Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Future Million Dollar Inventions and Ideas

Want to invent that million dollar invention or idea and be set for life? It’s not terribly likely that you can do such a thing, but it’s not out of the question either.

History is full of individuals who achieved great wealth with a new invention or a new idea. Ray Crock who franchised Mc Donald’s, Steve Jobs and Apple computer, Bill Gates and his operating system, snugglies, spanks, and someone is even making a fortune because he came up with the idea of slip on cardboard coffee cup holders so you don’t burn your fingers while holding that paper cup latte.

Here are the areas where I think the small individual inventor or innovator has the best chance of coming up with that revolutionary device or idea that will make him or her independently wealthy.

Harvesting Machines for Fruits and Vegetables

Very few fruits and vegetables are harvested by machine. There are tomato harvesters and potato harvesters but not much else for fruits and vegetables. If someone can com up with a harvester for apples or oranges or similar fruit the will make a huge killing. It will truly be a million dollar invention.

Other crops that are exclusively hand harvested are asparagus, all kinds of citrus, squash, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and man others. I’ve almost got an asparagus harvester working, you can see my latest version at my asparagus harvester website.

Energy Production

Obviously energy is always going to be needed and with oil eventually running out there are many new competing technologies for generating electricity. Opportunities abound with areas such as wind power, ocean wave power, solar cells, biofuels, and more. Figure out a way to generate electricity that costs less than generating electricity with oil or gas and you have a winner.

A Better Razor

Just image how much money you can make selling razors. Nearly every man and woman in the US and many other parts of the world shaves. How about a new kind of razor that you could use to get a comfortable and close shave with just plain water? Even better would be a razor like the above that needs a new blade every week. You could have millions and millions of customers purchasing replacement blades weekly or monthly.

The Internet

First there was America Online, soon there was ebay, craigs list, facebook, twitter, and god knows how many other social networking and other online methods of making money. All of the previous mentioned items started out as an idea. You can have ideas too. Come up with a great online game that everyone wants to play. My wife is currently addicted to a farming game on facebook I think. Find some new way of helping the masses communicate with each other is another idea, and one will probably emerge this year in my opinion. Flex your creativity and come up with the next big thing on the internet.

Geriatric Products

Anything that helps older people get along as they grow old should be big. Soon the baby boomers will all be old, so find a way to make life easier for them. This could involve the internet and some sort of social media thing too. Interesting areas for new devices include things that make bathing easier, taking medications and keeping track of medications, exercise equipment, sleeping aids, and all sorts of other convenience items.

Cooking and Food Preparation

Everybody eats and they eat every day. Come up with some food preparation or cooking device that makes preparing or cooking food easier and then sell it on those infomercials. There is a lot of money in it, just come up with something simple and clever that makes a kitchen chore easier or quicker.

Water and Energy Conservation

As previously mentioned, energy is big. Find a good inexpensive method of saving energy. Saving water is just as important and will only get more important. Find a new way to desalinate water, or purify water, or a way to save large amounts of water.

These are just a few suggestions, there are countless others awaiting your discovery. Go forth and Invent and Innovate! Be the next one to come up with that million dollar invention or idea!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Simple Machine Inventions - New Invention Idea Needed

Simple machine inventions are quite gratifying to come up with. Simple is so much better than complicated, at least in my opinion. I’ve come up with a few simple ones, my paper burster, hydrothermal stabilizer, quick-shot foam dispensing nozzle, and even my asparagus harvester could be considered simple machines.

There is however, a new invention idea that needs to be invented. A cat toy that will keep my cats occupied for a few hours a day so they stop pestering me to play with them. I’ve made a bunch of different things for the cats to play with, but nothing high tech.

One of my better cat toys consisted of a large piece of brown wrapping paper about 2 feet square. I taped a long piece of rubber band to the center of the paper with duct tape, and attached the other end of the rubber band to a small plastic ball. Then I place the paper with the ball side down on the floor.

The cats loved it. They would pounce on the lump under the paper and push it and pull it and finally they would end up tearing the paper and capturing the ball. But as with all of the other toys they get used to it and get bored.

It seems to me that a cat toy has to be interactive with the cat in order to keep it interested. With all the available electronics that should not be too difficult. A microcontroller, a couple of sensors, maybe a motor or two or a solenoid and a little creativity and the cats will have there interactivity.

I’ve written more about possible ways of using simple machine inventions for cat toys in this article: New Invention Idea – Toys for Cats. I go into more detail about my ideas for these simple machine inventions for use as interactive toys for cats.

Think small things that move quickly and try to hide. At least that’s what my cats like the best. Little hunters they are.

So please, if you can come up with a great interactive toy for cats please let me know when they go on sale… I’ll be the first one to buy one. Unless of course I come up with something first.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Invention Needed! Someone Needs To Invent A Better Tankless Water Heater!

Someone needs to invent a better tankless water heater! Tankless water heaters are very popular these days due to the popularity of “going green”. They save energy since they don’t have standby losses like storage type water heaters. Another big incentive are the tax rebates being offered when you install one.

On the positive side tankless water heaters offer endless amounts of hot water and high efficiency, are relatively small so they can save some space, and they can last longer than tank type units that have a tank that can rust and leak.

However, there are some problems. I like to use a small flow of hot water for various things, and to do this you simply adjust the hot and cold water faucets until you get the flow and temperature that you want. This works fine for storage type water heaters, but with tankless heaters it’s a bit more difficult.

Because a tankless water heater needs a minimum flow of water to turn on and to stay on, you must run that amount of hot water no mater what… otherwise the heater just turns off. Most tankless hot water heaters require ½ gallon per minute with smaller models and as much as ¾ gallons per minute for the larger models designed for whole-house applications.

That minimum flow is at the full outlet temperature of the water heater. So if you want a lower temperature you need to mix cold water with that hot water at the faucet. Let’s assume for a moment that to obtain the desired temperature you need to mix the cold and hot water in equal amounts. Now you have to run one gallon per minute from your fixture to obtain that warm water. This can be a big waster of water.

Another problem is that it takes a tankless water heater time to heat water, and thus it takes longer to deliver hot water to the fixture and hence more water gets run down the drain while you wait.

Some one needs to invent a tankless water heater that solves either or both of these problems. If the turn on flow required was only say 0.1 gallons per minute that would put the tankless unit pretty much on par with a tank type water heater when low flows of warm water are desired.

Tankless water heaters are more energy efficient than tank type units due to the large amount of heat loss from a large tank of hot water. But if you insulated the heat exchanger in a tankless heater which holds only about a quart or two of water, why couldn’t you keep it hot and ready to eliminate the delay tankless units have when they start up? With standby energy losses related to the surface area of the tank, one would think a tank or heat exchanger holding less than a gallon of water would lose far less energy than a tank that holds 40 or 50 gallons.

Something to think about anyway.

So all you would-be inventors out there put your thinking caps on and figure out how to invent the perfect tankless water heater!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Outsourcing To China – Problems Crop Up Continued…

We outsourced our pump manufacturing to China, due to our inability to find a manufacture in the US that could provide us the pumps at a price we could make a profit with. It’s not such an easy process. Good communications are critical, and so if you have to deal with a very small Chinese manufacturer you need a good go-between person who is fluent in both English and Chinese.

We were having a problem with a seal, well not us, the Chinese manufacturer. We were life testing the seals for the pump, as was the manufacturer. His seals consistently failed after a short time. Using the same parts and test procedures, (we thought), our tests were working out just fine.

I finally after weeks of going back and forth trying to find out the details I asked him to send me one of the “failed” seals.

It turns out that the manufacturer meant “leaked” when he said the seal “failed”. We wasted over a month trying to figure out what was making the seal fail before we found out it wasn’t a seal failure after all. It was another part that was failing and causing the leak, not the seal. It turned out they were testing with a slightly higher pressure than we were, which caused a plastic part to fail.

Good translation is obviously important when you are dealing with a manufacturer on the other side of the globe.

Injection Mold Tooling Problems

We have found the tooling for our plastic injection molded parts are somewhat sloppy. The parting lines are all obvious and slightly out of place, the ejector pins don’t all land on the surface they are intended to, everything is done kind of half-assed if you ask me.

Keep in mind, this was a very low budget, and with our limited funds we didn’t really have a lot of choices. The tooling works and produces parts that work, but they aren’t very pretty.

Getting code approvals in China

Working with ETL testing labs in China was just as difficult. I had to argue constantly with the Chinese engineers who worked at the ETL facility in China. Thank god for the Internet! I always won the arguments, but it took a lot of work researching and supplying documentation to the Chinese engineers.

I remember one disturbing argument; the Chinese engineer was telling me the fuse I was using for the motor was too small and needed to be bigger.

What? Bigger? How is a bigger fuse safer? It was a very surreal experience. Fuses take time to burn out. If a fuse is rated for 2.5 amps, and you run 2.6 amps through it, it may take several hours to blow. If you run 3 amps through it, it may take 30 minutes to blow. If you run 10 amps through it, it will blow in a second or two etc.

Our fuse was to protect against “locked rotor” conditions in the motor. Locked rotor is where the motor shaft is held and not allowed to rotate. Our locked rotor current would blow the fuse we were using in about 2 seconds, well before anything got hot enough to cause a fire. The fuse they were specifying would have taken several minutes to blow and danger of fire would be very real.

They finally relented and allowed us to use a fuse smaller than what they wanted but still larger than we would have liked. The one we use blows in less than 10 seconds at locked rotor conditions, but I would rather it blow in less than a second.

I’ll have more Chinese outsourcing stories in the future… some good, some bad, and some just plain funny.

More about our outsourcing experience