HE IS well known as a Corner Inlet fisherman and the purveyor of the freshest seafood through his Port Franklin jetty shop. Now, thanks to an environmentally friendly pile hammer, Wayne Cripps can also claim to be a gold medal winning inventor.
Wayne recently returned from the world’s largest invention trade show, ‘INPEX’ (Invention and New Product Exposition) in Pittsburgh, USA. There his invention of a variable speed post hammer, one of 14 multifarious entries in the Engineering category of the competition, won the ultimate prize in its section – a gold medal.
Wayne spent more than two and a half years developing what is officially known as the Cripps Variable Speed Post Hammer. “When I’m not fishing I do a fair bit of jetty construction work,” he explains.
He was after a pile driving hammer that was easy to operate, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. What he came up with meets all those criteria. It comes in two sizes, with heads of 200mm or 300mm and can be used on land or water but not being a hole digger is most effective in the water, where the ground is soft. He prices it at about $8000.
“Pile hammers tend to be hydraulic or mechanical, with 99 per cent running on hydraulic oil. If there’s a breakage there’s the potential for leakages which can damage the environment. I thought there must be a better way. My pile hammer is air driven. If anything goes wrong, there is no damage to the environment,” says Wayne.
The hammer has a variable speed and can be adjusted to suit posts from 100mm (4in) to 255mm (10in) in size. It has a variable stroke to increase the energy per punch and boasts low power usage from a small compressor. It is also compact, easy to operate and highly transportable.
Wayne put the hammer together with assistance from Jim Brennan’s engineering outfit at Yarram, where his son, Raigan, a qualified boilermaker/fabricator worked before establishing his own business.
Wayne used the pile hammer to build a jetty for himself. Several people, including a jetty constructor from Paynesville, saw the hammer and were very impressed. They encouraged him to take it further, so Wayne went searching for the best way to get his invention out there. He discovered INPEX and approached the organisers, who invited him to exhibit his invention.
That was simpler said than done. Wayne calculates it took him roughly eight months to organise for his 190kg invention to be shipped to the US and then travel by train to INPEX, which this year was held from June 16-18 in the enormous Monroeville Convention Center just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Each year INPEX provides a forum for inventors from around the world to exhibit their inventions and pitch their ideas with companies interested in licensing, marketing or manufacturing their new products.
The trade show also hosts contests for US and international inventors (45 different categories) and seminars and workshops for both inventors and business attendees within the George Foreman Inventors University. The annual sponsor and producer of INPEX, InventHelp, assists inventors in protecting their ideas, and if necessary, conducts the process for obtaining a patent prior to their participation in the show.
Inventions at INPEX range from simple products to highly technical devices that can be displayed as models or prototypes or as a finished product for the mass market.
“It was a fantastic experience to attend INPEX and see all the brilliant inventions out there,” says Wayne.
The icing on the cake was to come away with a gold medal. “That justified the years of effort,” says Wayne, adding that he would have been happy enough just to have attended the trade show, where he made some good connections in American industry.
There was interest from both the US and China in producing the post hammer. It was also suggested that he could provide it as part of a complete kit for rental to coastal areas, while someone else offered a warehouse to use as a base for global distribution.
For now, Wayne has a patent pending in Australia and is looking at his options. After enjoying a brief holiday in the US, he and his wife Linda have been back in Australia for barely a week and he is not making any rash decisions. He is now waiting for the post hammer to return. It should take about six weeks by sea and Wayne is keen to start using it again.
“It just shows what can happen if you follow your ideas through,” he muses. “It has been a great experience. I hope it encourages people, especially young people, to follow their ideas through.”