South Carolina Patent of the Month – April 2022

Hoowaki, LLC are experts in designing friction with the use of both high and low friction micro surfaces. Variation in these micro and nano surfaces, and their relative frictions, are essential to addressing surface tension problems and improving tooling functionality. They’ve found that these specialized surfaces have helped to remove the need for certain chemistries in manufacturing, where the friction customization and surface patterns replace certain coatings and lubricants. This simplifies processes, reducing costs, and removing expensive materials. They’ve utilized 5-axis micro precision CNC milling, EDM, laser, electroforming, and a range of other techniques to add the needed surfaces to the tooling.

Recently, they’ve developed a method and a microstructure arrangement to grip materials with a low coefficient of friction. When there is a low coefficient of friction, two items can slide right past each other – like ice on metal. This can make holding an item with any reasonable grip difficult.

Hoowaki’s microstructure gripping pad creates a coefficient of friction greater than 0.9. So that it can grip even a low coefficient of friction polymer. The gripping surface – either a polymer or the metal of the tool – is manufactured with this microstructure pattern made of small ovular shapes with a diameter around 10 μm2 to 400 μm2 and a height of 20 μm to 1000 μm. Spaced apart from each other, this creates a series of small, pointed ridges.

These designs are inspired by the natural world, in a form of biomimicry. Animals – like geckos – and the rough surface of a lotus leaf are used to create grip or customize the friction between surfaces. Geckos have microstructures that create unique interactions with surfaces, allowing them to easily climb a wall or stick to a horizontal surface. Hoowaki takes these principles and adds engineering principles to optimize the application as needed. They are constantly developing new microstructure patterns to meet new needs and improve efficiencies.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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