Having been inside, around, under, and yes, even run over a couple of times by cars, the fascination and fun, the buyer’s remorse and seller’s celebration, endure.
During this 50 year ride, getting the best cars, trucks, or motorcycles for the money was the grail. Body damage and rust were left behind if possible, and only found by knocking on the car, using a magnet, buying the sellers ludicrous story, or actually seeing the rust crawling all over and under the car.
Figuring there was an electronic way to find out if a vehicle or parts had body filler, I tried to find one on the market. Couldn’t.
Maybe I could make one for myself. Tried to find a kit resembling the supposed needs of a body filler detector. Nothing.
Possessed with the mind running on less than 40 watts, I said, “I’ll go to an electronics manufacturer and tell him what I want.” I see stuff in Home Depot all the time on the counter – stud finders, laser sights, temperature sensors – so I figured I could have the Electronics Manufacturer make a body filler detector and I could sell them.
Finding an electronics manufacturer that a) will talk to a first-timer, b) understands the product and its market place, and/or c) doesn’t want obscene profits was the trick. So I took an 8 year old phone book (figuring that if they were still in business today, that’s a good start) and looked for electronic manufacturers to call. The first one was either out of business or on a slow boat to China, as he didn’t didn’t answer his phone (I permanently removed him from consideration as my pen stroke accidently covered part of his number). Number two was answered by George, who spoke intelligently, answered my questions and was supportive. He said he would have the owner, Robert, call me back.
I stopped at that point because one of my questions was “How many people work in your company ?”. George answered 7, so that told me they weren’t too big to waste my money on golf club memberships or braised grasshopper lips lunches, and they were too small for me to fall in a crack on the seventh floor ( turns out that they were in a two story building), so they passed the first test.
When Robert called back, I had a lot of convincing to do that this was a viable product. He reluctantly gave me an appointment. After a lot of “picture this” with wide swinging arm gestures, he asked if I had any money. I thought that the BS was over, and I said, “no”, but quickly followed it with ,”but I know where to get it.”
Then he said we’ll call an engineer right there. The engineer, Swami Poindexter, said he was tired of doing sound systems and this might give him some mental refuge. A stirring start, full of “let’s do one for the gipper”, or “let’s do one for the Griper” as I wasn’t going to back off now that I was this far along.
With a stipend for the Engineer to r & d the concept (it follows here) :
1. Handheld (approximately “stud sensor” size)
On that basis, a “breadboard” model was constructed, which failed on the first attempt at a meeting that included a potential investor.
However, it was quickly fixed by Swami, while muttering “It was working a few minutes ago in Robert’s office” under his breath. Second time was the charm as the unit worked it’s magic, with sound and light indicating hidden filler on a test board we had built. Further testing proved the technology was accurate for placement and depth.
Since this technology is new, we are seeking a utility patent. Swami has done a lot of research for the application personally and is convinced our technology is unique.
Next step was to go to an industrial designer to get the now functioning technology of the unit into a package. The first CAD drawings resembled a ladies’ electric leg shaver which we were sure would not fly in the automotive marketplace. So back and forth we went, with our team carving shapes out of Styrofoam and our designer incorporating these into his drawings. We finally got the shape we wanted.
So now we have our technology working and our physical housing for that technology designed, on to getting the meter manufactured and to the market. The engineering and die work for The Filler Detective™ housing would greatly influence the final selling price which we wanted to keep as reasonable as possible. Having the work done in the USA was our first choice, but the costs turned out to be prohibitive.
This caused a lot of angst, hours of discussions, and we finally folded up like a cheap suitcase and gave in to “Made in China”, so that we could bring it to the marketplace at a price that gave value and still was affordable.
Hoping to hit the chain stores, we recently booked a booth at the SEMA show in Las Vegas for November 2-5, 2010 , and have had some phenomenal displays made using old car body parts that were dented up, then surfaced with body filler, and repainted better than new. We will use these for our “show and tell” demos at the trade show, and they will be better than “squid lights” for attracting the crowds.
The amount of small details involved in this project are amazing: the exact shade of bright green to make the unit so that it would be easily seen in a garage environment, the brightness of the LED’s, wanting a screw on battery cover, getting a concave finger rest on the bottom of the meter for easier handling, the exact location of the LED’s so that they would be visible if you were using the meter horizontally or vertically, what accessories to include, getting labels and logos created for the meter as well as for the packaging. This process probably took us longer than it should, but we are pleased with the results.
So would you do all this on the come ? I probably would have some real thinking to do if I had thought it out in the first place. You have to take a leap of faith from time to time in life, and this is one of them.