Saturday, March 27, 2010

What Inventions Can Be Improved?

The answer of course is there are just too many to count. It might be better to ask “How can I improve on an invention, product or process?” With a little practice you can figure out just what inventions or products can be improved. The hard part will be figuring out how to improve them.

The next time you are doing some task or chore that is unpleasant, hard to do, or has some other undesirable characteristic, then you’ve found a target product or process. Some of the simplest ideas have produced huge fortunes for those who figured them out.

There are plenty of examples of products or inventions that could be improved, the harder question is, as I mentioned before, how to improve them. The next problem will be how to market or profit from your hot new invention improvement idea.

Here are a few inventions that in my opinion need improvement… maybe one of them will spark your imagination.

Invent a quiet vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaners are too noisy, so figure out a way to build a vacuum cleaner that is quiet. That reminds me of a clever invention I read about a year or two ago… the little fans in your computer. One of the noise producing parts of those little fans is the guard that keeps you from poking your fingers into the blades.

As the fan blades force air through the guard, noise is generated. A clever inventor figured out that if he built the guard into the fan blades so it would spin along with the blades a whole lot of turbulence was eliminated and a significant decrease in noise was obtained. You can touch the spinning guard, but you can’t get your fingers into the fan blades. Very simple and it works.

Putting pipe dope into pipe threads for sealing is a messy cumbersome job. How about coming up with a pipe dope dispenser that would eliminate the mess and make it quicker and easier to apply pipe dope to pipe threads. I actually built a prototype of one once, and it worked so well that the machinist who built the prototype made one for himself too. That was 20 years ago and he is still using it.

The way I did it was to get a plastic bottle with sides like an accordion. I can’t remember where I got it, but it was designed to collapse down to a small height when empty for storage and you could pull it up to full height when you wanted to use it.

I had holes made around the outside diameter of a lid for the collapsible plastic container that would just fit around different sizes of pipe… 1/8” pipe, ¼” pipe, 3/8 inch pipe etc. You simply pushed the pipe end into the hole and push down on the lid as you rotated the pipe 360 degrees in the hole. When you pull the pipe out of the hole in the lid the threads are perfectly filled with pipe dope and there is no mess.

I never did anything with it in the way of getting a patent or trying to market it. Maybe one of these days I might.

Teflon tape is also used to seal pipe threads. The dispenser is just a spool like small rolls of wire come on. But if you have ever used Teflon tape for sealing pipes you know what a pain it is to deal with. For one thing the end of the tape is difficult to grasp. It seems to have an attraction for itself. The tape is also difficult to tear off.

I took a razor blade and cut a serrated edge on the little spool, and now the tape is easy to tear off by pulling it across the serrations. And the tape gets stuck in all the serrations and thus it is easy to grasp the end of the tape when you need another piece. Again, I never followed through.

Remember, whenever you are doing something and think to yourself “there must be a better way”, and then figure out a better way!