Biomimetics: Velcro

(an example of a natural mimic of cockleburr seed casings)

"Hook and loop fasteners" based on an element of nature

This was to become the basis for a unique, two-sided fastener - one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his pants.. The result was VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners, named for the French words "velour" and "crochet."
  • Velcro is a registered trademark describing a specific brand of "hook and loop fasteners".
  • The product name has proven so popular that it has become a general term for any two-piece fastener with nylon hooks on one side and a mat of loops on the other.
  • Velcro has become very popular in the clothing, shoe, and automotive industries (among others) for its ability to provide a firm grip under tension but come apart easily when necessary.
  • The story of velcro started with a hike in the Swiss mountains in 1948

  • The inventor of Velcro was George de Mestral who noticed that he and his dog were coated with cockleburr seed casings.
  • His inventor's curiosity led him to study the burrs under a microscope, where he discovered their natural hook-like shape.
  • It was these natural hooks that were clinging so stubbornly to the loose weave of his pants and the dog's fur.
  • This was to become the basis for a unique, two-sided fastener; one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his pants.
  • Then George de Mestral thought that a fastening device made from a similar hook and loop design might be as good as the metal zipper in popularity and versatility.
  • The result was the VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners.

    Who was George de Mestral?

  • George de Mestral, who was born on June 19, 1907 and died on February 8, 1990; was an electrical engineer. who invented Velcro.
  • Born near Lausanne, Switzerland, de Mestral designed a toy airplane at age twelve and patented it.
  • He attended the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.
  • After graduation he worked at a machine shop of an engineering company.
  • In his spare time he was an amateur mountaineer and it was while enjoying the outdoors that he couldn't help but notice that burrs often got stuck to his wool hunting pants and his dog's hair.
  • He later started his own company and in 1951 he successfully patented Velcro.
  • The origins of Velcro as a word and as an application

  • After several attempts to create a suitable prototype, de Mestral and a French fabric designer finally discovered a way to use nylon fibers and the necessary hooks.
  • The name VELCRO was formed from two French words VEL, short for "velvet" and CRO chet, "hook".
  • It was de Mestral who officially formed the Velcro company in Switzerland in the early 1950s and received patents from virtually every industrialized country in the world.
  • Velcro works on the principle that enough hooks on one side of a fastener would become tangled in enough loops to form a very strong bond.
  • Applying pressure to a section of velcro can only make it stronger as more loops and hooks connect.
  • Yet, if only a few hooks and loops are pulled apart with force, the rest of the velcro will follow with a distinctive ripping sound.
  • Velcro is popular in the clothing industry.
  • Waistbands in costumes, skirts, and pants can be easily adjusted with velcro fasteners.
  • Large patches of velcro can easily support hundreds of pounds.
  • Wallets and backpacks, on the other hand, may only need a small patch of velcro to keep flaps and sections secure.
  • In our modern age, there are many practical applications that we have found for Velcro that make our lives more convenient.
—Compiled from the following sources:
", inventors" The Invention of VELCRO ® - George de Mestral by Mary Bellis
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Velcro
"A Brief History of: Velcro" by Claire Suddath; Tuesday, June 15, 2010; Time

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