|Location||Menomonie, WI USA|
|Operational Status||LaserDisc Replication Terminated April 2002|
From the very beginning, the quality of the discs pressed by 3M was stunning. Defect rates were very low, due in no small part to the process used in creating the discs. Rather than the injection molding process which Pioneer was using, they opted for "Cold Casting". This method actually presses the information into prepared blank discs instead of injecting molten acrylic into a mold. The results were fantastic, yielding extreamily high quality discs. Discs even looked different than the Pioneer product. They were also very easy to identify, based on their mint markings. 3M was the first manufacturer to proudly proclaim their product as their own. As you can see in this example from the Image Entertainment - RCA/Columbia Home Video release of Like Father, Like Son.
When Pioneer introduced CAA encoding, 3M made an additional bold departure from them by keeping the CLV encoding routines. Since the force behind the CAA encoding was the elimination of crosstalk, 3M chose to stick with the old process for two reasons: 1) 3M discs did (and do) not suffer from the crosstalk problems which forced the development of CAA; and 2) the conversion to CAA is extreamily expensive due to changes not only in software, but in the mastering equipment as well. 3M still uses CLV to this day.
In 1983, 3M launched its own video label, producing a handful of classic films which were in the public domain. Though well received, the line was dropped by 1985.
Image Entertainment, in an attempt to break out of its Adult films mold, signed with Media Home Video and began producing titles from their catalog, using 3M exclusively. Image was so impressed, they tried to move all their replication needs to 3M, but to their credit, 3M refused to manufacture any material deemed pornographic in nature. Image continued to use Pioneer USA for that material. As Image signed with more video labels, the demand on 3M became enormous. Nearly all of Image's product was now being produced by 3M as was all of Voyager's Criterion Collection line of LaserDiscs.
3M ran into a few "hick-ups" along the way. With the introduction of Digital Sound in 1985, they were successful in adding the PMC track into the CLV pattern, but it managed to create a dark vertical band in the picture on the right half of the screen. Seen in the first ever digital title from 3M (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) and all titles until Voyager said something when reviewing the pressing of their CAV verison of Blade Runner. The title was rejected and was delayed while 3M worked to fix the problem. With that problem corrected, the line ran well until 1987 when Image released Dirty Dancing and RoboCop. These title has horrible pressing runs with a huge defect problem consisting mainly of speckling. Many felt that 3M has reached critical mass and was simply being pushed beyond its means to keep up the quality. Product continued to flow, mainly from Image, and the defect problem seemed to be back under control. However, this was the least of 3M's problems.
Reports began trickling in 1989 of a new LaserDisc plague. 3M product was beginning to suffer from LaserRot. However, this rot was very different from Pioneer's troubles. With Pioneer, the discs actually "looked" okay to the naked eye. However, with 3M, there was a visable deterioration of the reflective surface. My copy of A Video Standard appeared to have developed spots, a localized breakdown of the aluminum layer. When held up to the light, it was even easier to see the oxidization. Fear ran rampent in the LaserDisc industry, some claiming that ALL 3M product was now going to rot on the shelf. A dealer even instructed me to check all my 3M product to look for rot. From my extensive library, I pulled all 3M discs and spent two days scanning every side. I found only 1 defective disc, the previously mentioned A Video Standard which Reference Recordings exchanged for me without question. Regardless, 3M located and corrected the problem, and their product once again became stable.
It was too late. 3M withdrew from the consumer product channel and focused almost exclusively on the industrial market. It is unknown if the departure from consumer manufacturing was made at 3M's discretion, or if folks like Image and Criterion simply chose to look elsewhere for their pressing needs. There have been a few consumer titles to trickle out of 3M in the past few years. For example the Lumivision release of the A&E documentary Titanic is a two disc 3M pressing. Additionally, all copies of E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (CAV Box Set - NOT the newly issued THX Signature Collection edition) from Universal Studios Home Video have been produced by 3M. Still, it appears they are content on remaining an industrial application facility where limited pressing runs and exceptional quality can benefit from their expertise. Consumer replication appears to be too cost prohibitive and the production runs too large for proper quality assurance to be maintained.
In 1996, 3M spun-off the videodisc project and changed the name to Imation. The mint mark has been changed accordingly by replacing "3M" with "Imation". The rest of the mint markings remain unchanged.