Canflex Underwater Lifting Balloons
Here is Don’s story about the invention that started things off for him:
It was with this product that I got my introduction to industrial fabrics. The fellow who owned the company (Ralph Somerville) is standing next to the balloon in the top photo. He was making a very small part for another product that I had at the time and one day I asked him how business was. He told me if things didn’t turn around he would be out of business in 6 months.
I asked him why and he said when they started their company they didn’t have money to hire a full time marketing person. I told him we should spend half a day and talk about every product he had ever been involved with and one of these was a number of these lifting balloons they made under contract as a piggyback product to the sale of underwater submersibles.
He had one dumped in the corner of his shop which had been there for awhile and was all dusty. We hauled it out and had a look and I could see right away it was really primitive. I researched the underwater lifting balloon (bag) marketplace and discovered there were only two other manufacturers out there. We found a mechanical engineer that had some experience with fabrics and worked with him to design a far more advanced balloon.
One of our customers was the RCMP and they would use our balloons to lift sunken (stolen) cars. The problem was that if the balloon wasn’t completely full with air just when the car started to lift, as the car and balloon ascended in the water, the air would expand with the diminishing pressure and the entire load would accelerate upward often with cars leaping from the water – potentially a very dangerous situation. I invented an extremely simple “Continuous Automatic Buoyancy Control” (CABCO) which consisted of a hose from the top of the balloon. Just when the load would start to lift, the diver would tie the hose so that it would just bubble air. The expanding air would simply escape from the hose and the lifting load would remain constant and under full control. It was a significant innovation at the time.
As for Ralph’s problem with lack of sales, within 8 months or so he had a new problem to deal with. We were selling so many lifting balloons he didn’t have enough capital to buy all the raw goods to make all the balloons I was selling. I always liked to tell him it was a good problem.
That's the process of inventing. The way I do it is I look at the problem to be solved from as many angles that I can think of at a given time and then I just let go of it (stop "thinking" about it) and then deeper and more powerful and more creative levels of the mind go to work on the problem at hand and the solution presents itself.