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Blu-tack is a reusable putty-like pressure-sensitive adhesive produced by Bostik, commonly used to attach lightweight objects (such as posters or sheets of paper) to walls or other dry surfaces. Traditionally blue, it is also available in other colours. Generic versions of the product are also available from other manufacturers.
The composition of Blu-Tack is a manufacturing secret but is described as a synthetic rubber compound without hazardous properties under normal conditions. It can be swallowed without harm and is noncarcinogenic. It is non-soluble and is denser than water. The material is not flammable, but emits carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide when exposed to fire or high temperatures.
In 1970, laboratory researcher Alan Holloway was working for sealant manufacturer Ralli Bondite of Waterlooville, England. Ralli Bondite was a wholly owned subsidiary of G & L Ralli Investment & Trustee Co. Ltd. Holloway inadvertently produced a product that was useless as a sealant, but pliable and semi-elastic. This novelty product was demonstrated by Ralli Bondite management to visiting executives from another sealant and adhesive manufacturer, as a means of wall mounting notices. There was no need for secrecy about the formula, as it was of no use for a gun-grade mastic, the main product of Ralli Bondite. Initially the potential of this material was not fully recognised, but later Bostik commenced research into the development of what they were eventually to launch as Blu-Tack. In its conceptual stage Blu-Tack was white, but consumer research showed fears that children may mistake it for chewing gum, and the product was coloured blue.
In the United Kingdom in March 2008, 20,000 numbered packs of pink Blu-Tack were made available, to help raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign, with 10 pence from each pack going to the charity. The formulation was slightly altered to retain complete consistency with its blue counterpart. Since then, many coloured variations have been made, including red and white, yellow and a green Halloween pack.
Similar products of various colours are made by many manufacturers, including Faber-Castell's "Tack-it", Henkel's "Fun-Tak", UHU's "Poster Putty" and "Sticky Tack","Gummy Sticker" Pritt's "Sticky Stuff" and Elmer's "Poster Tack".
Versions of the product are also sold under the generic names "adhesive putty" and "mounting putty". The generic trademark or common name for mounting putty varies by region. It is known as "Patafix" in France, Italy and Portugal (a phonetic abbreviation for pâte à fixer, "fastening dough" in French), Kennaratyggjó ("teacher's chewing gum") in Iceland, and Häftmassa ("attachment mass") or kludd in Sweden.
Like all poster putties, Blu-Tack provides an alternative to the artist's traditional kneaded eraser, having a superior grip and plasticity. Blu-Tack can be finely shaped and worked into even very small areas. Like kneaded erasers, it can be stretched and kneaded to freshen its working surfaces. One of the early adopters and staunch exponent of Blu-Tack's use as a kneadable eraser replacement is the UK artist Mike Sibley. Blu-Tack, especially if kept warm in the artist's free hand, is far more versatile than a kneadable eraser. It can, for example, remove or tonally adjust the top layer of graphite without affecting the underlying detailed layer. It also works with the lightest of touches, where kneadable erasers need some pressure to pick up graphite. A further benefit is that graphite removed by Blu-Tack is securely held and will not be reapplied during successive erasing.
Some scale model hobbyists use Blu-Tack as a masking medium for painting camouflage schemes, as it can be easily molded to any shape and will not react with or lift the underlying paint.
Blu-Tack is also used for sculpture. In 2007 artist Elizabeth Thompson created a 200-kilogram sculpture of a house spider using Blu-Tack over a wire frame. It took around 4000 packs and was exhibited at London Zoo. Other artists have created works from the material including stop-motion animation.
A small amount of Blu-Tack can be placed on the head of a screw to hold it onto a screwdriver.
Blu-Tack can also be used to clean in-ear headphone speakers by gently pressing it onto the speaker grid. After pulling out, earwax remains will be cleaned from the speaker.
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