The newsletter of the Institute of Inventors and Innovators
Our August speaker,Richard Wood is no ordinary inventor, he is one of this country’s most successful serial inventors with 40 patents to his name which he calls pickets in a fence. I doubt you will have heard his name although one of this unassuming man’s most successful inventions is a well-known brand. Who hasn’t heard of “Digidoor”?
As a youngster Richard was already inventive, lodging his first patent at 18, and clearly has never stopped. He was fascinated by the fairly new phenomenon of garage doors which didn’t swing open on hinges but lifted up and down. He had the idea of motorising the doors and automating them. At first he used the readily available hydraulic power of the municipal water supply to operate a piston drive on his door at home. Eventually he perfected an electric motor drive and added the idea of operating the motor with a remote control which he digitally programmed to operate a particular door hence “Digidoor”. Richard’s skills of good quality design enabled him to fight off imported competition and make his brand the market leader.
His mind eventually turned to another idea which he also grew into a winner. He designed a collapsible transport cage for bulk materials using a bulk bag system. Bulk bags are commonly used to transport many loose materials like grain or nuts. They are a simple system and empty bags fold flat for reuse but when full they bulge out and are difficult to stack very high. His solution called “ALPAL” consists of a polythene pallet base and top with cross braced aluminium poles in between, forming a cage which supports the bag. Collapsing to 1/6 of full size, weighing less than 45kg and taking only a minute to erect, “ALPAL” enabled the stacking of bulk bags to normal warehouse heights. He manufactured the product using roto-moulding,producing one part every twenty minutes and soon had to put his inventiveness to work and design faster moulding machines to keep up with the demand. To keep track of each pallet and load he then embedded a RFID tag in each one.His most recent innovation, “Delta-Zero” is for the mining industry and is somewhat mind boggling having taken him twenty years to develop, ten years of which he says was a learning experience, and as much as fifty million Rand investment. Mining and other industries spend a lot of money pumping slurry, which is abrasive grit suspended in water – a kind of liquid sandpaper, typically 1.4 to 2.0 specific gravity. We see slurry piped to slime dams but the method, also known as hyro-transporting, is widely used and the seriously large impeller pumps needed are subject to very high wear and maintenance costs. These pumps use a lot of power and they have to have variable speed controls. Richard’s “Delta-Zero” pump is a different but simple concept. He pumps clean water into his durable, heavy duty, acid resistant, fluted rubberbladder which inflates inside a huge cylinder containing slurry, the expanding bladder pushes the slurry out of the bottom through a non-return valve, after which the bladder deflates, more slurry flows in and the cycle repeats. Three such bladder pumps operate sequentially side by side to give a steady flow of slurry. The clean water is in a closed circuit, not affected by any abrasives and uses a basicpump needing little maintenance.Hispump unit is 70% more efficient than the current pumps, it produces 700m3/hr of even denser slurry at any pressure, using 30% less electricity with little or no maintenance costs. A unit on trial at Harmony Doornkop mine has replaced a series of seven pumps, each one adding 3bar pressurewith seven more on standby since pumps frequently need rebuilds.
Richard’s innovation extends to his business plan. He is so confident of the reliability of his pump units that Instead of selling them he plans to have a service contract where the customer pays a monthly fee for trouble free pumping. This way he can deliver a unit to a customer, connect it up and the customer starts saving money from day one. Richard carries all the risk which is calculated to be very low. Look out pump makers the game is on.
III – The home for inventors. A non-profit organization controlled by inventors, supporting inventors. Telephone: 011 487 1536 Address: 18 St. John Rd. Houghton. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.iii.org.za Supported by the Industrial Development Corporation.