I'm Ron Aho, a sheet metal worker from Marquette MI, and I invented the Tinknocker Tool to decrease the wear and tear on my arm and shoulder suffered while manually hammering duct work. After years on the job, I suffered a tear in my shoulder that required rotator cuff surgery. It is at that time I realized I needed to invent a tool to make my job easier. The recovery time from the surgery was longer than I anticipated & my efficiency suffered - I couldn't keep up with the younger guys on the job.
The idea came to me when I was working with a younger journeyman, John, in Sault Ste. Marie, MI. We were installing 38 x 22-inch duct and the drive cleats were very difficult to pound up. I remember counting the swings I took to drive up just one side - 51 hits! I commented on how John installed his cleat faster than I. This was exactly when I knew something needed to be done & I said I was going to make a device in my shop over the weekend and bring it in to work on Monday.
Monday arrived and I showed John my first prototype of the Tinknocker Tool and needless to say, he was interested to check it out. We had the same 38 x 22 duct, so we hooked it together and set the Tinknocker Tool up in a hammer drill. It took 4 seconds to install that drive & I didn't swing my arm once.
John’s jaw dropped and he said "this is a great tool".
Now I had a great idea, but didn't know how to develop it further. Invent@NMU (a program of Northern Michigan University) and other economic development agencies in the area held a day long free seminar to introduce themselves to community members. My wife, Cindy, suggested (pushed) my son, Travis (a current student at NMU) and I check it out.
Invent@NMU helped me every step of the way - from design changes, CAD drawings, prototypes, and marketing materials. Located in NMU's Jacobetti Complex, Associate Professor, Cale Polkinghorne, assigned his Advanced CNC Operations class the project of completing the 50-unit pilot production run.
I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t gone to the seminar, and I’m glad I don't need to know. If you have an idea, no matter what stage of design, I highly recommend contacting Invent@NMU and seeing how far your idea can go.