Monday, February 3, 2014

Great story about innovation and determination...

A man and his dog returned home from a walk through the woods covered in cockleburs. The tiny burs had clung to the man's pants and the dog's fur, and it took a long while to disentangle them all. The man, Swiss engineer George de Mestral, was impressed by how easily the burs had latched on to the two travelers.

Later that day, he examined the burs under a microscope, and he noted the numerous, miniscule hooks enabling the burs to grasp hair or clothing. He was struck with an idea: what if he could manufacture one material covered in tiny hooks, like the burs, and attach it to another material composed of small loops, like the woven fabric of his trousers? The two strips of synthetic material would then serve as a fastener, sort of like a zipper.

De Mestral felt the idea had merit, and he took initiative to create a prototype in the hopes of patenting it. Friends warned him the project was foolhardy and would lead nowhere, but he pressed on, undaunted by their skepticism. To turn his idea into a commercial success, however, De Mestral had to figure out a way to inexpensively manufacture the materials for his fastener. His initial attempts at mass-production failed, but he remained committed to the achievability of his idea. After much trial-and-error, De Mestral finally found the right materials. More than seven years after his walk through the woods, he received the patent for his invention: Velcro®.