm, Kildare Enterprises. “But neither wanted to run the company. They just wanted to work on their inventions.”  He took the company from 5 million to 3 billion when he left in 2000.

Today Sealed Air is a fortune 500 company and moved from New Jersey to world headquarters in North Carolina with sales of 4.5 billion, 15,000 employees and customers in 122 countries.  

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