The industrial revolution is considered the golden age of new products. From 1790 to today the United States Patent Office has granted over 6 million patents. Inventors from all over the world still work to make designs that can fill a need and maybe make them rich.
The products we use that make life easier and more interesting started with an idea. Some 300 inventors recently brought their products to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For the past 22 years in Pittsburgh, some of the idea originators have come together for the “Invention and New Products Exposition.”
Jenny Lawlor helps organize the Invention show. "We have inventors who come from all over the world in the hope of making contact with companies and businesses who can help them take their new product ideas to the next level."
The inventions are sometimes fanciful, but most of the time they are meant to answer some kind of need.
Raymond Ziehm is an engineer who wondered how he could get hot water faster. He developed a system that slowly keeps the hot water circulating, "We were watching water go down the drain at a friend's house one night while we were waiting for hot water. So I said, 'I think I'll look at that.' I'm a retired engineer so I said, 'I will see if there is a solution to this.' "
There is an expression that inventors try to 'build a better mousetrap', in other words, they try to improve on an established design.
Chang Lee thinks he has built a better mousetrap. This trap for mice and other animals is a simple gravity device that leaves the animal unharmed. Demonstrating his product he says, "He goes up to eat the bait, the door will drop down automatically. O.K., I got him."
Some inventions show imagination, but are really not necessary items. Such as Barry Naus' device that automatically tees up golf balls. "Just insert the tee. Insert the ball. Depress the plunger. You're ready to go."
Diana Lefevre and her husband, both from France, thought of a quick and easy way to clean up after her dog, "(It's) as far away from the nose as possible, put it that way."
There is a bed with a hole in it to accommodate the stomach of a pregnant woman. The salesperson for this product says, "The chest and belly area fit in the hole"
Parachutes for people trapped in high-rise fires, and a collection of toilet improvements.
A family toilet seat that offers several sizes. One model, called the Ecomode, uses less water and is powerful enough to flush a baseball.
Many of the inventions are simply for fun. Pat Joyner says, "My product is what I call the 'Clock-it-Book.'" She made a handbag with a large clock in it.
A coating for teeth that can make them white, or a variety of other colors is what Tom Patacca hopes will find a market.
Jae-Duk Jun has designed a skate shoe that combines wheels that fold up into a normal shoe sole. He came from South Korea to sell his invention.
Creativity is really at the heart of many of these inventions, although making a lot of money seems to also be a motivating factor.
Jenny Lawlor wishes the inventors good luck. "Everybody has that hope that they are going to be that American dream story. You have to have persistence."