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3M Donates Custom Acoustic Tiles for Smithsonian's National Zoo

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 3:01 PM


3M is playing an important role in improving the visitor experience at one of the nation’s most beloved attractions. New acoustic tiles installed this week in the Great Ape House at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., are helping dramatically reduce noise levels, and allowing visitors to better appreciate the animals and their habitat.

The Great Ape House, home to six western lowland gorillas and six orangutans, is a favorite spot in the Zoo, frequented by families and school groups. Detracting from the experience, though, was the level of noise that bounced from the large amount of glass and concrete used in the space. However, with the installation of 1,430 new acoustic tiles, 3M will help control noise levels and make it easier for visitors to hear teachers and guides, as well as one another.

3M researchers customized the tiles for specific frequency levels, which developers project will reduce noise levels by 40 percent. 3M has significant expertise in the development of noise-reduction technology – for years 3M Thinsulate™ Acoustic Insulation has been used to reduce noise levels in automobiles, aircraft and appliances. This expertise, combined with the company’s ongoing work on acoustic film tiles, paved the way for a solution to reduce noise volume in the Great Ape House.

Additional 3M innovations used in the development of the tiles include flame retardant resins and a new variety of Command™ Adhesive. With this adhesive, the tiles can be easily installed, with no need to drill into the concrete at the Great Ape House. If later adjustments are necessary at the site, the adhesive is also easily removable.

“These tiles have the capability to broadly absorb frequencies, as well as to be fine tuned,” said Stephanie Castiglione, a 3M product developer. “With this technology, we were able to tailor the tiles for the Great Ape House specifically for the frequencies that we measured there.”

In addition to their use in the Great Ape House, the National Zoo has planned future installations for the acoustic tiles in the Amazonia Science Gallery, as well as the Written in Bones exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. At both sites, the Smithsonian aims to achieve the same improved visitor experience and work environment as at the Great Ape House.

“We are proud to donate to the Smithsonian experience and to enable better learning at this exhibit,” said Kim Price, Vice President, 3M Community Affairs.


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