November's spark of genius article
Houston Inventors Association Helps Members Bring Inventions to Reality
New and old inventors alike are always looking for assistance in learning how to file for a patent, how to search, how to select a qualified individual in the field of filing patents. One place where they may be able to identify and locate assistance is at local inventor clubs. Our advice column in this issue has additional information about local inventor clubs.
Last August, I visited the Houston Inventors Association (HIA) to make a presentation at their monthly meeting. There were several speakers there and it was a pleasure to be included with other speakers offering information and assistance. This meeting also happened to feature an expo of inventions by club members.
After I made my presentation, I had the opportunity to walk through the displays of inventions and was impressed with many interesting inventions on display. Of particular note were two inventions that appeared to be well-conceived and ready for the marketplace. I had an opportunity to speak with both inventors and learned about their inventions as well as their motivation behind the inventions.
The first invention was by James Carmouche. He explained that he had worked in the concrete industry for most of his life and that one problem he encountered on a frequent basis was the removal of forms from the poured concrete. He said that it was almost impossible to remove forms from concrete after it was poured without destroying the form when pulling it away from the concrete. I understood the frustration since I had first-hand experience when I poured concrete a few years ago and almost gave up trying to remove the forms from the cured concrete. It is not only difficult to remove the forms, but also extremely time-consuming.
James applied his knowledge of the job and invented a simple lever device that has some very good engineering features that allows for one person only to remove forms. The result is a 75-percent reduction in labor. Moreover, most of the time the forms come off without total destruction of the form which can result in an 85-percent savings of material costs. There is also a 50-percent reduction in the time it takes to remove the forms.
James worked with other organizations in the Houston area that also work with other HIA members. Those organizations are the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), the University of Houston Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Minority Business Development Center. James has received a patent on his invention and is now working with the State of Texas to get his product to market. You can find out more about this interesting invention at www.pullingtools.com.
Another interesting invention was the FlatwareSaver® that was invented by Juan Pacheco. Juan explained that he had worked in the restaurant business for many years and found that one of the biggest losses for any restaurant was the inadvertent throwing away of utensils and other restaurant equipment. This generally happens when tables are cleaned and silverware is not pulled aside.
Juan said in 2008, it was reported that food service operations lost nearly $500 million in flatware and other utensils. His solution is the invention of the FlatwareSaver®. The FlatwareSaver is a tray system that fits on top of any standard 20, 32 or 44 gallon trash container and can be used by restaurants and other food service operations. The lid contains a sensor that detects metal utensils in the to-be-disposed table trash. However, the device can also be used to detect small ceramics, such as ramekins and bowls, by attaching a simple sticker to the back of non-metallic objects.
The top of the trash can has both an audible and visual alarm that signals that an item in the trash should be retrieved and saved. Once the items are retrieved, the alarms stop indicating that it is now safe to flip the lid of the device and place just the trash in the waste container.
While neither of these inventions are sexy new electronic gizmos that appeal to the mass consumer market, they both solve a problem identified in their industries and have a good chance of success. What these inventors had in common is that they created a solution to address a pervasive problem, and they both had an association with an inventors club where they sought and obtained information and encouragement from other inventors and mentors. I encourage each of you to look for that local inventors club, or a place like SATOP, an SBDC, a Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL), or some other such place where you can get help, encouragement, and hands-on experience to help take your invention from the drawing board to the marketplace.