3M made $35.4 billion in total sales in 2021, and ranked number 102 in the Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. As of 2021[update], the company had approximately 95,000 employees, and had operations in more than 70 countries.
Five businessmen founded the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company as a mining venture in Two Harbors, Minnesota, making their first sale on June 13, 1902. The goal was to mine corundum, but this failed because the mine's mineral holdings were anorthosite, which had no commercial value. Co-founder John Dwan solicited funds in exchange for stock and Edgar Ober and Lucius Ordway took over the company in 1905. The company moved to Duluth and began researching and producing sandpaper products.William L. McKnight, later a key executive, joined the company in 1907, and A. G. Bush joined in 1909. 3M finally became financially stable in 1916 and was able to pay dividends.
The company moved to St. Paul in 1910, where it remained for 52 years before outgrowing the campus and moving to its current headquarters at 3M Center in Maplewood, Minnesota, in 1962.
In 1951, DuPont purchased PFOA from then-Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company for use in the manufacturing of teflon, a product that brought DuPont a billion-dollar-a-year profit by the 1990s. DuPont referred to PFOA as C8. The original formula for Scotchgard, a water repellent applied to fabrics, was discovered accidentally in 1952 by 3M chemists Patsy Sherman and Samuel Smith. Sales began in 1956, and in 1973 the two chemists received a patent for the formula.
In the late 1950s, 3M produced the first asthma inhaler, but the company did not enter the pharmaceutical industry until the mid-1960s with the acquisition of Riker Laboratories, moving it from California to Minnesota. 3M retained the Riker Laboratories name for the subsidiary until at least 1985. In the mid-1990s, 3M Pharmaceuticals, as the division came to be called, produced the first CFC-free asthma inhaler in response to adoption of the Montreal Protocol by the United States. In the 1980s and 1990s, the company spent fifteen years developing a topical cream delivery technology which led in 1997 to health authority approval and marketing of a symptomatic treatment for genital warts, Aldara. 3M divested its pharmaceutical unit through three deals in 2006, netting more than US$2 billion. At the time, 3M Pharmaceuticals comprised about 20% of 3M's health care business and employed just over a thousand people.
3M traffic signals installed in Shelton, Washington. Standing off-axis from the intended viewing area, these signals are invisible to adjacent lanes of traffic in daylight. (A faint glow is visible at night.)
The same two signals above, taken in the signal's intended viewing area (a single lane of northbound traffic). Special light-diffusing optics and a colored fresnel lens create the indication.
3M Mincom was involved in some of the first digital audio recordings of the late 1970s to see commercial release when a prototype machine was brought to the Sound 80 studios in Minneapolis. In 1979 3M introduced a digital audio recording system called "3M Digital Audio Mastering System".
3M launched "Press 'n Peel" in stores in four cities in 1977, but results were disappointing. A year later 3M instead issued free samples directly to consumers in Boise, Idaho, with 95% of those who tried them indicating they would buy the product. The product was sold as "Post-its" in 1979 when the rollout introduction began, and was sold across the United States from April 6, 1980. The following year they were launched in Canada and Europe.
On its 100th anniversary, 3M changed its legal name to "3M Company" on April 8, 2002. On September 8, 2008, 3M announced an agreement to acquire Meguiar's, a car-care products company that was family-owned for over a century. In August 2010, 3M acquired Cogent Systems for $943 million and on October 13, 2010, 3M completed acquisition of Arizant Inc. In December 2011, 3M completed the acquisition of the Winterthur Technology Group, a bonded abrasives company.
As of 2012, 3M was one of the 30 companies included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, added on August 9, 1976, and was 97 on the 2011 Fortune 500 list. On January 3, 2012, it was announced that the Office and Consumer Products Division of Avery Dennison was being bought by 3M for $550 million. The transaction was canceled by 3M in September 2012 amid antitrust concerns.
In March 2017, 3M purchased Johnson Controls International Plc's safety gear business, Scott Safety, for $2 billion.
In 2017, 3M had net sales for the year of $31.657 billion, up from $30.109 billion the year before. In 2018, it was reported that the company would pay $850 million to end the Minnesota water pollution case concerning perfluorochemicals.
On May 25, 2018, Michael F. Roman was appointed CEO by the board of directors. There are a few international subsidiaries such as 3M India, 3M Japan, and 3M Canada.
On December 19, 2018, 3M announced it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the technology business of M*Modal, for a total enterprise value of $1.0 billion.
In October 2019, 3M purchased Acelity and its KCI subsidiaries for $6.7 billion, including assumption of debt and other adjustments.
On May 1, 2020, 3M divested substantially all of its drug delivery business to an affiliate of Altaris Capital Partners, LLC., for approximately $650 million including a 17% interest in the new operating company, Kindeva Drug Delivery.
In December 2021, 3M announced that it would merge its food-safety business with food testing and animal healthcare products maker Neogen. The deal, with an enterprise value of about $5.3 billion, is expected to close by September 2022.
In July 2022, the company announced it would spin off its healthcare assets to form a new, independent firm, likely completing the transaction in 2023. 3M will retain an ownership stake of 19.9% in the new, publicly-traded health care company and gradually divest the holdings.
3M produces approximately 60,000 products, as of 2019, and has four business groups focused on safety and industrial, transportation and electronics, health care, and consumer products. 3M obtained its first patent in 1924, and acquires approximately 3,000 new patents annually. The company surpassed the 100,000-patent threshold in 2014.
3M's Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program was established in 1975. The program initially focused on pollution reduction at the plant level and was expanded to promote recycling and reduce waste across all divisions in 1989. By the early 1990s, approximately 2,500 3P projects decreased the company's total global pollutant generation by 50 percent and saved 3M $500–600 million by eliminating the production of waste requiring subsequent treatment.
During the 1990s and 2000s, 3M reduced releases of toxic pollutants by 99 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 72 percent. The company earned the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Award each year the honor was presented, as of 2012.
In 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating perfluorinated chemicals after receiving data on the global distribution and toxicity of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). These materials are part of a broad group of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances often referred to as PFAS, each of which has different chemical properties. 3M, the former primary producer of PFOS from the U.S., announced the phase-out of PFOS, perfluorooctanoic acid, and PFOS-related product production in May 2000. Perfluorinated
compounds produced by 3M have been used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and other products.
The Cottage Grove facility manufactured PFAS from the 1940s to 2002. In response to PFAS contamination of the Mississippi River and surrounding area, 3M stated the area will be "cleaned through a combination of groundwater pump-out wells and soil sediment excavation". The restoration plan was based on an analysis of the company property and surrounding lands. The on-site water treatment facility that handled the plant's post-production water was not capable of removing PFAS, which were released into the nearby Mississippi River. The clean-up cost estimate, which included a granular activated carbon system to remove PFAS from the ground water was $50 to $56 million, funded from a $147 million environmental reserve set aside in 2006.
In 2008, 3M created the Renewable Energy Division within 3M's Industrial and Transportation Business to focus on Energy Generation and Energy Management.
In late 2010, the state of Minnesota sued 3M for $5 billion in punitive damages, claiming they released PFCs—classified a toxic chemical by the EPA—into local waterways. A settlement for $850 million was reached in February 2018, although in 2019, 3M, along with the Chemours Company and DuPont, appeared before lawmakers to deny responsibility, with company Senior VP of Corporate Affairs Denise Rutherford arguing that the chemicals pose no human health threats at current levels and have no victims.
3M reported Total CO2e emissions (Direct + Indirect) for the twelve months ending 31 December 2020 at 5,280 Kt (-550 /-9.4% y-o-y) and plans to reduce emissions 50% by 2030 from a 2019 base year. The company also aims achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 
3M's annual Total CO2e Emissions - Location-Based Scope 1 + Scope 2 (in kilotonnes)
The Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), was developed by Aearo Technologies for U.S. military and civilian use. The CAEv2 was a double ended earplug that 3M claimed would offer users different levels of protection. Between 2003 and 2015, these earplugs were standard issue to members of the U.S. military. 3M acquired Aearo Technologies in 2008.
In May 2016, Moldex-Metric, Inc., a 3M competitor, filed a whistleblower complaint against 3M under the False Claims Act. Moldex-Metric claimed that 3M made false claims to the U.S. government about the safety of its earplugs, and that it knew the earplugs had an inherently defective design. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S government to resolve the allegations, without admitting liability.
Since 2018, more than 140,000 former users of the earplugs (primarily U.S. military veterans) have filed suit against 3M claiming they suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus, and other damage as a consequence of the defective design.
Internal emails showed that 3M officials boasted about charging $7.63 per piece for the earplugs which cost 85 cents to produce. The company's official response indicated that the cost to the government includes R&D costs.
The N95 respirator mask was developed by 3M and approved in 1972. Being able to filter viral particulates, its use was recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic but supply soon became short. Much of the company's supply had already been sold prior to the outbreak.
The shortages led to the U.S. government asking 3M to stop exporting US-made N95 respirator masks to Canada and to Latin American countries, and President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to require 3M to prioritize orders from the federal government. The dispute was resolved when 3M agreed to import more respirators, mostly from its factories in China.
3M later struck a CA$70M deal with the federal government of Canada and the Ontario provincial government to produce N95 masks at their plant in Brockville, Ontario.
3M's general offices, corporate research laboratories, and some division laboratories in the U.S. are in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the United States, 3M operates 80 manufacturing facilities in 29 states, and 125 manufacturing and converting facilities in 37 countries outside the U.S. (in 2017).
In March 2016, 3M completed a 400,000-square-foot (37,000 m2) research-and-development building that cost $150 million on its Maplewood campus. Seven hundred scientists from various divisions occupy the building. They were previously scattered across the campus. 3M hopes concentrating its research and development in this manner will improve collaboration. 3M received $9.6 million in local tax increment financing and relief from state sales taxes in order to assist with development of the building.
Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, UK factory producing respirators for workers safety, using laser technology. It has 370 employees and recently there was an investment of £4.5 million ($7 million).
In Minnesota, 3M's Hutchinson facility produces products for more than half of the company's 23 divisions, as of 2019. The "super hub" has manufactured adhesive bandages for Nexcare, furnace filters, and Scotch Tape, among other products. The Cottage Grove plant is one of three operated by 3M for the production of pad conditioners, as of 2011.
3M has operated a manufacturing plant in Columbia, Missouri since 1970. The plant has been used for the production of products including electronic components, solar and touchscreen films, and stethoscopes. The facility received a $20 million expansion in 2012 and has approximately 400 employees.
3M's Springfield, Missouri plant opened in 1967 and makes industrial adhesives and tapes for aerospace manufacturers. In 2017, 3M had approximately 330 employees in the metropolitan area, and announced a $40 million expansion project to upgrade the facility and redevelop another building.
In Iowa, the Ames plant makes sandpaper products and received funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) for expansions in 2013 and 2018. The Knoxville plant is among 3M's largest and produces approximately 12,000 different products, including adhesives and tapes.
3M's Southeast Asian operations are based in Singapore, where the company has invested $1 billion over 50 years. 3M has a facility in Tuas, a manufacturing plant and Smart Urban Solutions lab in Woodlands, and a customer technical center in Yishun. 3M expanded a factory in Woodlands in 2011, announced a major expansion of the Tuas plant in 2016, and opened new headquarters in Singapore featuring a Customer Technical Centre in 2018.
The company has operated in China since 1984, and was Shanghai's first Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise. 3M's seventh plant, and the first dedicated to health care product production, opened in Shanghai in 2007. By October 2007, the company had opened an eighth manufacturing plant and technology center in Guangzhou. 3M broke ground on its ninth manufacturing facility, for the production of photovoltaics and other renewable energy products, in Hefei in 2011. 3M announced plans to construct a technology innovation center in Chengdu in 2015, and opened a fifth design center in Shanghai in 2019.
3M's CEOs have included: Cross (1966–1970), Heltzer (1970–1975), Herzog (1975–1979), Lehr (1979–1986), Jacobson (1986–1991), DeSimone (1991–2001), McNerney (2001–2005), Robert S. Morrison (2005, interim), Buckley (2005–2012), Thulin (2012–2018), and Roman (2018–present).
3M's presidents have included: Edgar B. Ober (1905–1929), McKnight (1929–1949), Richard P. Carlton (1949–1953),Herbert P. Buetow (1953–1963), Cross (1963–1966), Heltzer (1966–1970), and Herzog (1970–1975). In the late 1970s, the position was separated into roles for U.S. and international operations. The position overseeing domestic operations was first held by Lehr, followed by John Pitblado from 1979 to 1981, then Jacobson from 1984 to 1991. James A. Thwaits led international operations starting in 1979. Buckley and Thulin were president during 2005–2012, and 2012–2018, respectively.
V. Huck, Brand of the Tartan: The 3M Story, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1955. Early history of 3M and challenges, includes employee profiles.
C. Rimington, From Minnesota mining and manufacturing to 3M Australia Pty Ltd (3M Australia: the Story of an Innovative Company), Sid Harta Publishers, 2013. Recollections from 3M Australia employees in context of broader organisational history.
^ abTheatre Crafts, Volume 23, Issues 1-5. Rodale Press. 1989. p. 12. Retrieved September 15, 2020. Schaefer Applied Technology of Norwood, Massachusetts, has put Nextel Brand Simulated Blood back on the market. This stage blood developed by 3M, is based on colorfast red microbeads suspended in a carrier liquid, and contains no dyes, detergents, or sugar syrup, and will not cause staining or damage to existing dyes.
^"3M Says Reputation Is Still Strong One". The New York Times. May 14, 1975. Retrieved August 28, 2019. Mr. Herzog was elected chairman at a board meeting after the stockholder session, succeeding Harry Heltzer. Mr. Herzog will continue as president and chief executive officer.
^ abSchmitt, Eric (February 11, 1986). "Business People; 2 Top 3M Posts Go to Domestic Head". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2019. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company announced yesterday that Allen F. Jacobson, president of the concern's domestic operations, had been named chairman and chief executive, effective March 1.
^ abDash, Eric (December 8, 2005). "3M Finds Chief Without Reaching for a Star". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2019. And yesterday, 3M named George W. Buckley, the low-profile leader of the Brunswick Corporation, as its new chairman and chief executive.
^ abJensen, Michael C. (March 9, 1975). "How 3M Got Tangled Up in Politics". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2019. Bert S. Cross, who was chairman and chief executive of 3M from 1966 to 1970, and a board member thereafter, will not seek re‐election to the board where he serves as chairman of the finance committee.
^Byrne, Harlan S. (July 3, 2000). "A Changed Giant". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2019. The patient approach may have originated with W. L. McKnight, a legendary CEO who joined the company in 1907 and became president in 1929.