When a person who knows nothing about the plastics industry gets an idea for a new household gadget, where does he turn? Well, to lots of different people.
When Joe Welchert visited with IMM about two years ago, he had a great idea for a new product: an attachment for a wet/dry vacuum to accomplish a variety of tasks around the house that couldn’t be done with a regular vacuum cleaner. The problem was, Welchert didn’t know anything about plastics or molds, or have a clue as to how to get his invention manufactured.
Welchert had the idea when trying to clean a chandelier at his home. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to suction the dust from the chandelier?” he thought. Then his wife came up with the idea that it could suction hair and debris from a clogged bathroom sink. Other uses include blowing up air mattresses, sucking the remaining water from a hot water heater prior to repair, and removing dust and dirt from small crevices that ordinary vacuum cleaner attachments can’t reach.
The three sizes of nozzle components can turn a wet/dry vac into a multipurpose household tool.
Dennis worked with Welchert on the product’s design, and unlike some inventors Dennis had worked with, he found Welchert had done a lot of research prior to their meeting. “When he first came to me, he’d already investigated what it took to get things done, and had even made a prototype—a very crude prototype—but it provided me with a really good idea as to what he wanted,” says Dennis. “Joe knew where he wanted to go and we had some formal prototypes made for him so he could get a better feel for what his final product would look like.”
During the first trial run of the mold, the team discovered there was a mistake in the drawing, and the attachments didn’t fit tightly because the diameters of the adapters were a bit too large. So the moldmaker, Archie Blazevich, owner of Blaze Precision Inc. (Mesa, AZ), added some ribs, which gave the product better fit and function on the nozzle.
Three inserts make the nozzle adapters molded of Sarlink TPV (thermoplastic vulcanizate) in a family mold. Dennis notes that the team also added two air vents in the top of the two larger attachments, which helps provide good suction without it being so strong that “you’d suck your whole chandelier into the vacuum cleaner,” Dennis laughs.
An idea for another use came from an employee at PCM Custom Injection Molding Inc. (Mesa, AZ), where the parts are being molded: pumping oil from a boat’s drain plug by putting a plastic bag inside the shop vac and adding a garden hose on the end. “The drain plugs of boats are difficult to get to,” explains Welchert.
He’s well on his way to reaching the retail market with his invention. At press time, he was planning to send samples to home stores like Home Depot and various hardware stores. He also signed up to have a space at the National Hardware Show in a special area for inventors, and hopes his product will catch the eye of some retailers.
So far, about 1000 of the attachments have been molded, and Welchert says he’s working on “perfecting” the packaging. He’s also filed a provisional application for a patent. —Clare Goldsberry
Blaze Precision Inc. | (480) 272-3825
Plastic Design Resources LLC | (623) 572-6648