<< Back to main page

Audio Tour Stop #7: Happy Accidents — The Invention of Bubble Wrap

Packaging and processing is full of inventions that successfully applied technology from other fields— most often intentionally. Occasionally happy accidents revolutionized a segment of the industry. Bubble Wrap was a prime example. It helped change the shipping industry and make catalog shopping and later e-commerce possible.

In 1957, while trying to create textured wall paper that would appeal to the growing Beat Generation, Alfred Fielding and March Chavannes invented Bubble Wrap. They put two pieces of plastic shower curtain through a heat-sealing machine but were disappointed by the results. Instead of dismissing their failure, they patented the process and machine and started thinking of uses. They identified 400 possible uses, but it wasn’t until 1961 when their company Sealed Air decided to market it to IBM as protective packaging material for their first mass marketed computer, the 1401.

Bubble Wrap caught on as protective packaging and evolved into different shapes, sizes, strengths and thicknesses. Today, Bubble Wrap can be purchased in multiple forms almost anywhere.