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Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association Scottish Plastics and Rubber Association

Rothenberger Kibosh Emergency Pipe Repair

Ross Dickinson, MD of Kibosh Ltd, explaining the Rothenberger Kibosh Emergency Pipe Repair

At the June SPRA meeting, under the title ‘From Concept to Commercialisation’, Ross Dickinson, inventor of the Kibosh Emergency Pipe Repair, shared his experiences of taking his invention to market. The device is intended for professional and un-skilled use to stop the flow from a burst or accidentally perforated pipe until a full repair can be carried out. Clamping application is achieved manually so that no tools are required.

Concept

During the recent harsh winters Ross, who runs a successful plumber’s business, Emerald Plumbing and Heating, in Walkerburn in the Scottish Borders, had become frustrated that there was no device on the market which would clamp onto a burst pipe to stem the flow and allow continuity of supply until a permanent repair could be carried out. He took his idea of a manually operated clamp incorporating a rubber seal to a local toolmaker and moulder, Cademuir Toolmaking Ltd located in Selkirk. The outcome was a simple two part body and a lever clamping operation, specifically for the popular size of pipe (15 mm).

Design

The Kibosh device had to apply a uniform sealing pressure on the pipe and contain water pressures in excess of 10 bar. Consequently the body and lever had to be both rigid and strong and the rubber seal had to have good compression set resistance and comply with the standards of the water industry. The body was moulded in two parts and assembled by inserting a metal hinge pin. Initially the rubber sealing gasket was moulded in a separate operation. Early mouldings in polycarbonate did not have the required stiffness and eventually a glass filled polyamide was used. Ross acknowledged the help he had received from Dr Mike Barker at Edinburgh Napier University for advice on materials and for subsequent preparation of the patent application.

Funding

Because the project was funded from limited resources, mainly from the plumbing business, design iterations and tool modifications had to be taking slowly, step-by-step. In the later stages of development, rapid prototyping was used to arrive at design changes more quickly. The development was also assisted by the prize money and business advice packages from various entrepreneur competitions that Ross entered – and won.

Prototype Testing

Kibosh test rig
Ross discovered that there was no British Standard test related to his invention and he had to set about devising his own test rig in a room in his house. The rig eventually incorporated a hot water cylinder, temperature gauges, pressure gauges, a heat sink and refrigeration to allow him to evaluate his design under cyclic tests on different types of burst and accidental damage in copper and plastic pipes. The rig, which subjected the assembly to pressures of 10 bar, and test results impressed British Standards Institution so much that Kibosh is now on the path to having its own BS number and Kite Mark.

Intellectual Property Protection

Design protection only covers the appearance of the design and Ross had to embark on a full patent application, which was a drain on tight resources, but the patent, GB2480131, was granted in April 2012.

Manufacture

Ross stressed that he had been keen to keep manufacture locally if possible and he involved local moulders, Cademuir, McLaren Plastics and Glossbrook during the development phase. The current production is being undertaken by Cademuir in Selkirk.

Marketing

The brand name ‘Kibosh’ was his own idea. ‘To put a Kibosh on it’ is an expression commonly used to imply ‘finishing something off’ or ‘putting a complete end to it’. Even the logo, which simulates a device clamped on a pipe, was his own thinking. Ross has found that exploitation of modern media, including You Tube, Facebook and Twitter has been very successful in promoting the product in the public eye. Ross was fortunate in being able to use an off-the-shelf blister pack but the accompanying operating instructions had to be extensive to cover all the legal requirements.

Partnership

Ross Dickinson signing the agreement with Rothenberger
After the commercial launch in December 2011, Ross was able to place his product in a number of retail, trade and plumber supply chains. Initial sales, expressions of satisfaction from plumbing professional and return sales were very encouraging. However to broaden the distribution and gain entry to larger chain stores, Ross realised that he had to go into partnership with a larger organisation. Rothenberger fitted the bill ideally and, since entering into partnership in March 2012, the Rothenberger Kibosh Emergency Pipe Repair System is now being rolled out globally. Already, with economy of scale, the price has dropped as production volume is ramping up.

Colin Hindle (at back) proposing a vote of thanks for Ross Dickinson
The audience, which included industrialists and teacher of science, design and technology, engaged on the Polymer Study Tour, was impressed by the enthusiastic presentation and the tenacity displayed by Ross in seeing the project through to a successful conclusion, even with limited access to funding and resources.

A lively question time revealed how Ross had to overcome numerous obstacles along the way, without perhaps always getting the help required at the right time. However his dream has now been fulfilled and he demonstrated he is still fired with the innovation spirit.

Report by Charlie Geddes, SPRA Hon Secretary, June 2012

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