Texas (May 17, 2005) – With help from the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), a small business owner has created an innovative tool that makes carpet installation faster and safer.
Preston Tanner, a 19-year veteran of the carpet cleaning and repair business with his own company, Carpet Savers of West Texas, decided two years ago that he’d had enough of the difficulties involved in installing and repairing carpet tack strips.
“Using gloves was cumbersome and it slows you down, but if you didn’t wear gloves, you’d tear up your hands,” Tanner said. “There was one tool on the market that was supposed to help, but it wasn’t very user friendly.”
Tanner began formulating an idea for an effective tool and working on a prototype with his wife, Ava, in between repair projects.
After hiring a machinist to weld the tool, Tanner used it for almost a year before starting the patent process. One small glitch was all that prevented the Tack Strip Nailer from performing perfectly – when the tool was upside down, the strike pin would fall out of the guide tube. The Tanners decided to check into small business programs that might be able to provide technical assistance to resolve the issue.
“We set up a meeting with the Small Business Development Center in Odessa and asked if they knew of any programs that could help us,” said Ava Tanner. “They told us about SATOP and we were excited to find out that we could have access to that level of technical expertise for our small project.”
SATOP provides free engineering assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through donations of time and expertise from 50 Space Alliance Partners throughout the country.
After the Tanners submitted a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) to the SATOP center in Houston, the RTA was taken on by Kirk Shepard, engineering services manager for SPACEHAB, Inc., who formerly worked for The Boeing Company.
Shepard was interested in the Tack Strip Nailer because in addition to his 17-year engineering career, he has several years experience in the construction industry, including the restoration of older homes where he installed carpet tack strips.
“Though I’m not an expert in carpet installation, I understood what task the tool was going to be used for, the advantage it would provide, and who would use the tool,” Shepard said. “The solution to the strike pin issue needed to keep the pin captive in the guide tube, be rugged enough to withstand the forces of being struck by a hammer, and cost effective so as not to greatly increase the cost or complexity of this amazingly simple tool.”
Shepard’s solution was to install a roll pin through the strike pin and a slot in the guide tube to limit the travel of the roll pin. He provided the Tanners with drawings and specifications for the roll pin design.
After making Shepard’s suggested change to the Tack Strip Nailer, the Tanners have been in contact with a national carpet company that has produced a dozen of the tools for field-testing. With such a high level of interest from the carpet industry, the Tanners now are in the process of arranging for production of their invention.
“I knew that the tool worked from using it myself, but to have positive feedback from someone like Kirk was beyond our wildest dreams,” Preston Tanner said. “I mean, a guy who works for the Space Program thinks my invention is sound from an engineering standpoint? You can’t get better validation for your work than that.”