Funding Strataprinter Development

    [ Don't Give Up Your Day Job ]
    [ Joint Venturing ]
    [ Beta Production ]
    [ Assignment ]
    [ Government Funding ]

      Don't Give Up Your Day Job

    The Patents for the Strataprinter, the earliest prototype developments and the first efforts at licensing were all funded Out-of-Pocket. The inventor's business involved him in prototype production and industrial printing. This not only provided an income base to support his own invention development but also allowed access to other businesses specializing in new product manufacturing.

    Contracts the inventor had with IBM actually served a double purpose. After developing a cost-effective production process for monitor alignment masks, continuing contracts from IBM for supply of this product gave the inventor an opportunity to test prototypes of the Strataprinter. Every envelope that contained an alignment mask was marked with "Customer Engineer's Tool" and the IBM part number. This marking application was the first production use of the Strataprinter with sometimes thousands of envelopes being printed for a single contract.

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      Joint Venturing

    The most critical period in the life of an independent inventor is when manufacturing must be funded. Invention and product development can often be financed out-of-pocket but manufacturing with its prints and tooling and inventories and assembly costs requires much more in resources than the normal inventor has access to.

    The most efficient way to fund manufacturing is to partner with a company with all the manufacturing resources under one roof.. Often such a company is looking for a project that could utilize down time or excess capacity. The expense to them is considered as an investment and may also fall under a special status for their taxing authority.

    To attract a joint venture manufacturing partner it is critical to present a technology that is understandable. This is important from both sides. The inventor must be able to qualify the capabilities of the manufacturer and the manufacturer must be able to believe in the function and marketability of the invention.

    Nearly all the manufacturing of the Strataprinter was done under joint venture with LoDolce Machine Company. Only developments that were completely alien to the manufacturing partner were retained by the inventor.

    The joint venture agreement with LDM involved the development and production of a special application printing module for the Strataprinter under the direction of the inventor. This module, the Strataprinter Air-pad Module, emulated the function of a pad printer and allowed the Strataprinter to add its desktop benefits to industrial marking applications.

    When the Air-pad Module was complete 50 full systems were manufactured. Several of these systems have been placed with outside industrial users although the majority are utilized internally by LDM and the inventor for their own applications.

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      Internal Beta Production

    A major theme in revenue generation among process-based companies is the production of products utilizing the process. This is generally done internally while "fine tuning" and "shaking the nickels out" in preparation for marketing the process equipment.

    The Strataprinter is still in this stage of funding. Demonstrating the marketability of products produced by the Strataprinter has occupied much of the inventors time for the past three years. While inventing and documenting new techniques for printing with the Strataprinter, the inventor has sold Strataprinter printed products over MTV, at Veteran's Hospitals, at the Kennedy SpacePort, and at tourist attractions up and down the Hudson Valley of New York where he lives.

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    Assignment of the invention to a business with the marketing power and support capability to make it broadly available is necessary for funding commercialization once the invention process is complete. There is no way that full commercialization can be achieved by a sole inventor.

    There is no foolproof method of attracting an assignee, though most "invention development" businesses claim that this is what they do. A rejection is usually worded something like this:

      Thank you for your letter of December 12, 1996, outlining the products and technology behind the DiaStrata Printing Process. I have checked among several 3M business units and it appears 3M has no interest in DiaStrata technology or products at this time.

    Since it generally takes a few days to track down the right person and make the presentation and another month to get the response, the inventor usually doesn't have the time to indulge in this sport as much as he should. And when things are rushed, they are usually regretted.

    As an example, the inventor assigned Strataprinter technology to a research company going through an Initial Public Offering just after the first patent was issued. While this supplied funds back to the inventor that helped further development, the IPO company never followed through on its commercialization agreements, eventually went bankrupt and this false start ended up setting the introduction of the Strataprinter back years.

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      Government Funding

    Funding through local economic development organizations or through State or Federal assistance programs is not available to invention development projects. All the talk about encouraging new technology and about startup technology businesses being the backbone of employment creation is just political rhetoric.

    The inventor's experience has been that every program available is created to provide a livelihood for either a committee or a department of government. The benefits of applying to the program for assistance are not for the applicant but for support of the statistical resources that help to keep the program alive. Budgets for these programs are generally used up in the advertising for applicants and in the payments made to consultants and staff for the review of applications. In one particularly gruesome case, an unfunded applicant was actually funding development for his project as a consultant hired by the program to interview other project applicants.

    Most Government funds for R&D go directly to private universities and Government research labs. Even programs that are available to qualified businesses do not get directly funded but are given the benefit of using the funded University or Government lab as their R&D partner.

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