Say that you're a product designer, trying to find out more about how to use recycled plastics in a bottle or a resin supplier trying to make contact with brand-name companies to tell them about how they could use post-consumer resin in their bottles.
With its latest development, Chicago-based Inventables LLC said it has created a neutral marketplace that will allow both developers and suppliers to bridge the product development stream.
We're not tied in to just one company, said Zach Kaplan, who co-created Inventables as an information gateway in 2003. It expanded with the website at the start of this year. It finds out what the buyer wants to do, and gets them in touch with the vendors.
In the past, Inventables operated as an independent information warehouse that sent physical samples of new materials to product designers and engineers. It was a good point of contact, but it was difficult to fine-tune the system to specific company needs.
The website www.inventa bles.com allows users like designers to search for exactly what they want. Type in the word container, for instance, and the search engine provides information on the site to fold-flat containers, food packaging, cosmetics containers and a variety of other items. They can ask questions, surf for details on new developments and see existing applications.
There are searches by material name, by use and by industry.
Material companies, meanwhile, can put information about their products in front of developers, and pay only when they think they have a solid lead. Information for both groups is free.
You're only paying for serious inquiries, Kaplan said. You're only paying for a lead if you've decided it's worth your time.
Other sites and individual resin companies have reached out to designers to make them aware of what materials can do, but because Inventables is not part of any particular company, it can operate as an information storehouse.
More than 1,500 vendors have signed up to put details about their materials on Inventables since the website was launched.
A designer can easily share information with an engineer and direct him to the same information on the site, so they can make sure they're both on the same page as they discuss future products, Kaplan said. The site also tracks individual users and fine- tunes search responses based on past searches so that if a user sought out medical applications in the past, it would target responses to medical uses first and help save time.
The success of any material company's use of Inventables relies on them providing solid information, he added. Listing the industry applications will put it in front of people from that industry looking for new materials. Showing existing applications gives potential users a better idea of how they could put it into their product.
Vendors get out of it what they put into it, he said.
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