Dan Vorhis is an independent inventor who lives with his wife on their small farm on Whidbey Island in Washington State. When Dan isn’t pruning his fruit trees, he is coming up with new ideas – in this case, a simple, reusable zip tie.
Cable ties were invented to speed cable bundling for wiring harnesses on aircraft in the late 1950s. From there, “zip ties” as they have come to be known, have found uses in every industry and home worldwide. One manufacturer molded 10 billion zip ties last year.
And almost every one of them must be snipped in half to release.
Vorhis was working in his orchard, using zip ties to install rabbit protection around his fruit trees. Suddenly he got an idea for how to make the ties reusable. Instead of that tiny, 4-sided “window” into which the zip tie strap is threaded, why not use a 3-sided “window”? When it comes time to remove a zip tie, the strap in the Vorhis design is stripped out the open side, rather than cutting and destroying the tie.
Vorhis quickly sketched out some design options and ran them by his friend in the thermoplastic injection mold business, who confirmed their manufacturability. Vorhis obtained a “patent pending” on the idea so he could begin to talk with manufacturers with the intention of selling or licensing his invention.
He quickly discovered, however, that the large US manufacturers of cable ties, to remain competitive with offshore production, have invested large sums of money in tooling to produce the current, disposable zip tie design, which is considered a commodity after over 50 years in the marketplace. What would motivate a company to begin to obsolete its own recent, large investment?
Vorhis, who has a dozen patents in a variety of fields, says he has faith in competition.
“There are smaller companies, who don’t have capital to invest in the massive tooling like the big guys. These little guys either innovate or die.” Vorhis says.
“Maybe I sell my idea to a big company who wants to remain on the cutting edge. They might bring an innovation like mine into the marketplace as it makes sense with their current tooling investment. Or maybe I sell to a smaller manufacturer who needs something to distinguish his or her product from the big guys. In any case, there is always room for a better idea.”
It will be interesting to see if Vorhis’s faith in the marketplace bears fruit.
About Muscle and Arm Farm:
Muscle and Arm Farm is a family farm and business based in Freeland, Washington, USA.We grow and propagate a variety of heritage apples and other fruits. We also design and manufacture innovative, high quality products serving farmers, gardeners and DIY enthusiasts.