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The Hover Creeper floats on thin air

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July 30, 2006

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July 31, 2006 It’s not often you can pinpoint the innovation point where a new product concept was formed, but for the Hover Creeper, it was at the point where 73-year-old former Westinghouse Electric engineer Ralph Kalkbrenner said, “Mechanics already have compressed air in their garage for tools, why not take advantage of it” that a better mechanics creeper was conceived – one that quite literally floats on thin air. Kalkbrenner works for Davison Design and Development, and was involved in a project to revitalize the Whiteside product-line and to reinvent the creeper. Rubber air bladders inside the 14-pound Hover Creeper plus 40 psi enable it to effortlessy glide over the hectic landscape of the garage floor, floating over cracks, bolts, washers and other debris that would have stopped a wheeled creeper in its tracks, all with a 300 pound payload on board. Just plug it in and glide under the car. Once underneath, the mechanic hits a lever, letting the creeper land and offering stable leverage to enable the mechanic to apply torque to spanners, something not possible with castor wheels. The mechanic can still use the compressed air; he just plugs the tools into one of the two air outlets on either side of the creeper. And there’s a tool caddy built into the creeper body. We think the Hover Creeper is destined to become a part of every garage. It’s waay cool, high-tech in a no-nonsense sort of way, very practical, looks like fun to use and it's cheaper to own as there are no replacement costs for damaged casters. Since it doesn't have wheels, it's less expensive to make with less waste and replacement.

The Davison team saw that the relatively simple creeper had one obvious flaw - wheels. They were the most expensive part of the creeper; they fell into floor cracks, shifted wildly over bolts and got into the mechanics' way. So, they just took them off.

Whiteside, America's leading manufacturer of automotive creepers, was faced with stiff competition coming in from overseas. Foreign competitors found a way to manufacture creepers efficiently, pulling away Whiteside's market. They went to Davison to revitalize the Whiteside product-line and to reinvent the creeper. The design team was asked to explore ways to reinvent the traditional mechanic’s creeper; create a fresh, innovative identity; and facilitate a regain of market share.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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