Printers across the country working to print to plastic will often apply what they call the "tape test" to their finished product to determine how well the ink stands up to a piece of transparent tape. If after ripping the tape off and the ink or coating remains intact, the product passes the tape test. If not, the printer needs to try something else. Entrepreneur Dolph Himmelbauer, discovered that no two printers will necessarily perform the test the same way. Even by following the same industry standard (ASTM D3359), manufacturers applied and removed the tape with varying pressures, angles and speeds, affecting the results dramatically.
"It made trouble-shooting and product approvals a nightmare," says Dolph. After looking for a mechanical tool to automate the test and coming up short, the inventor began sketching various designs that could offer control and standardization to the test.
A small tool & die shop agreed to help created the prototype, at cost, for the option to manufacture the tools if they went into production. "The engineer assigned to help me on the project, Scott Flegel, worked really hard on it," says Dolph. "We were on the phone nights and weekends into the wee hours all the time and became very good friends in the process." The shop later fell victim to the slumping economy and needed to lay off Flegel, however he continued to work with Himmelbauer's design. "When I filed for the patent I thought it was only right for he and I to be co-patent owners," says Dolph.
Family and clients also helped to keep the project going with Himmelbauer's sister acting as his web designer and his wife serving as a research assistant, pulling together everything he would need to file for his patent.
Himmelbauer advises other entrepreneurs to try to maintain other lines of work while pursuing their dream. "My employer down-sized me before I was quite ready to hit the market and my friend from the tool shop was out on the street before me. It’s difficult to keep your motivation when your bills are screaming," says Dolph. "There are a lot of people out there with very good ideas, but the idea itself is such a small part of the whole process. Don’t kid yourself that your idea will sell itself. There is a ton of work to do and resources needed to go from concept to commercial," he adds knowingly.
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