Patent pending on local man’s tool invention
In the 31 years he’s worked for the Town of Vail Public Works Department, Riggle has developed a reputation for being able to assess a problem, then find a solution using materials on hand, a little elbow grease, and a lot of ingenuity.
His latest invention, a tool that simplifies the installation of bands on corrugated culvert pipe, is effective enough that Riggle and his wife, JoAnn, now have a patent pending for the vice-like tool. The “Culvert Band Installation Tool,” or “CBIT”, is a relatively simple device that can make the often frustrating, time-consuming, process of installing a band over abutted culverts a much easier and safer process. The band holds the two abutting culvert pipes together, so there will be no leaks.
Riggle, 52, admits that in the case of the CBIT, frustration was the mother of invention. He was installing culvert at work, and found the process of placing the culvert bands to be a struggle. Traditionally, C-clamps or a length of all-thread clamp are used to draw the flanges of the culvert band close enough together to be bolted.
That means workers must maintain the tension on the band while keeping the two culvert pieces aligned, preventing the band from twisting, and fasten the flanges together with bolts. The task is at least a two-person job; and when things aren’t going right, fastening a single band can take up to two hours.
Irritation to inspiration
There came the frustrating day when Riggle decided there had to be a better way to wrestle the bands into place. He went back to the town shop, scrounged up some steel scraps and bolts, fired up the welder, and put together the prototype CBIT.
The CBIT is a hand-held apparatus that functions something like a vice. Simple to operate, the CBIT fits across the band flanges, and holds the band in place while the operator installs the necessary two or three bolts to close the cuff.
One man can take the CBIT, and install a culvert band in a matter of minutes. The CBIT, by holding all the parts together, also makes the task safer – there’s less chance of sliding parts hurting someone’s hand. The versatile tool can be used for any situation where there is use for culverts, whether it be a town municipal system or an individual homeowner installing drainage under a driveway.
“I’m always looking for an easier way to do things…I”m lazy,” says the modest Riggle, a 1969 graduate of Battle Mountain High School.
His boss, Town of Vail Public Works Streets and Maintenance Manager Larry Pardee, characterizes Riggle differently.
“His nickname is “the wizard.’ He’s the guy who will dream up these concoctions, and put them to work,” says Pardee. Over the years, Pardee says Riggle has a number of times found clever ways to help accomplish a task.
“He makes a lot of little work-tool-type things that save us time, money, and makes the job safer. He’s pretty clever,” says Pardee.
Pardee says his department has put the CBIT device to good use.
“You climb down deep in a hole, bust your knuckles, and take forever to band culvert. Then Bob came up with this idea, and the rest is history. This is a slick little thing, and it saves time…we absolutely use it any time we band culverts,” says Pardee.
This isn’t the first time one of Riggle’s inventions has gained notice. A few years ago, when town crews were struggling to construct a new playground in Ford Park, Riggle brainstormed a device that would fit on a loader boom that would set the hard-to-manage timbers more quickly, and with greater safety. He and a fellow worker were honored by the town for that invention, says Vail Pubic Information Director Suzanne Silverthorn.
“What I marvel about is that these guys never stop thinking about how they can do their jobs better. They’re always thinking about a better way, a different way, and an improved way,” says Silverthorn.
Pardee says Riggle has “unusual talent.”
“He’s had a lifetime of experiences doing a lot of things that has taught him that working smarter, not harder, is a lot more fulfilling,” says Pardee.
Riggle’s working model CBIT received an enthusiastic response from several professionals in the construction field. That prompted him and his wife to embark on an entirely new adventure: patenting the invention. That process is long, and involves a significant amount of expense. Typically, patenting an invention can cost somewhere from $5,000-$10,000.
Knowing they needed some guidance, the Riggles took their CBIT to Affiliated Inventors, Inc., a Colorado Springs-based company that offers a variety of services for inventors.
The first step, handled by Affiliated Inventors, was the filing of a disclosure document, which is stamped by the U.S. Patent Office, which proves the date of invention. That date creates a record of invention, and is a carefully kept secret among inventors, who must protect their creations from copycats.
The company then helps evaluate the effectiveness of the invention, identify the weaknesses and suggest any necessary changes. A preliminary search is conducted of the Patent Office’s files to determine if the invention is a new concept, and if it is likely to be patented.
The next step is the patent application which involves a description of the invention, including drawings. An examiner in that office conducts another, more far-reaching search and issues a “office action” either accepting or rejecting the patent application. The time period for the examiner’s search is typically from six to 12 months.
Objections raised by the examiner can be overcome by amending the patent application. Eventually, the approvals will result in the publishing of the patent.
JoAnn has taken the lead in shepherding Bob’s invention through the patent process. She did the drawings of the CBIT, and handles the extensive paperwork.
Meanwhile, the Riggles created their own company, RTR Fabricating, Inc., and are building the first 50 CBITs themselves in the workshop and garage at their Brush Creek home. JoAnn explains building the tools is giving them a perspective on the challenges of manufacturing and labor costs, when they’re ready to turn that process over to somebody else. The Riggles have placed the wholesale price for a CBIT at $250.
Currently, Grand Junction Pipe in Gypsum and Kemp and Company in Edwards are selling the CBITs. The Riggles are in the process of marketing the product to distributors. JoAnn thinks there may be more marketing opportunities with rental businesses, for do-it-yourself type handyman projects.
When that patent is issued, the Riggles will be ready to do some celebrating.
For more information about the CBIT, contact RTR Fabricating at 970-328-2230 or at RTRFabInc@hotmail.com.
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.