Patents, Prototypes, Manufacturing, and Marketing New Inventions
A Simple Invention, The Creative Card Clips Children's Toy - Pat. No. D286,555
This is a story about my experiences with creating simple inventions, a children's toy in this case, prototyping it, patenting it, getting it manufactured, and attempting to market it. It's not an invention success story since we never actually sold enough product to turn a profit.
Although there are many ways to develop a product, and get it to market, this story should provide you with some ideas and perhaps keep you from making some of the mistakes that I have made with your new product.
I conceived the idea for creative card clips late one night about 10 or 12 years ago while watching the Johnny Carson show on TV. I don't remember exactly what it was that got me to thinking about it, but during the show I was thinking about building "card houses" out of playing cards. I thought "wouldn't it be great if there were some way to build things out of playing cards so they would not collapse so readily?".
After mulling it over for a while I decided to experiment a little and see if I could come up with something that would work. I went out to the garage and after looking around a bit at all the crap on my bench, I spied a piece of 3/8 inch diameter plastic tubing.
Building the prototype of my simple inventions.
I cut off several 3/4 inch long pieces of the tubing, and cut down into the end of the tubing with a razor blade, making four slits about 1/4 inch deep in each end of the tubing spaced equally around the openings.
I tried sliding playing cards into the slits. It was difficult to get the cards into the slits, but once in, the cards were held firmly. Hey this might work! Next, using the razor blade I cut small bevels leading into each of the slits in the tubing to make it easier to get the cards into the slits.
By about 2:30 a.m. I had a set of about 50 of these little pieces of tubing turned into clips. (I've all ways been a late night person)
Testing the prototype
The next day I gave the clips and a few decks of cards to my kids, to see if the toy was "entertaining". I have four children who at the time ranged in age from 6 to 13 years old. Two boys and two girls.
I got involved as well and we spent several hours playing with the cards and clips. We were having a great time with them. I was getting excited about the clips, and called a friend of mine who was involved with a couple of other projects I was working on, including the asparagus harvester.
He had two kids as well, and of about the same age. I took the clips and cards over to his house and we tried them on his kids. His kids became quite involved in creating various items with the cards and clips. Boy did we think we had a winner.
Our kids were building quite a variety of things with the cards and clips. They built guns (of course), castles, cars, boats, planes, hats, necklaces, and all kinds of buildings. I built a castle the kids could get inside of it was so big. It took about 20 decks of cards. I also build a robot 6 feet tall.
Ok so now we have a crude prototype of what we feel is a potentially marketable toy product. Now what? This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I don't remember exactly how we financed the first few steps. Maybe some time in the next few days I'll look back through my records and talk to my partner and see if I can reconstruct some of those early events.
To see pictures of the creative card clips click on this link: Simple Inventions
For now I'll just move on to some of the details I do remember.
One of the first things we needed to find out was how much these little clip things would cost. Small plastic parts such as the card clips are ideal for plastic injection molding.
To get a ball park idea of what the clips might cost we calculated what it would cost to produce the clips using a 20 cavity mold. In other words, the injection machine would spit out 20 parts per cycle. Making an assumption of a 20 second cycle time, the machine could produce 60 parts per minute or 3600 parts per hour. We further estimated the cost of running the machine would be about $45 per hour, and that the material costs would be about 1 cent per clip.
Using these assumptions we came up with a cost of about $0.0125 per clip. (1-1/4 cent per clip).
Now I don't actually remember how many cavities the mold had, or what the hourly rate was, but this would be fairly typical.
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