Jun
0

John Strange and the Autofisher

By John Strange

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My name is John Strange. I am an inventor from Kankakee Illinois. I call my invention the Autofisher. It is an Automatic hook setting device or fishing machine. When a fish takes the bait the Autofisher uses springs to lift the rod setting the hook. It is an electrically controlled device that will not only set the hook but will also simultaneously alert the fisherman with flashing lights and an audible alarm. The Autofisher shown here is my first prototype. I came up with it one evening after a frustrating night of fishing. My wife and then newborn daughter stayed back at the campsite while I tried my luck cat fishing. I limited out but missed several nice fish on my other rod. That’s when I thought up the idea of making a machine that would catch the fish for me. A year later I made my first Autofisher. I have since made four other models. My latest uses pneumatics instead of springs to set the hook. This model by far surpasses all of my other designs. Please realize that because it is not patented I can not show you this invention. I can give you an idea of what it is like by showcasing my earlier prototype. I have done a lot of research to check for similar fishing apparatuses but have found none that will do the same thing as mine.

The Autofisher is a fishing machine that automatically sets the hook for you. When a fish takes the bait the Autofisher lifts the rod hooking the fish. It works for any stationary tight line fishing method. Use it for bank fishing, vertical fishing, or drop shot techniques. The Autofisher was originally designed with ice fishing in mind but due to its size and power it was better suited for catching catfish and ruff fish. The frame is made of steel and stands nearly 4 feet high. The base is made of wood wrapped in polyethylene plastic to allow for easy transport over snow and ice. It turns out that polyethylene also slides easily over rocks making it great for rocky shorelines.

The Autofisher is electrically controlled. The rod holder is attached to a spring board with a mercury switch. When the fish takes the bait the spring board tips the vial of mercury completing the circuit. The mercury switch energizes a relay that powers a linear solenoid. The solenoid pulls in releasing a latch holding back a small pair of springs. The springs move a lever that trips a fence latch holding back an assembly of six 6″ extension springs. These springs are stretched to a length of 12″ with the aid of a heavy duty ratchet strap. When the primary springs are released by the secondary spring assembly they rocket forward moving a lever attached to the spring board. The spring board is rapidly tipped backward setting the hook.

I invented the Autofisher out of necessity. It was the summer of 2005 when I first came up with the idea. The fish where biting so good one night that I couldn’t keep two rods baited. As I reeled in one fish my second rod would get a bite. If I could have manned both rods at once I wouldn’t have missed so many fish. That’s when I decided to make a machine that would catch the fish for me. I spent the next six months working on different designs. The earliest prototype used an office chair cylinder instead of a spring. Due to problems with the release mechanism it never was finished. I spent another six months redesigning the Autofisher. In 2006 I finished my first working prototype. The machine shown here is what I came up with. It caught fish but was too heavy and difficult to transport to be practical. For awhile I gave up on the idea of ever making a successful machine. It took until 2008 before inventing my latest version. This Autofisher used pneumatics instead of springs which solved many of the problems I had with the original design. Since then I have considered filing for a patent. For that reason I can’t go into too much detail without giving all my secrets away. Learn more about my latest design as my web site grows.

I learned a lot during the two month fundraiser that began this past March of 2011. Sadly we did not reach the $2500 funding goal needed for the provisional patent. With that said I would like to thank all of the people who took an interest in the Autofisher. I also would like to thank those of you who I met at Braidwood Lake, LaSalle Lake, and Milliken Lake this past spring, I really enjoyed your comments. I’d like to thank all of the businesses and people who posted fliers at their shops. I also would like to thank all of you who took the time to visit my website. Last but not least I would like to give a special thanks to Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun-Times who did and outstanding job telling my story. The fundraiser may be over but I plan to continue working on the Autofisher. Over the course of the next few years I intend to apply for a patent and begin selling my machine. My website will also be undergoing some changes. Look for new videos and updated web content in the months to come. As always happy fishing and tight lines!

Jun
0

Nigel Robinson on the Road to Invention

By Nigel Robinson

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I’m Nigel Robinson a retired old-school trucker. This is my story of a dream come to reality.

It all started many years ago when the idea for an automatic coupling system first bloomed in my mind. Then around 16 years ago I had a chance meeting with an engineer called David Morgan. I had enrolled in a course to learn engineer drafting, with the hope of obtaining a city and guilds certificate.

David was my tutor for the duration of the class, which was fortunate for me because he was a man that was good at his job, didn’t cut corners, and was meticulous and precise. After a while, when I had learned the basic requisites of the course and had gotten to know David a bit better, I began to become side tracked from the course work, and make sketches / drawings of my own idea. This idea that had been in my head for some time now was a way to make an automatic connection between a truck and a trailer.

It didn’t take long before David noticed my mind had wandered, and asked me what the sideline design was all about? I explained to him that for many years now trucks have coupled to trailers manually, which is a dirty and dangerous job that all truckers out there hate to do. My thought was, we are advancing in technology all the time, so why not automate this procedure, and have a simple button that can be pressed inside the cab, to connect air/electrics, and lift/lower trailer legs, making it safer, quicker, and cleaner for the driver.

David knew nothing about trucks, or trailers, except that they carried cargo from one destination to another and are driven by hairy arsed men with big arms. After listening in depth to what I had to say, he could see the potential in this type of device, and soon became involved as an engineer and consultant helping me with the design.

The first thing I had to do was obtain information about the vehicle to be sure it was possible to make changes in the area we were looking to alter. David and I approached a local manufacturer to ask if they would give us permission to look around their yard, and workshop, in order to collect some measurements and calculations.

The company manager agreed to see us for an informal chat. He seemed to be a polite young chap, very presentable, but I must admit, asked a lot of questions about the project, as well as having his own engineer in the office with us listening in to everything being discussed.

Obviously we had to be careful, so we kept the conversation on a purely research level, talking about the streamlining of vehicles, keeping it simple and straight forward, not letting on to what our real motives were for being there.

At one stage during our meeting, the manager produced a brochure advertising new trailer designs, all pictured with tractor units connected, much to my surprise and excitement, he raised the question of air/electric lines hanging off the back of the cab, and commented on how untidy, as well as old fashioned it looked. Well you could have knocked me down with a feather, this man knew nothing of my idea, yet the first thing he talked about, was the very area I was about to try and change.

Not to give much away, we told him the information was for an assignment at college studying road transport advancement over the years, and we needed to make a few sketches, along with some figures, to help with the course work.

Over the following months David spent a lot of time at the drawing board working on the design with me, the more he understood it, the more positive he became, and soon began to share in my excitement. As we progressed, both he and I had many sleepless nights thinking about how to come up with ways that possibly could, and maybe would work.

Every morning we would exchange thoughts and sketches regarding different parts of the system. Sometimes it took several days and nights just to complete one piece, but we persevered, bouncing ideas off one another, and eventually we came up with the answer.  Although, I must admit that some of the frustrations that popped up during the design process had me thinking it would never happen, that my dream would be squashed.

After 10 months of hard work, and a lot of headaches, the last drawing was finally completed, which meant the system could now be prototyped and, in theory, be made functional.

I thanked David for his help and made a note of his address and telephone number so I could contact him if there were any future developments.

My next move was to patent the design in order to protect it from thieving sharks. I looked into various ways of doing this, primarily searching for a method that would avoid having to fork over massive amounts of money that I didn’t have.

The simplest and cheapest way was to put the drawings in a large envelope, seal it with sticking tape, take it to the post office, get them to stamp it with the day’s date across the seal, and then post it to myself. When it arrived I left it sealed and put the package in a safe, dry, and secure place for future reference. This is known as a copy write patent, and although not official, it could be used as proof if needed.

As time rolled on, I continued to do my job, trucking across the UK and Europe, for freight forwarders, Davis-Turner. A day didn’t go by without me thinking about the system, and its advantages, especially when dropping or picking up a trailer, getting covered in grease and muck from the lines (all you truckers out there know what I mean).

My biggest obstacle was that I lacked the money to finance the project, and believe me, we’re not talking peanuts. It would take a huge amount just to get it registered with a patent agent, let alone to take it further down the line into the prototyping and, eventually, manufacturing stages.

By now several of my fellow truckers knew of my idea, and all agreed it would be a God send
if a device of this type were to hit the market place and be made available worldwide.

Some years on, and a few broken promises later, another chance meeting came my way, in the shape of serious financial help to get the design off the ground.

One night while socializing, a good friend of mine named Neil, was talking about the system to an associate of his named Ricky; the following night we all arranged to meet for a chat.

After explaining the potential advantages of the design to Ricky Davis, and his business partner Steve Crossland, it was agreed that for a slice of the pie they would come on board to cover the financial side of things, and front all of the costs needed to get to the manufacturing stage.

An agreement was drawn up by a solicitor, and as promised I gave them a piece of the action. Straightaway, Ricky started to honor his side of the deal and made contact with patent agents to get the first phase of the official U.K. patent in place. When the paperwork arrived already stamped with my name on it as the inventor, it was a very special feeling moment. I remember staring at the document, and letting my imagination run wild.

Over the next couple of years we expanded the U.K. patent into a European patent. We also contacted the relevant certification bodies, a very powerful and important organization responsible for rubber stamping everything related to vehicles and their operations.

They requested that we make a prototype trailer pin and submit it for trials at there main
test plant. There it would go through a rigorous process and be tested statically to its destruction. Waiting for the results was a bloody nightmare, but eventually they arrived, and much to my delight it was good news.

So from there on in, I needed to find a manufacturer in order to take the project further.
The biggest problem in this endeavor was trust. So, armed with confidentiality agreements we set about approaching one or two different engineering companies in the U.K. hoping to get them on board. This was no easy task, they were either not prepared to commit wholeheartedly, or just weren’t interested in taking the risk on a new innovation.

At this point, the system’s life had advanced so much and we had invested so much money that we had to keep driving forward in the hope someday good things would come to us.

About a year later, out the blue, I received a phone call that changed everything.
Again a fate meeting was responsible for pushing the project forward. I fell into a conversation about the system with two guys, Tim and Mike, who ran a trailer company.
For quite some time they had been conducting business with a northern Italian company, and had struck a good working as well as personal relationship with them.

Through Tim and Mike, contact was made with the Italian company, and a brief description of our design was given to them. I remember the first meeting with the Italians very clearly. After presenting them with the design and its advantages, their response was so positive it gave me a lift like id never felt before. This along with their hospitality spoke volumes to me; At last an honest professional company was interested in the system.

An official launch of my system took place in Italy in November of 2007. There the complete working system was demonstrated on board a new truck coupled to a new air ride skeleton chassis trailer. I can honestly say, people, that it looked the business.

This was a special time for me because, after all is said and done, at heart I am still a trucker, and to see my system working and know that sometime in the near future all fellow road buddies across the globe will hopefully benefit from it is truly a dream come true.

I would like to give BIG thanks to Roberto, David, Ricky, Steve, Tim, Mike, all my friends and family, the Italian company, as well as all the truckers out there that I spoke to about this idea, and all those who gave me encouragement and help in pursuing my dream to the end.
Keep the hammer down, and truck em’ on safely and securely.

Cheers! Nigel Robinson

Nigel’s website can be found at http://www.lifeasatrucker.com/index.html. HHis story is thus posted at http://www.lifeasatrucker.com/8-my-invention-story.html.

Jun
0

Jay Alger and the Unscripted Lid

By Jay Alger

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I am Jay Alger: Inventor of the Unscripted Lid.

I have a b.s. in business admin from UW-LaCrosse where I graduated in 1994. I spent several years in retail management before I went back to school and got a degree in Surgical Technology.  Currently I work full time as a surg tech and spend all my free time with my 1 year old twin daughters and working on Unscripted Lids.

I first got the idea for an erasable hat in 2009 as I was driving and listening to the radio.  I heard a story on a talk show about a young boy 12 or 13 years old who was making custom hats with glue and glitter. He would buy blank hats and whenever he was inspired by something he would use glue and glitter to make a custom baseball cap. I instantly thought, wow this kid needs an erasable hat. Then I thought, I wonder if a dry erase patch would work on a baseball cap.  Later that day I bought a dry erase board, markers and a blank hat and made a rough prototype.This prototype, as far as I know, was the World’s first dry erase hat.

After doing some research on my own and finding nothing like a dry erase baseball cap on the market I decided to file for a provisional patent.  I then made about 400 hats by using a steel rule die and a rolling pin to cut patches of a dry erase material.  I bought blank caps wholesale and contracted with a local embroiderer to put the patches on the hats. Then in 2010 I hit all the local festivals I could find and set up a booth with Unscripted Lids for sale.  The reactions I got from kids, teens and adults both male and female was amazing.  Everybody got a laugh when they discovered they could write or draw on the hats, erase and then write or draw on the hats again over and over.  After a couple festivals I decided to file for a full patent and I was officially awarded my design patent in April of this year.

I am now working with a factory in China, which is where I have all Unscripted Lids produced. I have 22 wholesale customers (and counting) and I sell retail. I am a long way from getting rich, but it has been so much fun working on this venture. It may take a few more years but I have faith Unscripted Lids will be a household name eventually.

Jun
0

Mehmet Nemo Turker and GlassOuse: the World’s First Assistive Mouse

BY ROBERT BEAR

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Sometimes you come across a story that needs to told. I found GlassOuse: the World’s First Assistive Mouse one night on Indiegogo. The following is taken from their campaign page and answered by Mehmet Nemo Turker, inventor of GlassOuse.

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Why did you create GlassOuse?

This is a true story. Caner Cem Marti, a 20-year-old young man, who loves sports and travelling. On 5 July 2014, he dived into the sea during his travels in Amasra. Unfortunately, his spine was seriously injured so that now, even after surgery,he must remain in bed. This is a tragedy for Caner. He cannot move his arms or his legs, not to mention travelling outside like he used to. The accident has created tons of difficulties in Caner’s life, for example, using a smart phone. For us, using a smart phone or tablet maybe a piece of cake, but for Caner, he needs someone else’s help just to use a digital device. The most common things that we do everyday, like dialing, texting, emailing, or chatting online, are all big challenges for Caner and millions of people like him. Modern technology helps us all, yet turns away disabled people—statistics show that there are X million people who cannot enjoy smart devices because of their disabilities. “I am always asking the same question: can I make Caner’s life easier?” says Allen, Caner’s friend, “and that is why I created GlassOuse, which helps Caner and other people like him, to use a smart phone by themselves, just like we do everyday.”

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How does GlassOuse help disabilities?

The GlassOuse is comprised of a pair of glassed and a “click” button. First, activate the Bluetooth connection on your device, then press the “Connect” button, and the app will find and connect to “CEBA GlassOuse.” After you put GlassOuse on your head, the cursor on the device’s screen moves according to your head movements. When your head is in a centered and comfortable position, the cursor should be in the middle of the screen. To move the cursor left or right, simply move your head from side to side. You use same method to slide the cursor up and down. You can click the mouse by biting or pressing the “click” button connected to the glass by flexible cable. This button has been tested 50,000 times under 3 tons so you don’t need to worry about the quality. A 330mAh 3.7v Li-Po CEBA cell is used for GlassOuse. This cell provides nearly 15 hours of use. The cell can be recharged so you can use it repeatably.

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How was the prototype process?

Prototype is done already.

How was the patent process?

We already get technology and design patent.

How do you plan to market it?

We already have 8 Countries distributor. We will market it through distributors on retail and online sale.

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How did you did decide on a manufacturer?

I own another company name is CEBA Battery. We already have a factory. We manufacture by our selves.

What advice would you give to those interested in inventing?

For inventing you need to decide your final destination. Than find the way to arrive. That’s all.

Click here to visit the Indiegogo Campaign page.
For more information, please visit http://glassouse.com/

May
0

ONEclassic: Transparent DECT Quality Wireless Speakers

BY ROBERT BEAR

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For as long as I can remember stereo speakers have always looked like…well, stereo speakers. I want speakers in my room to look sleek and at a fair price. Looks like the ONEclassic may just be what I am looking for. I found the ONEclassic on Kickstarter and felt compelled to contact Tracy, the product development engineer at ONEaudio and asked her the following questions:

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What is ONEclassic?

imageBecause our DECT technology has been recognised by CES innovation awards 2016.

ONEclassic is an innovative wireless speaker system that puts true audiophile quality sound in your home at one-tenth the price. It’s the first audio system to use DECT technology. DECT changes how sound is delivered to your ears. It aligns the sound and removes the audio lag present in most systems.

The result? Sound that rivals a live sound stage performance. ONEclassic sets up in seconds with no amplifier or CD player – just connect our small USB dongle to your PC or mobile device and GO! With a compact footprint and its unique see-thru acrylic design, ONEclassic looks great in any space.

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How was the prototype process?

High-end speaker is a luxury to most people. We aimed at creating a low cost and high performance wireless speaker. So, we started this project 5 years ago. To begin with, we first studied the sound quality of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers in the market. After that, we tried to place the Bluetooth module into a small size acrylic cabinet, connecting the module to the speaker driver, to study the sound quality of acrylic cabinet. The acoustic effect of acrylic cabinet is unexpectedly amazing.

Then we sought for another kind of wireless transmission as there are limitations in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi which made them unable to deliver crystal clear sound. With over 20-year experience in DECT wireless communication, we began to study the feasibility of using DECT as the transmission channel of the wireless speaker. DECT has perfect channel synchronization which Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are unable to achieve that. We also studied the feasibility of multi-channel support, i.e. 6 channels. We also set up a PC program to evaluate different air codec and found that OPUS is the most suitable one.

One of the critical decisions we have made is that we adopted an all-in-one single chip. All-in-one single chip can minimize distortion induced by redundant components.
We successfully implemented the software to prove the concept in 2013: DECT technology is able to deliver audiophile sound quality and support 6 channels for 5.1 surround.

In 2014, the first prototype of transparent speaker enclosure was born. Then we further enhanced the user features such as sound profile and tone balance. Last year, our development came to final stage and we exhibited in Hong Kong High End Audio Visual show.

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How was the patent process?

The process of applying patent for technology innovation is costly and much more complicated than design patents. With limited budget, we are still investigating on it.

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How do you plan to market it?

The development is completed and the audio revolution is ready to begin. However, we have come across some difficulties to introduce this new kind of audio product. Those well-known brands have been spreading the idea: High-end audio must be expensive and with complicated structure. This has been planted in the general public, especially those audiophiles. Most of them are unwilling to explore this new kind of audio speaker. They just can’t believe what we have done and don’t think that they can experience a high-end audio performance at just one-tenth the price. Another obstacle is their impression of wireless speaker. Wi-Fi is originally designed for data transmission, not for audio. Wi-Fi speaker is unable to deliver high quality sound due to its limitation. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cannot achieve perfect channel synchronization, that’s why most of the wireless speaker is the single cabinet design. Therefore, those wireless speakers in the market have given the public a negative impression.

As a new brand, we have found it’s hard to change their mind. Fortunately, we can still find some open-minded users on Kickstarter. They are the pioneer of DECT technology. We hope that they can experience the power of DECT speaker and help get the word out about it by leaving some comments on our project.

So far, we have reached out to some crowdfunding PR and editors to get our Kickstarter project reported. We are still looking for editors to review our speaker and promoting our brand on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. After we finish the Kickstarter crowdfunding, we will sell ONEclassic on our official website and some online stores. US and Europe will be our target market.

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How did you did decide on a manufacturer?

The production is still small scale. We have our components manufactured in the China factory.
For quality purpose, every ONEclassic speaker is assembled in our Hong Kong office so that we can guarantee each speaker is in its highest standard. German acrylic cabinet is handmade which gives excellent transparency and acoustic effect. Each speaker has gone through 24-hour burn in, matching up to a pair and quality control.
For mass production of those battery operated speakers, the assembly process will take place in China factory.

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What advice would you give to those interested in inventing?

After you decided to invent a new thing, you need to have faith in your invention. Sometimes, others just don’t think it is worthy of doing. You need to believe what you are doing is right and worthwhile no matter what. Be patient and determined.

Click here to visit Kickstarter Campaign page.
For more information, please visit http://www.oneaudio.cc

May
0

Jan Kadlec and AirBuddy

BY ROBERT BEAR

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I have an unnatural fear of scuba diving it’s and a real bummer since I live near the ocean. It stems from my thinking about running out of air and being trapped wearing all the gear especially those tanks…so confining. Jan Kadlec contacted us at InventionStories.com and shared with us some AirBuddy information that may help overcome my fear and allow me to experience the underwater world.

The following is taken from their campaign page and from their email…

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Why did you invent the AirBuddy?

Underwater life is fascinating, beautiful and makes you understand the meaning of living in harmony. You see things you couldn’t have imagined exist, amazingly beautiful colours, corals and the fish that swim alongside you will make you feel comfortable and at peace. You glide through the water, feeling completely weightless. Once you experience the stunning underwater world, you just want to dive more and more. But, all the hassle of the preparations and logistics that go along with SCUBA diving are no fun at all.

A simple 45 minute fun dive can easily take up more than half of your day when you include time spent searching for the closest dive center, calling, booking, picking up, and returning tanks. That’s time that could be spent having fun in the turquoise ocean or relaxing on the beach.

We created AirBuddy as a way to give you the freedom to dive whenever you want without the hassle or the restrictive bulk of diving gear. AirBuddy is a cross between SCUBA diving and snorkeling that doesn’t require air tanks, yet still offers 45 minutes of diving time at a depth of up to 12 meters (40 ft).

What gave you the idea?

We like diving, but not so much the logistics around it. When we realised that you not always need SCUBA (with the heavy tanks) to dive, we looked into the options. We came across surface-supplied diving, but didn’t find any product that would be practical for us to buy and use with respect to size, weight, costs and performance. So we decided to build the first prototype of AirBuddy.

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What made you act?

Having passion for diving and engineering, we decided to build first prototypes simply for us to dive with here in Sydney and on our travels (in Australia, Fiji, Borneo, …). When we realised that AirBuddy could be of interest for more people, we continued improving it and build 5 generations of prototypes, also improving its design for manufacturability.

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How was the prototype process?

We built 5 generations of prototypes. Our first prototype was hand-made from “Bunnings Warehouse” (hardware store) components. Now we use 3D printing (e.g. plastic parts), custom CNC-machining (e.g. metal parts), custom manufacturing (e.g. electronics), we also already engage some suppliers (e.g. float), and some components are still handmade (e.g. flag), the rest is standard components, sometimes with a modification. Then we assemble all components together by ourselves.

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How was the patent process?

We hired an experienced patent attorney in Sydney. He helped us to prepare and lodge the patent documentation and continues to work with us throughout the different patent stages.

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How have you marketed it and where can we buy it?

We are not selling the units online or in brick-and-mortar shops, yet. We are on Kickstarter looking for the support of backers to help us to move into the manufacturing stage. If the campaign is successful, we produce the first batch and distribute to our backers.

What are some obstacles and how did you overcome them?

Designing a new product is a complex and challenging task. We engaged skilled people, worked with subject-matter experts, suppliers, freelancers, divers and public who helped us to resolve the problems and provided valuable feedback.

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What advice would you give to those interested in inventing?

We would recommend anyone who has a great idea and the passion for it to give it a go. Just follow your heart. They key is to believe that your idea has a potential to make the world a better place (and if not the whole world, just to make a group of people happy :simple_smile:. You’ll figure out the business model later.

– With today’s technologies, it’s possible to build a prototype and test the idea early. There’s a plenty of free (or inexpensive) resources, such as software for 3D design, PCB design, website-builders, maker-spaces, on-demand services, start-up communities, etc etc. All it takes is good problem solving skills, communications skills and willingness to learn. It won’t be easy, but hey it’s doable.

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What has made the biggest difference?

Lots of passion and emotional attachment to keep us motivated, especially in difficult times. Also the support we received from family members, friends and sometimes even strangers.

Click here to visit the Kickstarter Campaign page.
For more information, please visit http://www.airbuddy.net/

May
0

Julian Hartline and Flickerstrip: the customizable home WI-FI LED light strip

By Robert Bear

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Sometimes while searching through crowdfunding campaigns I come across a product that seems to jump off the screen. Flickerstrip is fun…see the picture above. Now imagine coming home from a hard day of work, shutting the tv off and turning your Flickerstrip on. Whether you want to chill out or party up…Flickerstrip will enhance your mood.

I contacted Julian Harline, the inventor of Flickstrip and asked him to answer the following questions:

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What is Flickerstrip?

Flickerstrip is the decorative WiFi light strip that gives you full control over each individual pixel. Using the smartphone app, you can browse through animated patterns, or “lightworks,” that other people have uploaded or easily build your own using the intuitive graphical interface.

Until now, designing a piece of LED artwork required hours of programming and hardware tinkering, a prospect that’s daunting for even the most seasoned hobbyist. With Flickerstrip, you can skip to the fun part and idly doodle out a new pattern in moments or plan a complex choreography of dancing lights.

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How was the prototype process?

I’ve done all my prototyping myself. As a one man shop without much of a budget, I didn’t have a whole lot of choice. I’m a software engineer by trade and have picked up PCB design and CAD design in order to design the prototype of Flickerstrip. I’ve been lucky enough to have an electrical engineering friend of mine to help me in the process of designing the PCB. I’ll often go to him for a quick sanity check or with a random question about some aspect of the design.

The first few versions were designed to be bare PCBs. They were square or rectangular with no careful thought to their design/layout. The main thing was to get the components on the board and wired together correctly. Often these early designs would have crippling problems that I didn’t see before ordering them (through a service like DirtyPCBs). While assembling them by hand, I’d often have to implement multiple workarounds. In one of my early PCB versions I managed to reverse an entire side of the 16-pin wire ESP-12 and had to cleverly jumper wires from almost every pin on that side of the board.

Once I received each version of the board, I’d spend a day or two assembling it and making a list of the problems I discovered and designing the next version. I’d place the next order once I was pretty confident in the next version and then spend the time waiting for the new PCB working on the firmware programming as best I could with the previous version of the board.

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After a few versions, I started working on getting the PCB to fit into a case. The first round of this involved squeezing the parts together on the PCB as well as I could, creating an approximate board shape/size and importing that into a CAD program. I used that approximation to build out the 3D shape of the case. While doing this, I adjusted slightly the size and shape of the PCB in the CAD program and eventually imported it back into the PCB software.

After that initial exchange, it was fairly easy to propagate future changes in both the PCB and the case back and forth between my CAD program and my PCB design software. I found it extremely helpful to be able to see the exact sizes and shapes of the electrical components inside my case and all of the tolerances and clearances. Here’s some pictures of the 3D models on the outside: http://imgur.com/a/1VN2N Here’s a cross section: http://i.imgur.com/OEaZ5Pd.jpg

Once I had a design I was happy with for the case, I ordered it from Shapeways, a fantastic 3D printing service. They are able to turn around a new 3D model in about 2 weeks. This made it fast to iterate on the design. On each subsequent version of the PCB, I’d order a new set of cases and see how everything fit together.

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How was the patent process?

I’m personally somewhat morally opposed to patents. I find intellectual property law frustrating at best and horrifying the rest of the time. Instead, I decided to go the open source route. I’ve not completely posted all of the designs *yet* but I do plan on it once I launch. The truly valuable part of my company will hopefully be the trademark on the name and the reputation associated with it.

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How do you plan to market it?

Marketing is definitely not my strong suit. I’ve been preparing a few ad campaigns that will hopefully serve to get the word out about Flickerstrip. In addition, I’ve been personally reaching out to bloggers and journalists in the hope that they will find my project interesting. I’ve been frantically researching different options for hiring out marketing work as it’s definitely not my forte, but it has been very difficult for me to find good marketing solutions that are in my budget. (which is quite limited)

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How did you did decide on a manufacturer?

I’m currently hoping on using MacroFab, but I haven’t completely settled on a manufacturer yet. I did a bit of research and reached out to communities like Reddit’s r/hwstartups to get some advice. Previously I used Seeedstudio and was relatively happy with the results but had some issues with communication later. I briefly considered working with a new factory in China, but discovered MacroFab as a relatively affordable solution. I’m waiting to get final backer numbers before I can get quotes from these manufacturers at quantity before making any final decisions.

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What advice would you give to those interested in inventing?

Diversify! I’ve had to learn so many skills to get my project to where it is. I’ve been doing Facebook marketing and multiple kinds of design and PR outreach and website design. Sticking with my base skill set would never have been enough. I like Kickstarter because it lets you do everything with a very low budget. I’ve probably spent less than $500 on everything for this project so far. (excluding my time) That’s largely because instead of hiring it out, I’ve researched what I need to know and then did it myself. The other advice I have is to find a cofounder or friend that complements your skillset. Someone who’s also willing to learn new skills and is passionate about the project.

Other than that, just do it. Rush toward a minimum viable product and get it out there for people to see. If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again.

Click here to visit the Kickstarter Campaign page.
For more information, please visit www.flickerstrip.com

May
0

Sugru- The Future Needs Fixing Part 3

By Team Sugru

FEBRUARY 2014

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We wanted to do something new and exciting for our users, and some of our favourite fixes involved pairing Sugru with magnets. We tested out lots of amazing magnets, and chose just the right ones to enable you to make pretty much anything magnetic. This was to be our first kit. We launched it on sugru.com and were overwhelmed with the response – we got pre-orders for 3000 kits in the first week. People were excited – that’s what it’s all about!

APRIL 2014

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The awesome Science Gallery in Dublin asked me to help curate a show exploring failure. FAIL BETTER, named after Samual Beckett’s famous quote, asked 24 leaders in their fields to nominate inspiring stories of failure. Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Sonia o Sullivan and Ken Robinson all contributed and along with the original Beckett manuscripts, made up a show that sparked lots of great conversations about the important role failure plays in creativity.

MAY 2014

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By now people were mainly using Sugru for pragmatic fixes around the home – fixing broken things that couldn’t otherwise be fixed and solving everyday problems. These are our favourite uses for Sugru – because they’re the most common and helpful to the most people. But then, once in a while, an ingenious solution comes along that just puts a smile on your face. Sugru-er Andreas in Germany discovered that LEGO hands are the perfect size to hold phone charging cables! He mounted his LEGO on the side of his desk with Sugru, and hey presto – the most viral use of Sugru all year was born!

JUNE 2014

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The most common request from our customers had always been for a longer shelf life. With a material like Sugru that transforms from one state to the next, just on exposure to the air – shelf-life is one of the most difficult things to achieve. When we started formulating Sugru, it was a miracle to get it to last 24 hours in the pack. With a lot of work when we launched Sugru lasted 6 months, then 7, then 10 and now after a huge amount of work by our tenacious R&D team, we were thrilled to bring it to 13 months in the pack. This was a huge milestone, because it makes a big difference to lots of users and it opened up new distribution channels. High five!

JULY 2014

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We set ourselves the challenge to make the most awesome waterpistol ever with Sugru. The video we made about it got 1.6 million views in a week!

AUGUST 2014

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Our expansion into retailers in the UK was going strong and we started expanding to stores in the US again. This time it was different, we had much more insight and experience now, and we were stronger as a team. Sugru-ers in the US were always asking to be able to buy Sugru in their local stores. Katie, our head of sales, and her team were happy to help!

OCTOBER 2014

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From an amazing shortlist, we won the London Living Wage Company of the Year award! As a Company with ambitious plans, we couldn’t do any of it without the commitment of our whole team in all areas of the business, including our factory, and one of the most important ways we can show appreciation is with the living wage. We were thrilled to accept our award from the Mayor of London Boris Johnson – and in return we gave him a pack of Sugru!

NOVEMBER 2014

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Sugru-ers love colour. For different reasons – some like to match colours and make their fixes blend in so they’re almost invisible, others like their fixes to stand out, loud and proud. Either way, they all agreed on one thing, we should make Sugru in more colours. We expanded our range from 5 to 10, and people got excited!

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The Fix of the Month came from Belinda. She wrote how her husband, who is blind, was not able to use the Microwave when she was out at work. She thought about this, and how frustrating it was. Then she used her Sugru to solve the problem, by making the buttons tactile. Sugru-ers all have one thing in common – they are passionately independent, and they love to help others be more independent too.

DECEMBER 2014

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To help more people find Sugru in-store, and make it more distinctive and enjoyable – we re-designed our branding and packaging. Full colours on the foil packs help people know exactly what colour is inside, the card wrapper gives more inspiration and FIX THAT THING tells you exactly what Sugru is for. Our retailers and Sugru-ers both love it!

JANUARY 2015

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Adding almost 1700 new stockists in one go, Sugru launches in Lowe’s Home Improvement across the USA! We love to see our stockist map filling up with these red pins…

APRIL 2015

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Our expansion into stores in the USA continues with Sugru launching in almost 2000 Target Stores across the country! This brings our total number of stockists from about 500 a year before to an amazing 5000. In our mission to help people everywhere start fixing things again, this is a HUGE step – in both the UK and the US now, a pack of Sugru is never far away!

For more info visit our website at www.sugru.com/about

May
0

Sugru- The Future Needs Fixing Part 2

By Team Sugru

OCTOBER 2012

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Fix of the Month goes to an awesome teacher Matt and his class, who sent a camera up into space using a helium balloon. They use Sugru to waterproof their camera and secure it in place for its interstellar adventure. The photos are beautiful and remind us of a world of potential.

NOVEMBER 2012

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Sugru has always been about so much more than itself. We felt strongly that we could help fuel a conversation about why a culture of fixing is important – so we made the Fixer’s Manifesto. It hit a nerve and was shared all around the internet. We printed lovely letterpress posters, and made them available through the sugru.com shop.

JANUARY 2013

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Sugru user Jamie, an expedition writer and all-round awesome person sent us an email to tell us about his epic journey across Mongolia. He’d packed Sugru ‘just in case’ and found that it came in really handy! Along the way he patched up his boots, repaired a rafting paddle and even fixed a favourite toy for a new friend.

MARCH 2013

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The dream from the start has been to be in everyone’s kitchen drawer, as useful as duct tape and super glue. To get there, we need to get it into the big stores. We’d been trying for while, and at last we make a huge leap by launching in over 300 B&Q stores across the UK and Ireland. Woop!

We get excited and hire a donkey for our launch video.

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As we expand, the team keeps growing too. We welcome our latest recruit, Buddy.

He’s not very experienced, but he brings lots of energy and enthusiasm.

MAY 2013

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I’d been getting a lot of invitations to share the story of Sugru at events and conferences. 99U at the Lincoln Centre in New York City was the biggest so far. 1500 people, all tops of their fields in the creative industries. Other speakers included Joe Gebbia from AirBnB and Michael Wolff from Wolff Olins. I was so nervous I did public speaking training for a few weeks beforehand. It paid off – for the first time ever, I enjoyed myself on stage. And when I finished my talk, the audience gave me the first standing ovation in the history of the conference. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

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With our expansion into retail getting off the ground in the UK, we set our sights on doing the same in thing in the US, where 50% of our users had been since day one. We had another great year at the Bay Area Maker Faire, and the enthusiasm from our US customers was infectious. Buoyed up, we pushed on with plans to build out a small team in the US, as well as continuing to build the team in London.

AUGUST 2013

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After 10 years together, James and I finally got married! If I hadn’t met him back when I was a naive and excitable design student, Sugru would likely have been just another interesting student project that never made it beyond the college walls. With his support, inspiration and unique enthusiasm and vision, we have built Sugru into an awesome product and brand that people love. Now finally, he’s my husband!

SEPTEMBER 2013

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While I was away, I’d had a nagging feeling – something wasn’t right back at work. And when I got back and met with the board, I was certain. Our costs and the team were growing too fast in relation to our sales and our management wasn’t strong enough yet. Together with Roger and the board, we had to make some really tough calls, and scale the team back by 30%. It was an incredibly stressful time on all the team, but we had to make sure we were building on strong foundations. Together, we needed to learn our own lesson again – Start small and make it good.

OCTOBER 2013

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Roger. He co-founded the Company with me back when I was just out of college 10 years back. We met for 20 minutes, we clicked and decided to start the business together. Ever since, he’d been the Executive Chairman, maintaining the vision through all those years while we worked in the lab. He’d helped build the team and raise the funding we needed, but now in this crisis was when Roger came into his own. James and I were tempted to scale back to e-commerce, without the costs that were needed to build our retail supply model. But it was Roger and the management team that kept the Company on the right path. Focus on getting the business right for growth, keep going with the vision.

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When I went to write the Community update that month, I found the stories they’d been sharing were more inspiring than ever. A Surgeon in Haiti had used Sugru to patch up his mosquito net so he was sleeping better and doing better work. A group in Nairobi who invented the BRCK to bring internet connectivity to remote areas of Africa, told us they’d built the first prototype with the help of Sugru. I felt a new connection with what Sugru could do.

NOVEMBER 2013

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Despite all the tough work going on behind the scenes, Sugru was still growing and I’d been shortlisted for the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Emerging category. We were getting stronger as a team, and this was something we could celebrate together.

DECEMBER 2013

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Sugru gets stocked in MoMA NYC!

For more info visit our website at www.sugru.com/about

May
0

Sugru- The Future Needs Fixing Part 1

By Team Sugru

FEBRUARY 2003

While studying for my MA in Product Design (read ‘playing and experimenting with materials’) at the RCA in London, I had a bit of an idea. “I don’t want to buy new stuff all the time. I want to hack the stuff I already have so it works better for me.” (I didn’t really say it out loud. I just thought it.)

If I’m honest, the first version of sugru was pretty horrible — made from smelly silicone caulk and waste wood dust from the wood workshop. But it helped me hack my kitchen sink plug bigger, and make a knife more comfortable.

APRIL 2003

The smelly silicone I’d made back in February wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew it could be amazing. I pictured it as kind of space-age rubber — super easy to shape, sticky, and durable. I knew it needed to feel gorgeous and that, if I cracked it, it’d have a million uses.

But it was only an idea. I mean, I gave up chemistry in school!

2004

As part of my Final Year project, I returned to the idea and got excited. This was bigger than just me. I got out my sketchbook and started imagining a world where this material existed.

I knew that, by tapping into people’s innate creativity, all kinds of products could be transformed and improved. I knew that we could adapt and improve almost anything mass produced.

SUMMER 2004

I refined my prototype material with pigments and finer powders and presented it at my final exhibition. When the most common questions were ‘how much is it?’ and ‘where can I get it?’, I got even more excited, and decided I had to make my concept real.

OCTOBER 2004 – MAY 2005


I started gathering a team of specialists to help me turn this material into a real thing. The first were my partner James and my business partner Roger, then two incredible scientists, Ian and Steve, who had just retired from top jobs in the silicone industry. Then David, an awesome and wise patent lawyer.

JUNE 2005

Nesta, the UK’s innovation think tank, awarded the Company a £35,000 Creative Pioneer grant to get off the ground.

We drank champagne on a street bench to celebrate.

AUGUST 2005


After paying a contract lab £5,000 to do 3 experiments, I realised the only way to develop this material was to do it myself.

With Steve’s help I set up a small laboratory, and learned the basics so I could start what was to be 2 long hard years of formulation work.

JULY 2006


We had our first sucessful results in our chemical formulations, and applied for some patents.

This was enough to bring in some investment funding to take the product development to the next level. Thanks to the great guys at Lacomp who believed in us so early on. That night we drank Champagne in a little vietnamese restaurant.

SEPTEMBER 2006

Everyone knows a small company can’t build a household brand. You need to build a partnership with a big Multi-National Corporation, right?

Jane and Roger started making friends with the nice people at some of the world’s leading glue Companies.

DECEMBER 2006


We started exploring potential industrial uses for our materials with some really interesting brands.

For example, we worked on a cold curing grippy material for garden tools. And we worked with a top pencil manufacturer on some concepts for a new super-grippy premium range.

SEPTEMBER 2007


We started to get consistently strong and stable materials, but making sure the material stuck to lots of other materials was still a big challenge.

JANUARY 2008


Our user trial group (mainly our friends) grew to over 100 people. Their feedback was feeding into our work. Basically everyone was saying “make it stick to more stuff”.

APRIL 2008

The pace of developments with the big Companies was very slow. My designer friends at Atto Partners had been nagging me for a while, and it began to sink in.

I started to feel that maybe we could build our own brand. Another friend told me “Start small and make it good”. The dream started coming back.

MAY 2008


Five years later, and I’d never found a good name. One day around now, riding downhill on my bike I thought of the word sugru, inspired by the irish word for ‘play’.

I fell in love with it.

JUNE 2008

Our funding was running low, and we were still a way off with our development. We started pitching for investment again, but it was different this time, the recession meant we pitched to almost 100 investors.

DECEMBER 2008


With the recession getting deeper, we were scraping by on our overdraft. With no great signs from investors, we hit a low point.

Tears were shed.

January 2009


I made a new years resolution.

Stop listening to other peoples advice. Go with my gut.

JUNE 2009

At last a private investor put up just enough funding for us to launch sugru ourselves.

We set ourselves a deadline of 6 months to make it happen. It was now or never.

SUMMER & AUTUMN 2009


We bought a small mixer and working with one of our engineer friends to design a packaging machine, we built it for £5,000 and it ran on an arduino.

We designed a brand to get ourselves excited. We made videos, designed packaging, and built a website.

NOVEMBER 2009


Having converted our lab into a little factory, we spent days and nights making and packing sugru. All of our friends and family helped.

It took an entire month of blood, sweat, tears and favours to make our first 1000 packs.

1ST DECEMBER 2009 (THE DAY OUR WORLD CHANGED.)


We’d sent Harry Wallop at the Daily Telegraph Technology blog a pack to try out. He gave it a 10/10 review. Wired and Boing Boing saw it and linked to our new site.

Things started to go crazy. New links came thick and fast. Our first 1000 sold out in 6 hours.

(This is me, on the floor, in shock.)

2ND DECEMBER 2009

We put another 2000 packs up for pre-order. We said that it’d take us months to ship the orders. They sold out in 10 hours.

Everything was different now. How could we make more?!

DECEMBER 2009 – APRIL 2010

All of a sudden, we had our pick of some pretty awesome investors.

This influx of money would help us build the factory we needed, and to start building our team. We did just that.

MARCH – MAY 2010

While we were getting our factory and supply chain up and running, we started getting out – meeting our customers. The Newcastle and Bay Area Maker Faires were highlights – we loved meeting all the awesome people we’d talked to online.

JUNE 2010

After a 6 month ramp-up, we re-launched sales properly with an updated website and a warehouse full of sugru.

In the first week, we shipped to more than 40 countries. A lot of good people had been incredibly patient, and it felt great to share our idea with the world.

JULY 2010

We started receiving hundreds of stories from new sugru users all over the world. So exciting. This is why I invented sugru in the first place.

We got an email from Rob, who had trekked to the North Pole with sugru grips on his ski poles. We realised we had customers in 6 of the 7 continents of the world. We asked the community if they had friends in Antarctica who would like some. They did.

SEPTEMBER 2010

Our first retailer, the London Design Museum, started stocking sugru.

NOVEMBER 2010


TIME Magazine listed sugru alongside the iPad as one of the top 50 inventions of 2010.

The iPad was number 34, sugru was number 22.

DECEMBER 2010

Team sugru had grown from 2 people to 6. We had our Christmas party in our new factory.

The sugru community was growing — it was now in over 60 countries! My favourite part of every month was digging through community’s contributions before writing the monthly email update.

JUNE 2011

Over half of our community is in North America, so we set up a company there to speed up shipping, and to supply US-based retailers.

Our community hit the 50,000 people mark. We drink pints in our local pub to celebrate.

AUGUST 2011

A little film inspired by a hack by a sugru user gets 50,000 views in a week.

It’s an amazing idea, and people are inspired.

SEPTEMBER 2011


Sugru is featured in the V&A’s amazing exhibition the Power of Making. Team sugru grows to more than 10 people.

All of the community’s feedback and photos are showing us what sugru is really good for, and who finds it really useful.

All of the feedback makes us very confident that it’s not just for fun — it’s a great technical solution.

While continuing to keep community creativity at the heart of what we do, we get focused on bringing sugru to the next level, where more people can find it when they need it. When their cables break, or the fridge door cracks, or their hiking boots leak.

OCTOBER 2011


Hack of the month from Rob in sussex shows how to make glow in the dark tent pegs with sugru.

NOVEMBER 2011

We evolve the sugru website to start sorting hacks, tips, information and inspiration by interest group. Lots more work continues behind the scenes.

Our network expands to lots of lovely resellers in the UK and the US, and we launch with our first large retail group, allowing customers in 50 UK towns and cities to buy sugru locally for the Christmas season.

DECEMBER 2011


The team reaches 15 people and we started to feel like…sardines in our space. For months we’d been trying to wrangle the empty unit next door… we finally get the keys! From the left: Roberto, Charlotte, Sal, Rodrigo, Nanette, Suki, Ben, James, Justyna, Me, Eva, Rafal, Madeleine, Tom. Missing = Roger, off doing his thing 🙂

JANUARY 2012


We get lots of snowy images of fixes from the slopes – fixes and mods to snowboards, ski poles, gloves, boots and helmets. It’s awesome to see sugru being trusted and performing well in extreme situations!

FEBRUARY 2012

We’re thrilled that sugru is one of the 50 winners of ‘Britain’s new Radicals’ – a list compiled by the Observer and NESTA showcasing “the inspiring people and businesses that are changing the UK for the better” Even the UK Prime Minister commented 🙂

MARCH 2012

Hack of the month goes to @Robiot6 on our community forum for her clever thinking – “My fridge is not very practical for our family usage, I was missing a silly 0.5cm to be able to stack our yogurts – sugru fixed it for me!” A simple and elegant solution that would be difficult to do without sugru – awesome!

APRIL 2012

In the time since we launched, we’d had hundreds of emails asking for different colours, and the ability to mix a wider range of colours. It wasn’t as easy as we hoped but after some great work in the labs, we finally cracked it… and as of april ’12, sugru comes in primary colours!

MAY 2012


Back in March, a super cool sugru user called Eimear sent us an image of a sugru repair she’d just done for one of her students, Foridha, whose wheelchair joy-stick controller kept breaking. It didn’t hold up unfortunately so around now she got back in touch to ask for help. James was taking the community emails that day, and he noticed the postcode – Foridha and Eimear were only down the road! So he and Ben jumped on their bikes to give them a hand.

JUNE 2012


Our user community expands to over 100,000 customers, and our confidence in sugru is growing 🙂 Our vision from the start has been to help get the world repairing and making again. This means appealing to not only fixers and DIYers, but people who don’t yet fix. We decide to bring our mission to the fore, and we evolve our brand and our packaging accordingly. We love our new motto – The future needs fixing.

JULY 2012

The fix of the month goes to Joanne who reminds us that sometimes a fix can make a big difference, not just a small one.

Her heart was set on competing in an epic canoe race up the yukon river – 700km long. But with no fingers on her left hand, it was looking impossible. A small modification to the paddle allows her not only to compete, but to finish the race – after 3 days and 3 nights straight paddling. She says she wouldn’t have been able to do it without the mod.

We’re blown away!

AUGUST 2012

Being based in London, we’ve been getting excited about the Olympics for quite a while. We’ve also been working on a secret project with Leon Paul London, a leading fencing equipment brand to develop a foil handle that athletes can personalise for themselves. So we were absolutely thrilled when we learned that James Davis, the youngest member of the British Olympic fencing team, was so happy with his personalised foil that he would be competing with it in the Olympics!

SEPTEMBER 2012

A strong interest in sugru has been building in Scandinavia. We agree a partnership with some like-minded fixer entrepreneurs from Norway, Halvard and Edvard, to promote and distribute sugru in the Nordic region. They love sugru, and are passionate about the same stuff we are. It’s fun already.

LATE SEPTEMBER 2012


The inaugural London Design Festival ‘Design Entrepreneur’ award goes to…

ME! Woohoo! After moving into the various worlds of science and business, it’s awesome to be recognised for our creative vision and achievements by a jury composed of some of the most radical and famous designers in the world including Thomas Heatherwick and Ron Arad.

Here’s me accepting the award at an exclusive ceremony in an amazing hall in the Foreign and Commonwealth buildings in Whitehall!

For more info visit our website at www.sugru.com/about