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I spent a couple of weeks thinking about how to invent a better burster, and performing some crude experiments.  I ended up designing a burster that used solenoids to pull down a set of clamps, that clamped the paper on either side of the perforation, at which point another set of solenoids would pull down a bar that would pass through the perforations across the sheet and down into a groove directly under the perforation.

My new invention detected the location of the perforations by using a LED and photo transistor to count the holes in the margins.  I had a thumbwheel switch that you set for the size (length) of the sheets.

The whole thing was about the same size as the automatic trimmer that was being developed in Palo Alto.  I included the trimmer tractor units, and thus had a prototype of a burster that would trim off the margins as well.  The whole thing measured about 12 inches wide by 10 inches tall by 4 inches deep, and weighed less than 15 pounds. I thought we had a really cool new product idea with this new invention.
 


Switching horses mid-stream - new inventions development companies

We showed the prototype to the president of Curtis, and he liked it too much.  The reason I say that is because he immediately canceled the automatic trimmer development deciding to just produce the burster/trimmer instead.  He had had some personality problems with the folks in Palo Alto, and switched the project to a new product development company in Massachusetts called Product Genesis.

Several months went by and I had heard nothing.  I called the president of Curtis and and complained that I was being left out of the loop.  Shortly there-after I received a set of blue prints from Product Genesis of the burster they were developing supposedly from my prototype.

However the blue prints showed that they had totally ignored my prototype, and were going about building a prototype that was almost identical to the ones that were already on the market.  It was table top sized, too heavy to lift, and very expensive to build.

I called Curtis and let the president know what was going on.  He arraigned to fly myself and my marketing guy (Larry) up to a meeting with him and the folks at Product Genesis. 

In the meantime I had the tool and die makers at the injection molding company refine my original burster prototype, using a rotating cam mechanism instead of the solenoids.  The new prototype was much better than the original one, quiet, smaller and lighter. It was small enough to put into my briefcase.  

Larry and I flew up to Massachusetts and met with the president of Curtis and the president of Product Genesis and several of their engineers.  They showed us the prototype they were working on, and demonstrated it to us.  It immediately jammed up, and they explained they were confident they would solve the jamming problems shortly.  They also showed us a video of one of their earlier prototypes. It was my opinion that their new product ideas were older than I was. No new inventions here.

After returning to the conference room, Larry announced that we had brought an improved prototype of the original burster unit with us and would like to demonstrate it.   The president of Product Genesis told a couple of the engineers to go down to my rental car and help me bring it up.  Larry told him that would not be necessary as I had the prototype in my briefcase, which I did.
 


Demonstrating a creative new invention

You should have seen the looks we got.  I pulled my new invention, the prototype burster, out of my briefcase and set it on the table, plugged it in, and loaded some paper into it.  I flipped on the switch and it rapidly burst the stack of paper with no jams or any other problems.

My burster was less than one tenth the size and weight of their prototype, worked much better, would not jam, was far quieter, and would cost less than $100 to produce.

The President of Curtis told the Product Genesis people to stop work immediately on the prototypes they had under development and get busy using my design.

Continued:  True Stories About Inventing and Marketing New Products  (Next Page)

 

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