Patents, Prototypes, Manufacturing, and Marketing New Inventions
Online Tools For Inventors Make Inventing Easy and Even Fun
I've been an inventor for over 35 years, and I still can't believe how easy going online and using the internet is making it to become a successful inventor. The online tools and resources one can find on the internet are mind blowing.
Patent searching will never be the same now that Google has a patent search service on the web. Gone are the days of waiting weeks to see if your idea is original after forking out hundreds of dollars to a search service. Just go online, go to Google's patent search page and go for it. This would be for preliminary research, not for a serious search prior to filing a patent. But if you have that great idea, now you can get online and find out quickly if it is worth pursuing. Google's patent search site is way better than the United States Patent Office's site.
Use tools like an online machine shop to have parts made and for pricing parts. I've only used one online machine shop, but there are a large number of quality machine shops doing business online. The one I've used (eMachineShop) has software that you download to your computer and then using the software you draw the part you want made.
As soon as you finish your part you just click your mouse and presto... you have a quote. The price varies not only with part complexity and material, but by number of pieces and time to delivery included as well. It's all in real time too. It's a big help for the small inventor.
Compared to the old days when I would have to draw a part up and take it to a machine shop for a quote... well there is no comparison. In one evening I can accomplish things that just could not be done before the internet. I can fine tune my part designs for the lowest cost to manufacture without getting up from my chair.
On the occasions I have actually used their service and had real parts made the parts were perfect and the service was terrific.
Another one of the online tools for inventors, Express PCB is one of many online circuit board manufacturers. When I was a kid I used to etch my own circuit boards. Later I used proto-board breadboards and I did a lot of wire-wrap boards. Proto boards are very restrictive and it's hard to make very large or complex circuits, and they have to be handled carefully.
Wire wrapping allows much more complex and dense circuits, but has its own set of problems. You must be very careful while wrapping the boards because it's very easy to put a wrap on the wrong pin, and trouble shooting is a real nightmare. I can't tell you how many hours I spent trying to figure out which wire went to which pin while trouble shooting some of my bigger projects.
As with eMachineShop, expressPCB allows you to download appropriate software to create a schematic, and another piece of software for producing circuit boards. The software is very easy to learn and to use. The schematic software has an extensive library of components, but if there is a chip or other component that is not in the library you can build your own with ease. The software that does the printed circuit board layout links to the schematic and makes it easy to produce complex circuit boards. You can even do 4 layer boards. It's easy to make ground planes, use surface mount and dip components, fabricate transmission lines and more.
Often the boards can be sent to you the next day. The least expensive service is 10 days. Depending on a number of factors you can get boards for less than $100.00. You pay a one time fee for each run and then so much per square inch.
Finding the solution to just about any design problem is just a matter of clicking the correct links. There are calculators for damn near everything. You can find calculators that solve beam equations, vehicle drive horsepower, compressed air calculators, and the list goes on and on.
Need to build a circuit for some special application? Check on the web... chances are there are several versions that would work for your application already posted online. If not, there are still probably a lot of similar circuits that might very well help you in your design.
There are tons of message boards with members eager and willing to help you with any project. I visit a message board for PIC microcontrollers when I need some advice about how to automate something, and there is always plenty of expert help available. Forums and message boards in themselves are great online tools for inventors.
Building prototypes? The array of do-hickies, thing-a-ma-bobs, widgets, and what-cha-ma-call-its is staggering. If you need a rare item, or some odd material, or if you don't know what it is you are looking for, you still stand a chance of finding it online. I've recently had a project where I not only needed some lenses, but I needed to learn all about them as well. Internet to the rescue. Lots of tutorials and sources of lenses can be found online. Great help for the small inventor.
If you need to get a quote on a complex sheet metal shape... no problem, you can get the quote online in less than 24 hours. Figuring out costs of items is one of the really useful things you can do online.
You can even obtain funding for your inventions online. I did. I was to developing a selective asparagus harvester, and I put up a website about it. Along came Washington State University, and my harvester got its funding. So in that case the website was an online tool for inventors...a cash generating tool.
The internet is an incredible resource for any inventor, useful for every step of the way from the initial conceptualization, through researching the patentability, methods of manufacture, marketing, and distribution. Don't invent without it.
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