What do a Wisconsin-based screen printer, an inventor in Florida and a garlic crusher have in common?
Last year, they coalesced to bring to market a new product called Bondezz.
It started when Joe Scivoletto, a denture-wearing entrepreneur living in Florida, came up with an idea to improve the fit of his oral prosthetics. “I was always fighting the discomfort,” he says. “They rocked, and food would get caught in them. In fact, everyone I know who wears dentures has the same problem.”
And so, he put his problem-solving skills to work.
Eventually, Scivoletto found that by taking several layers of cellulose and moistening them with water, the dentures adhered to his gums without any adhesive. “The cellulose serves as a spacer and, with moisture, swells like a pillow,” he explains. “When you put a combination of layers together, they trap moisture and attach to the dentures through a suction action. It works really well.”
“It was a simple idea,” he adds, “but I had no idea how difficult it would be to actually make.”
The challenge came about when he tried attaching the cellulose layers to one another without using adhesive, which can be toxic to the denture wearer. He knew he needed help and started looking for a manufacturer that could cut the layers and adhere them.
“I contacted hundreds of materials manufactures and spoke to top engineers around the country, but no one could put their finger on it – some wouldn’t even talk to me,” he remembers.
Until he came across DuraTech Industries and Bryan Devine, Die Making Department Team Leader. “Bryan was the only person who said to me, ‘Oh, this will be easy,’” Scivoletto recalls.
Bryan, with company president Peter Johnson’s blessing, brought project manager Pat Tully into the picture as well. “Joe’s prototype had potential,” said Tully. “So, we started working together to figure out the right combination of shapes, layers of material and bonding methods.”
But, wait – DuraTech is a screen printing company. What could they possibly bring to the table that would help Scivoletto?
“This was a nontraditional project for us, to be sure,” Tully said. “But we have the tools to make prototypes, and we like to try new things.”
“We want to help,” he added. “Since we’re a small company ourselves, we never walk away from small business opportunities – from entrepreneurs to small print runs.”
Originally, Scivoletto was going to use moisture to bond the layers of cellulose together. Following plenty of research to find the right liquid solution to moisten the cellulose layers, and pouch material in which to package them, a number of handmade pouches were made and sent to him to test market. Unfortunately, the layers making up the pads would separate when removed from the pouches, so the next hurdle was to figure out how to bind the layers together without moisture.
“We looked at everything, including two-ply toilet paper; which, by the way, is scored along the edges or throughout the product,” Tully said. “We tried different scoring shapes and designs; we also tried using a male stamping tool with layers of cellulose, but, ultimately, that was ineffective.”
In the meantime, Scivoletto added another material to the construction and was also puzzling over the bonding problem. “My wife and I were in our kitchen, trying to stick some pads together, when she pulled out the garlic crusher from one of her utility drawers and, bingo! The crusher worked like an embossing tool.”
Scivoletto phoned Tully about the discovery and, without wasting any time, Tully set out to purchase his own garlic crusher. “I squashed the materials together and it really worked,” Tully said. “So, we built a tool based on the garlic crusher and a dot pattern for scoring that we thought was effective. It worked perfectly. We now had a product we could manufacture.”
Initially, Tully layered the pads by hand and embossed them 100 at a time. Eventually, however, demand for Bondezz grew to the point where an automated process was necessary, and Tully reached out to Innovize, a St. Paul, Minn., based medical and personal care contract manufacturer that came highly recommended by an automation company he had been working with. Last summer, DuraTech was able to coordinate shipment of 3 million total pads (50,000 upper and 50,000 lower packs of 30 pads each).
“Sometimes,” Tully said, “our experiments don’t come to fruition, but we like to see things through. By having project managers on board, we’re able to dig into a project more deeply than just an estimator could. I’m proud of the fact that we got Bondezz to market. We like these kinds of success stories.”
“Working with DuraTech, I would have to say, was a godsend,” Scivoletto said. “I mean, yes, they’re printers of sophisticated labels, but they have the foresight to look into new projects. I don’t believe I could have ever gotten to this point without Pat and DuraTech. They are the greatest.”
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