Meet the man behind the mask

When he’s developing a new respirator, 3M scientist John Bryant takes his work home with him, wearing the prototype to go running and cycling and even to knock down walls!

Explained John:

“I find that wearing the test respirator in real life conditions, such as a hot and sweaty gym or doing a spot of DIY, is the best way to get inspiration for new designs that are comfortable for the user to wear and give the best protection against hazardous particles.

“Developing any new product needs a mixture of scientific insight, learning from techniques used in other industries, common sense and trial and error. It also needs curiosity on the part of the scientist and working for a company like 3M that understands that inventions come partly through experimenting. One of the great things about working for 3M is that as technical employees we can spend 15per cent of our time exploring and ‘playing’ with techniques and ideas that interest us and this leads to some of our best inventions.”

John has a degree in electrical engineering and a post graduate diploma in environmental engineering and his first job was with the British government. He said:

“I soon decided that working for 3M would give me more opportunities, so I joined the engineering team in Bracknell in the 1980s, looking after facilities, buildings and processes.”

After 18 months John relocated to 3M’s Gorseinon plant in Wales where he worked as a process engineer on the nappy tape production line followed by a move to 3M’s respirator plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Said John:

“I joined the development team in Aycliffe to apply the science of air flow and heat transmission to developing the next generation of respirators. I also studied management and gained a Master’s Degree in manufacturing and marketing so I could better understand the full product development process.

“As well as designing new products for the European market, such as a respirator for cyclists to protect against pollution, I worked on a number of joint developments with our US team. These included developing the 3M™ Cool Flow™ Valve for our respirators to help regulate temperature flow inside the respirator. The aesthetic design was partially inspired by the design of the front grill of a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.”

3M site Newton Aycliffe, John Bryant

3M’s John Bryant uses science to help us breathe easy.

John also led the development team (including Chris Henderson and Des Curran) behind 3M’s first three-panel flat-fold disposable respirator setting new standards for comfort and convenience. He said:

“We know that the main barrier to workers wearing respirators for protection against contaminants is comfort and so we constantly re-invent our own technologies to improve on comfort and fit to help create safe working environments with no loss in productivity.

“Disposable cup shaped respirators were originally launched by 3M around 50 years ago, followed by a two-panel respirator. We launched the first three-panel design in 1997 based on detailed research to understand how to convert a 2D shape when carried into a 3D shape when worn. This involved us investigating a number of related techniques, including origami!

“To find the best solution for wearing a product against the skin, we also looked at how inventors had addressed similar problems in the past. We researched patents going back 200 years for everything from respirators, nappies and boxing gloves to see how they were designed and made.

“As well as testing a new design in the lab, we ask customers to try them out in the field and give us their feedback. Then we optimise and test again until we have a final product that gives the most natural feel.”

Added John:

“I love applying knowledge, science and experience to creating a product that people actually want to wear and contributes to a better, healthier world. Knowing that our products protect people working across a range of industries gives me great pride and satisfaction.”

3M site Newton Aycliffe, Chris Enderson (l) John Bryant (r)

John Bryant with Chris Henderson who, along with Des Curran, was also part of the first 3M three-panel flat-fold respirator development team



John has a degree in electrical engineering, a postgraduate diploma in environmental engineering and a Master’s Degree in manufacturing and marketing. His first job was with the British Government before he joined 3M’s Bracknell based engineering team in the 1980s. After 18 months John relocated to 3M’s Gorseinon plant in Wales where he worked as a process engineer on the nappy tape production line. Moved to 3M’s Respirator plant in Newton Aycliffe, Durham applying the science of air flow and heat transmission to respirators.

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