How Are Sticky Notes Made? The Process of Making Paper Sticky

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Published: September 9th, 2020

Sticky notes are like Roman gladiators. Gusts of wind, big movements, and greasy fingers aren’t powerful enough to make them fall. They stick around through thick and thin, making them a must-have everywhere from home to the office.

The real question is: why are they so sticky? It all comes down to the fascinating way they’re made!

How Is a Sticky Note Made?

First things first, it’s important to understand that sticky note and Post-it® are not synonymous. Sticky notes could be considered off-brand versions of Post-its®, and each manufacturer has their own process for creating them.

Generally speaking, the process for making sticky notes includes:



  • Step One: The manufacturer’s specific formula for the adhesive is mixed together.
  • Step Two: Paper is fitted with the adhesive on the top as it passes through rollers.
  • Step Three: The paper goes through a giant oven to ensure the adhesive is dry.
  • Step Four: Another device stacks the sheets of paper on top of each other to form large pads.
  • Step Five: The stack of paper is pressed down by a machine to create a firm grip.
  • Step Six: The paper is cut into the intended shape for the sticky notes, which is usually 3 X 3 squares.
  • Step Seven: Each sticky note sheet is screen printed or digitally printed with some kind of design.
  • Step Eight: The sticky note pads are packaged and shipped to stores or online wholesalers.
  • Step 1:

    Mix the Adhesive

    The manufacturer’s formula for the adhesive is all mixed together. This isn’t done in the way you’d mix together flour, eggs, and chocolate chips to make cookies. Rather, most companies have machines that automate the process so it’s done quickly and efficiently.

    Made mix
  • Step 2:

    Roll the Paper

    Paper is fed through giant rollers that make it nice and smooth. During this step, the paper is also cut into larger sizes as the sticky glue is added to the top of each individual piece.

    Roll the paper
  • Step 3:

    Dry the Glue

    The next step is putting the paper through a giant oven that dries the glue. This isn’t an oven like the one in your kitchen, but is instead specially designed to dry the adhesive on sticky notes while at the same time keeping it nice and sticky.

    Dry glue
  • Step 4:

    Stack the Paper

    Once the glue is dry, the larger pieces of paper are all stacked on top of each other. The number of sheets is determined by the number of sticky notes that are in the set.

    Stack paper
  • Step 5:

    Press the Paper

    At this stage, the paper is placed between giant presses that squeeze it all together. This helps ensure the sticky note is super strong.

    Press the paper
  • Step 6:

    Cut the Paper

    A machine automatically cuts the sticky notes into their desired size and shape, which is typically 3 x 3 squares. Die cuts can be used at this point as well if the sticky notes are in a shape other than squares like hearts, stars, or awareness ribbons.

    Cut the paper
  • Step 7:

    Print the Logo

    Some sticky notes are blank, but others are branded with a company logo. A screen or digital printer will add this design to each individual sheet.

    Cut the paper
  • Step 8:

    Ship the Sticky Notes

    The glue and ink are dry and the sticky notes are ready to go! They’re individually packaged, shipped in bulk to retailers or online stores, and bought by consumers like you.

    Made printing

Do you want to see the entire process in action? Check out this video!

How Sticky Notes are Made

Sticky notes are super sticky, but why? This video breaks down how sticky notes are made, step by step. Look for a cameo appearance by Batman! Do you want custom sticky notes? Check out the selection at Quality Logo Products®! https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/personalized-note-pad.htm

How Post-it Notes Are Made

3M has the patent on Post-it® notes, and to this day, they will not disclose how the adhesive is added to the paper or its exact formula. However, there is a lot of great information out there about their legendary sticky notes.

What Glue is Used on Post It Notes?

The glue in Post-It® notes is a combination of a pressure sensitive acrylate (PSA) and microspheres, which are synthetic polymers that won’t dissolve or melt down.

If you don’t know your science, that’s basically a fancy way of saying that sticky note glue is a molecular structure that was specifically made by human hands.

The interesting thing is that Dr. Spencer Silver, an employee at 3M, discovered this molecular structure completely by accident. From there, another colleague named Arthur Fry put the glue on paper, and just like that, the sticky note was born!

sticky note stack

What's it Like Inside the Post-it Factory?

The 3M headquarters could be considered the Post-it® factory. The facility is 375,000 square feet and sits on 100 acres in Maplewood, Minnesota. It’s basically the Willy Wonka of office supplies.

In addition to the main headquarters in Minnesota, 3M has 103 other office locations across 75 countries. They also have 112,403 patents, more than 93,000 employees, and over $12 billion in total sales every year. No wonder they’re a Fortune 500 company!

Today, 3M is working on improving the Post-it® formula, such as experimenting with sustainable plant-based adhesives. Meanwhile, production of the original Post-its® hasn’t slowed down, with roughly 50 billion produced every year by the company.

Inside a factory http://www.startribune.com/3m-wraps-its-iconic-maplewood-building-in-message-and-colorful- films/491125861/

Do Post-it Notes Stick No Matter What?

Post-its® are designed to be versatile, but according to 3M they might have trouble sticking based on:

The smoothness/roughness of the surface

It should be easy to stick your Post-it® to a computer monitor, but you might have a problem trying to put it on the side of a rocky mountain.

Smoothness Icon

The nature of the surface

It should be easy to stick your Post-it® to a computer monitor, but you might have a problem trying to put it on the side of a rocky mountain.

Beaker

Dust, grease, or pollutants

If you’re a slob, the Post-it® might have trouble sticking. It’s easiest to stick one to a nice, clean area.

Dust, grease

The Bottom Line

Sticky paper has been a real lifesaver when it comes to keeping us organized. whether it’s a regular old sticky note or a classic Post-it®. The people who make this office essential deserve a standing ovation!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

3M, Multimedia. Adhesive in Post-it® Notes. Retrieved from, https://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/319453O/haftklebstoff-engl.pdf

How Products are Made. Self-Adhesive Note. Retrieved from, http://www.madehow.com/Volume-2/Self-Adhesive-Note.html

Sticky Note Machine. (2017, April 14). Process of Making Sticky Notes or Post-It. Retrieved from, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sioXhMwV0P8

Craft. 3M Company Headquarters and Office Locations. Retrieved from, https://craft.co/3m-company/locations

Statista. Number of Employees at 3M Worldwide from 2010 to 2018. Retrieved from, https://www.statista.com/statistics/733588/3m-number-of-employees-worldwide/

McFarlane, G. (2019, September 25). How 3M Makes Money. Retrieved from, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/022015/how-3m-makes-its-money.asp

Glass, N. Hume, T. (2013, April 4). The ‘Hallelujah Moment’ Behind the Invention of the Post-it Note. Retrieved from, https://www.cnn.com/2013/04/04/tech/post-it-note-history/index.html

3M. 3M Research & Development. Retrieved from, https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/about-3m/research-development/