Duct tape

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A roll of glossy, grey duct tape.

Duct tape (sometimes called duck tape; see under Etymology) is a vinyl, fabric-reinforced, multi-purpose pressure sensitive tape with a soft and tacky pressure sensitive adhesive. It is generally silver or black in color but many other colors and transparent tapes have recently become available. With a standard width of 178 inches (48 mm), duct tape was originally developed during World War II in 1942 as a water resistant sealing tape for ammunition cases.[1][2] Permacel, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, used a rubber-based adhesive to help the tape resist water and a fabric backing to add strength. It was also used to repair military equipment quickly, including jeeps, firearms, and aircraft because of these properties. In Canadian military circles, this variant is known as "gun-tape", typically olive-green, and also known for its resistance to oils and greases. Duct tape is also called "100-MPH tape" or 'Hurricane Tape' in the military [3] - a name that comes from the use of a specific variety of duct-tape that was supposedly supposed to hold up to 100mph winds. Another version attributes this to the fact that soldiers often refer to something that exceeds expectations as "High Speed."

After WWII, the housing industry boomed and people started using duct tape for many other purposes. The name "duct tape" came from its use on heating and air conditioning ducts, a purpose for which it, ironically, has been deemed ineffective. Its strength, low cost, and remarkable versatility make it a household staple throughout North America and Europe for temporary repairs and general-purpose use.


[edit] Common uses

Duct tape's versatility and holding power are evidenced by its nickname in engineering circles: "the ultimate material." It is commonly used in situations that require a strong, flexible adhesive, particularly when exposure to the elements is a concern.

A more specialized product, commonly known as gaffer tape, is preferred in entertainment circles, as it does not leave a sticky residue when removed and is more easily torn into thin strips for precise application.

[edit] Usage in spaceflight

Improvised wheel faring extension via duct tape, Apollo 17.

NASA engineers and astronauts have used duct tape in the course of their work, including in some emergency situations. One such usage occurred in 1970, when the square carbon dioxide filters from Apollo 13's failed command module had to be modified to fit round receptacles in the lunar module, which was being used as a lifeboat after an explosion en route to the moon. A workaround was made using duct tape and other items on board Apollo 13, with the ground crew relaying directions to the spacecraft and its crew. The lunar module CO2 scrubbers started working again, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board.

Keith Canfield, who designed the scrubber modification in just two days, said later that he knew the problem was solvable when it was confirmed that duct tape was on the spacecraft: "I felt like we were home free" he said in 2005. "One thing a Southern boy will never say is, 'I don't think duct tape will fix it.'"[4]

Duct tape was also used aboard Apollo 17 to improvise a repair to a damaged fender on the lunar rover, preventing possible damage from the rooster tails of lunar dust as they drove.[5].

In a 2001 NASA manual for spaceflight operations aboard the International Space Station, duct tape is even called for in case of "acute psychosis" during a space mission; NASA procedures call for the use of duct tape to restrain the affected astronaut. [6]

[edit] Usage on ductwork

To provide lab data about which sealants and tapes last, and which are likely to fail, research was conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Their major conclusion was that one should not use duct tape to seal ducts (specialty tapes are available for this purpose). (They defined duct tape as any fabric-based tape with rubber adhesive.) The testing done shows that under challenging but realistic conditions, duct tapes become brittle and may fail.[7] Its use in ducts has been prohibited by the state of California[8] and by building codes in most other places in the U.S. However, metalized and aluminum tapes used by professionals are still often called "duct tapes."

[edit] Alternative uses

Formal wear made out of multi-colored duct tape.
The "Dragonracer", winner of the Stuck In Traffic competition.
Model ship made with unusual materials: rolled-up tubes of paper, Express Mail labels, and duct tape.
During the week prior to the traditional USC-UCLA rivalry football game, the Tommy Trojan statue is covered in duct tape to prevent the spray-painting of rival UCLA's colors on the statue.[9].

Duct tape's widespread popularity and multitude of uses has earned it a strong place in popular culture, and has inspired a vast number of creative and imaginative applications.

Duck Products annually sponsors a competition that offers a college scholarship to the person who creates the most stylish prom formal wear made from duct tape. The number of uses to which duct tape can be put is a source of humor (many of these are collected in books by "The Duct Tape Guys"). One of Duck Products previous competitions was for vehicles covered in duct tape called "Stuck in Traffic". Entries included rabbits, a castle, a van decorated as Van Gogh's Starry Night (titled VanGo), and won by a truck called the Dragonracer (pictured) - a half dragon, half two-toned race car.

Some people enjoy making novelty items out of duct tape or decorating objects with it. Increased interest in creating these novelty and fashion pieces (such as duct tape prom dresses and handbags) has given rise to designer duct tape handbags, wallets, belts and related items.[citation needed]

A medical study announced on major news networks on October 15, 2002, stated that application of duct tape can be used as an effective treatment for warts.[10] This treatment is often called by the name duct tape occlusion therapy. A more recent study claimed to have debunked these findings, pointing out the original researchers didn't actually examine participants to determine if the warts were in fact gone, but instead phoned participants and asked.[11] In the 2006 study of 103 children [Haen et al.], duct tape did not perform significantly better than a placebo. This study compared clear duct tape, applied six nights a week to corn pad placebos, which were applied one night a week. In a study released in 2007, a study among older adults found duct tape helped only 21% of the time and was no better than moleskin, a cotton-tape bandage used to protect the skin. However, researchers used transparent duct tape that unlike the gray duct tape does not contain rubber. "Whether or not the standard type of duct tape is effective is up in the air," said Dr. Rachel Wenner of the University of Minnesota, who started the new study as a medical student. "Theoretically, the rubber adhesive could somehow stimulate the immune system or irritate the skin in a different manner." [1] The Wenner study was published in the March 2007 issue of Archives of Dermatology.

The Duct Tape Guys (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) as of 2005 have written seven books about duct tape. Their bestselling books have sold over 1.5 million copies and feature real and wacky uses of duct tape. In 1994 they coined the phrase, "It Ain't Broke, It Just Lacks Duct Tape". Added to that phrase in 1995 with the publication of their WD-40 Book was, "Two rules get you through life: If it's stuck and it's not supposed to be, WD-40 it. If it's not stuck and it's supposed to be, duct tape it". Their website features thousands of duct tape uses from people around the world ranging from fashions to auto repair. The combination of WD-40 and duct tape is sometimes referred to as The Redneck Repair Kit.

Many people also create bookbags, wallets, model houses, and less commonly, guitar straps out of duct tape.

As a quick fix, duct tape can be used as a temporary bandage, until proper medical treatment and bandages can be applied to a wound.[12]

[edit] Etymology

The origin of the term "duct tape" is the subject of some disagreement.

One view[13][14] is that it was called "duck tape" by WWII soldiers because it was made from cotton duck, from which their tents, tarpaulins, ponchos and other equipment were made. The word "duck" was commonly used for camping equipment fabrics until synthetics replaced cotton. Some suggest that the waterproof quality of the tape contributed to the name, by analogy to the water-shedding quality of a duck's plumage. Under this view, soldiers returning home from the war found uses for duck tape around the house, where tents were forgotten and ductwork needed sealing, not ammunition cases. Other proponents of this view point to older references to non-adhesive cotton duck tape used in Venetian blinds, suggesting that the name was carried over to the adhesive version. The Oxford English Dictionary says that perhaps "duct tape" was originally "duck tape." This view is summarized most notably in a New York Times article by etymologist William Safire in March of 2003. Safire cites use of the term "cotton duck tape" in a 1945 advertisement for surplus government property.[15] The Oxford English Dictionary gives a 1902 quotation for "100,000 yards of cotton duck tape" being used to protect the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge.[16] Thus a fabric duck tape was available to which an adhesive could have been added.

The other view is that "duct tape" is the original term, since there are many documented uses of that term which pre-date all documented uses of the term "duck tape" for the adhesive-backed product, and that there is no written evidence supporting the WWII story.[17] Some proponents of this view accept the idea that there was an earlier non-adhesive "duck tape", but claim that people have just confused the similar pronunciation of two similar but unrelated products through the process of elision, and that the rest of the "duck" etymology is folklore or fabrication. This view was summarized most notably in a Boston Globe article by etymologist Jan Freeman, also in March of 2003.

In any case, whether it is an error or a preservation of the original usage, the term "duck tape" is sometimes used for the product today.[18] Duck Tape is also a brand name for this product in some countries.

[edit] Different meaning in Australia

Australian "duct tape"

The term duct tape can lead to confusion between people more familiar with the North American usage of the term and those from regions such as Australia and New Zealand, where a completely different type of tape is sold as duct tape, as shown right. This duct tape is a 48 mm (1.9 in) wide PVC tape (usually silver in color) with no cloth backing and much weaker clear adhesive.[19] 3M sells a similar tape in the United States, calling it "Electrical Tape".

Duck brand cloth-backed tape in Australia is labeled as Power Tape (a purely promotional term), and other cloth-backed tapes are generally labeled as cloth tape or gaffer tape. The use of this definition varies between Australians; many refer to duct tape as the same product as is sold in North America.[citation needed]

Gaffer tape generally is coated with a different type of adhesive, so as to permit its use to hang such production items as lighting instruments from walls without taking off paint and wallpaper when removed. Another wide tape similar to gaffer tape is the US branded Gorilla tape, which is made on a cloth backing, but has a much stronger adhesive than either duct tape or gaffer tape.

[edit] Variants

  • Duct tape is currently available in various colors from many online retailers and some stores.
  • Camouflage duct tape is available from Duck Products, most military surplus stores and catalogs, and some hunting and fishing supply stores, and is useful for making repairs to hunting equipment and other outdoors materials.
  • 3M now sells transparent duct tape[2]. The company claims it lasts longer than regular duct tape while making repairs less obvious.
  • Gorilla Glue, Inc. released Gorilla Tape, a variation on the standard duct tape. By adding more adhesive, and using two offset layers of fibers, the tape is claimed to be stronger, but easy to tear horizontally.
  • Speed tape which is composed of adhesive aluminium foil and is used for temporary airplane repairs.

[edit] In popular culture

As might be expected from its widespread use, duct tape has featured in many references in popular culture. Its image is one of "make-do", or "cheap fix", and it is particularly associated with men. For instance, in the US sitcom Frasier, Martin Crane's beloved and ugly old armchair, complete with pieces of duct tape covering rips in the fabric, sat in the middle of an otherwise impeccably furnished room. The character Red Green, of the Red Green Show, sees duct tape as the answer to any problem. The title character of the television series MacGyver, also a master of improvised inventions, made frequent use of duct tape, a flattened roll of which he frequently kept in his back pocket. John Ringo and Travis Taylor mention 'space tape', a futuristic duct tape, in their Voyage of the Space Bubble series of science fiction books.

[edit] See also

[edit] Sources

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