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History of Cellophane Films

Cellophane films are used for a variety of packaging materials.

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cellophane package

Loaf of bread in clear Cellophane package -Cellophane is the registered trademark of Innovia Films Ltd of Cumbria UK

Getty Images/Barry Wong
Cellophane film was invented by Jacques E Brandenberger in 1908, a Swiss textile engineer who first thought of the idea for a clear, protective, packaging layer in 1900.

Brandenberger was seated at a restaurant when a customer spilt wine onto the tablecloth. As the waiter replaced the cloth, Brandenberger decided that he should invent a clear flexible film that could be applyed to cloth, making it waterproof.

Jacques E Brandenberger experimented with many different materials, including applying liquid viscose (a cellulose product known as rayon) to cloth, however, the viscose made the cloth too stiff. The experiment failed but Brandenberger noted that the coating peeled off in a transparent film.

Like so many inventions, the original use for Cellophane film was abandoned and new and better uses were found. By 1908, Brandenberger developed the first machine for the manufacture of transparent sheets of regenerated cellulose. By 1912, Brandenberger was making a saleable thin flexible film used in gas masks.

La Cellophane Societe Anonyme

Jacques E Brandenberger was granted patents to cover the machinery and the essential ideas of his manufacturing process of the new film. Brandenberger named the new film Cellophane, derived from the french words cellulose and diaphane (transparent). In 1917 Brandenberger assigned his patents to La Cellophane Societe Anonyme and joined that organization.

In the United States, the first customer for Cellophane film was Whitman's candy company, who used the the film to wrap their chocolates. Whitman's imported the product from France until 1924, when Dupont started manufacturing and selling the film.

DuPont

On December 26, 1923, an agreement was executed between the DuPont Cellophane Company and La Cellophane. La Cellophane licensed to the DuPont Cellophane Company the exclusive rights to its United States cellophane patents, and granted to the DuPont Cellophane Company the exclusive right to make and sell in North and Central America using La Cellophane's secret processes for cellophane manufacture. In exchange, the DuPont Cellophane Company granted to La Cellophane the exclusive rights for the rest of the world the use of any cellophane patents or processes DuPont Cellophane Company might develop.

An important factor in the growth of Cellophane film production and sales was the perfection of moisture proof cellophane film by William Hale Charch (1898-1958) for DuPont, the process was patented in 1927.

According to DuPont, "DuPont scientist William Hale Charch and a team of researchers figured out how to make cellophane film moisture-proof, opening the door for its use in food packaging. After testing more than 2,000 alternatives, Charch and his team devised a workable process for moisture-proofing Cellophane film."

Making Cellophane Film

In the manufacturing process, an alkaline solution of cellulose fibres (usually wood or cotton) known as viscose is extruded through a narrow slit into an acid bath. The acid regenerates the cellulose, forming a film. Further treatment, such as washing and bleaching, yields Cellophane.

The tradename Cellophane is currently the registered trademark of Innovia Films Ltd of Cumbria UK.

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