History of Versaflo

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Hello everyone, it’s been a while! Today I’m giving an overview of 3M’s trailblazing line of PAPRs, the Versaflo series. We’ve outlined their latest models before, but I’ve learned a lot about the history of 3M’s work in respiratory protection since then.

Respiratory protection has been around for thousands of years. The earliest innovations dates back to the Roman era, when miners would use animal bladders to protect themselves from inhaling toxic lead oxide. Today, respiratory devices are required all across the labor world to protect workers’ lungs, and 3M has been leading the pack. Here’s a timeline so you can get a sense of how far the technology has come.

  • 1975: A UK company called RACAL Electronics released the Airstream PAPR for mining operations, kicking off a revolution in respiratory safety. With NIOSH approval they were clear to sell in America.
  • 1977: RACAL released the Airstream Industrial PAPR, expanding the product’s reach beyond the mining industry.
  • 1982: RACAL’s  Airmate introduced a lightweight and compact option to the market, making the product easier to use in close quarters.
  • 1987: RACAL’s Powerflow featured a lightweight face-mounted high-efficiency filter, further widening the options for application.
  • 1993: 3M gets in the game with the GVP (Gas Particulate Vapor) PAPR, pushing the invention further by protecting against harmful gases as well as solid particulate.
  • 1995: 3M launches the Dual Airline, which introduced the now-familiar sight of a full-face tight-fitting mask attached to a compressed airline, giving the user the option of switching from negative pressure (lungs pulling the air) to positive pressure (air mechanically supplied into the face mask).
  • 1998: 3M acquires RACAL and all of their products, propelling them to the top of the PAPR market.
  • 2001: A company called Hornell launches the Adflo PAPR, geared specifically toward welding applications.
  • 2004: 3M acquires Hornell and the Adflo.
  • 2009: The Versaflo line of PAPRs launches.
  • 2010: Debut of the TR-300, with a sleek compact design that manages to fit a fully functional air processing unit into a 3½”-wide space that hugs close to the user’s back.
  • 2015: Debut of the TR-600, a fully high-performance unit that comes in two basic variations: one for pharma applications and the other for heavy industry. Chemical-specific filters are available to customize according to work conditions.

Versaflo products can be disassembled and reassembled with ease, and colored touch points guide the eye to switches and buttons, so maintenance is easy. LED status lights alert the user when the lithium ion batteries need to be recharged. When the battery is truly drained, it will provide fifteen minutes of warning signals before powering down. Battery and filter pop out easily for replacement.

2018 has been a big year. The TR-800 Series, which we profiled here, introduces a number of design tweaks that make it the finest product yet in the line. Also debuting this year is the TR-300+, profiled here, which provides protection at heights of up to 14,000 feet.

The Versaflo line is a landmark achievement in respiratory protection that we are proud to carry in our store. The lung health of our workers is too precious to risk, so the labor world needs products like this and we will always keep our pledge to provide the best.

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