- Country: USA
- Industry: Construction, Engineering, Architecture
- Stage: Start-up
- Investment size: $700,000 / min. $20,000
We have invented an environmentally conscience, semi-green technology that addresses many of the problems inherent at the point-of-operation during TIG welding.
Welding is a process that joins two materials by melting the pieces and adding a filler material to form a strong joint when cooled. TIG welding is a popular choice when high quality, precision welding is required. Most welding jobs include back-gouging (process of removing weld and base metal by arc gouging or grinding from the other side of a partially welded joint to assure complete fusion and penetration upon subsequent welding from that side).
However, cutting, back-gouging and weld removal can be dangerous; it propagates smoke, poisonous fumes, and molten and particulate matter throughout the welding area. Flying sparks and droplets of molten metal can cause severe burns and present fire hazards. Shielding gases used by TIG welders can displace oxygen and lead to asphyxiation. Short wavelength ultraviolet light produced by TIG welders can break down ambient air and form dangerous ozone. Heavy welding metals can be taken into the lungs. Poisonous fumes can be created as the heat from the welder vaporizes materials disposed on the work surface.
Our invention is comprised of an adjustable vacuum and support system that evacuates the particulate matter, smoke, poisonous gas and molten metal generated during back-gouging, cutting and weld removal. It creates a clean, consistent gouge path in preparation for welding plate; removes a weld bead without cutting or grinding; can be used manually or adapted to automation; and easily adapts to existing welding devices. The WeldVac system protects the welder, all bystanders, and the surrounding areas.
The WeldVac system completely changes the dynamics of a TIG welding operation; it dramatically improves worker safety, protects the environment, significantly increases worker productivity, and favorably impacts job costing and profitability.
1. Issues – Toxic Fumes: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, welders are frequently exposed to a number of hazards, including the intense light created by the arc, poisonous fumes, and very hot materials. Exposure to welding fumes may lead to many health problems, including two serious illnesses: Parkinson's disease and Manganism. Numerous studies indicate welders may be at increased risk of neurological and neurobehavioral health effects when exposed to metals such as lead, iron and manganese. There are many court cases pending regarding this exposure, the hazards involved, and the health impact on employees.
For example, Hexavalent Chromium (Cr(VI)) ) can be formed when performing “hot work” such as welding on stainless steel; the high temperatures involved in this process results in oxidation that converts the chromium to a hexavalent state. Employees exposed to Cr(VI) are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer, asthma, and damage to their nasal passages and skin.
The WeldVac system completely eliminates (captures) the toxic gases generated during back-gouging, cutting and weld removal. The welder is protected, the work environment is protected, and all bystanders (co-workers) are protected; exposure to toxic gases, molten metal, and flying debris is eliminated.
2. Issue - Grinding & Surface Preparation: Typically, when preparing the weld joint, many problems are a direct result of using improper methods. One of the most common is the improper use of grinding wheels. Soft materials like aluminum may get embedded with abrasive particles resulting in excessive porosity. Grinding wheels should be cleaned and dedicated only to the material being welded.
As previously mentioned, The WeldVac system completely eliminates (captures) the toxic gases, molten metal, and flying debris generated during back-gouging, cutting and weld removal. By doing so, the WeldVac system produces cuts, gouges and weld removals that are clean (not contaminated), neat and efficient; the metal surface requires minimal (or no) grinding, smoothing or other post-processing (i.e. welding can occur without additional surface preparation – significantly impacting time & costs).
We believe these WeldVac system benefits identified above will warrant attention from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA); the ultimate goal of having OSHA regulations updated for this emerging technology.
3. Issue - Welding Productivity: The United States is in the midst of a welder shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for skilled labor grows. Studies show there are more than 500,000 welders employed in the United States. And the need for these skilled workers is only getting stronger as virtually all construction and manufacturing companies require some form of welding, from the production of assemblies to maintenance and repair.
The average welder (age) is in their mid-fifties. Many of these people will retire within the next 10 years, creating a tremendous need for skilled and experienced workers to replace them. According to the National Tooling and Machining Association, 40% of member companies are turning away business due to lack of skilled welders. According to the article, “Change Creates Opportunity,” published in the summer of 2006 in the Hobart Institute of Technology newsletter, “25,000 students will begin their welding careers this year while 50,000 experienced welders are expected to retire”. As demand increases, and the number of skilled workers decreases, a major workforce shortage develops.
The WeldVac system improves worker productivity. The amount of time spent on grinding and metal preparation is reduced by almost 90%. Welders will be able to do more in less time. Consequently, welding operations will be able to (1) reduce their operating costs by eliminating (or significantly reducing) grinding tools & materials, and (2) increase worker productivity by reducing the amount of time and energy dedicated to grinding.
The global market for welding products in 2011 is estimated at $16.3 billion; it’s projected to cross $17 billion in the year 2012. It’s further anticipated to increase to $21.9 billion by 2017 at a compound annual growth rate of 5.2%.
For comparison purposes, capturing only .1% of the world-wide welding market (2012 figures) represents annual revenues of over $17 million. Until development is completed of the WeldVac system (only a working prototype exists), the manufactured and retail price points can only be estimated. Fortunately, there isn’t any known competitor (via patent searches) for the WeldVac system. There are devices such as portable welding fume extractors or industrial ventilation systems, but both are unattached (to the welding torch) and do not provide the aforementioned benefits and solutions as the WeldVac system.
Additionally, the market for welding robots is growing at a higher rate than any other industrial robot market. The WeldVac system, be creating ‘clean’ gouges and cuts, can be utilized in an automated environment to back-gouge and subsequently weld in a single application – making it ideal for automation (robots).
Rationale for the deal
Patents have been filed (and are currently pending) in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China and Japan. The Company is seeking equity investors to fund the commercial development of the WeldVac system; currently only a working prototype exists.
Use of financing
Currently, only a working prototype exists. The Company is seeking equity investors to fund the commercial development of the WeldVac system. The following YouTube video demonstrates the advantages of the WeldVac system versus existing arc welding procedures:
The funds derived from the equity offering will be used primarily for the following purpose:
1. Patent Work & Filings: Listed below is a summary of the initial costs for filing the international patents:
• Europe: $9,000 (regional protection)
• Canada $3,000
• Australia $4,000
• Japan $7,000 (with translation)
• China $7,000 (with translation)
Each jurisdiction requires prosecution by local counsel with guidance and oversight by Mr. O’Connell. The final cost(s) depends on the perception of the national and regional patent offices and is therefore impossible to predict (but is estimated to be at least an additional $40,000). There are also annual maintenance fees in each jurisdiction that escalate over the life of the patent (e.g. $300 initially in Canada; $800 initially in Europe).
2. Product Engineering & Development: The Nottingham-Spirk proposal has two different cost components: (1) regular ‘fee for service’; and (2) ‘shared risk’. ‘Fee for service’ is $60,000 per month for six months (or longer with additional costs as incurred); ‘shared risk’ is $30,000 per month. In return for reducing the monthly costs by $30,000 (total reduction of 180,000), NS has been offered nine percent (9%) ownership in WeldVac, LLC subject to the same rules and regulations as all other investors. NS has tentatively agreed (although the Company is still evaluating this option). The estimated cost for the NS development is $260,000: 6 months @ $30,000 plus 2 months @ $30,000 (reserve) plus $20,000 other expenses.
3. Professional Fees, Travel & Other Expenses: Legal (attorney) fees incurred establishing the Company; travel expenses (primarily for travel between Boston and Cleveland); trade show presentations; and other (unidentified) expenses.
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