People who have trouble opening a door or faucet now can turn to a new thermoplastic elastomer product for help. Developed by two Colorado inventors and Cary, Ill.-based GLS Corp.'s Thermoplastic Elastomers Division, the Knobbles Doorknob Twister is made of Dynaflex, a soft TPE and one of the few extrudable grades on the market, according to GLS.
Knobbles fit around doorknobs to give people - primarily the elderly, as well as the disabled and small children - a stronger grip on the knob. Installation requires users to soak the Knobbles in hot water for one minute and stretch them over or around doorknobs.
The product is offered through True Value and Ace hardware stores in Colorado, but most of its sales are coming through the National Arthritis Foundation.
``It's really starting to blossom'' with no national promotion, said a spokesman for Knobbles Doorknob Twisters Co.
``Early tests through initial production runs showed us thermoplastic elastomers were the materials of choice,'' said Bill Youmans, president of Knobbles Doorknob Twisters in Littleton, Colo., and one of the product's inventors.
``But, we experienced count-less difficulties ranging from extruding the materials and achieving the desired softness and tactile feel in the end product to getting the appropriate grip on the doorknobs,'' he said.
The selection and use of a suitable material was a major obstacle until Youmans and partner Patrick Going saw their hobby of mountain biking offered them a solution. Both realized the handlebar grips on their bikes were manufactured from a material that had the properties they sought.
The bike firm connected them with its material supplier - GLS.
At the time, however, Dynaflex had a hardness of 13 Shore A and was being used for injection molding, but had never been successfully extruded.
GLS and the Knobbles creators turned to a third party for help - Ranger Plastics Extrusions Inc., an Arlington, Texas-based custom extruder.
``We felt we were in an ideal position to help Knobbles and GLS solve this interesting problem,'' said Ranger President John Earnest.
With Ranger on board, GLS was able to produce a material which extruded extremely well on Ranger's extruders.
Knobbles are manufactured by Ranger in one size for doorknobs, but also can be used for outdoor grill propane tanks, outdoor water faucets and soft drink bottles.