As the veteran manager of a small manufacturing company with a long aerospace history, Joe Ferraro is accustomed to working with his hands. In particular, he works often with steel and other hard metals, giving him a workman’s grip that, at a minimum, should be able to easily puncture something as flimsy as the safety seal on a bottle of vitamins.
Or so he thought.
It was during a titanic struggle with such a safety seal – “I was amazed at how resilient it was,” he noted. “I actually hurt my finger!” – that Ferraro came up with what might prove his crowning achievement. The longtime inventor holds several patents already, but believes he’s outdone himself with the Smart ECO-Cap, a lid with a built-in blunt edge that easily defeats safety seals on pill bottles and other containers.
“I just sat there for a while and looked at the cap,” Ferraro said. “And then suddenly, it was like, ‘Holy cow, what I need is right there!’”
What he needed was to file a groove into the bottom of the cap – basically, giving the cap a tooth-like 90-degree edge overlapping the bottle lip. It didn’t need to be sharp, he noted, just hard enough to punch through the safety seal.
It did so on the very first try, eliminating the need, and safety risk, of fumbling with a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors, Ferraro noted, and with no risk of product contamination from a dirty blade.
The tinkerer is hardly a stranger to product design. The Smart ECO-Cap would become Ferraro’s fifth patent overall, following multiple patents for devices that alert homeowners when their motion-detector floodlights have been tampered with and another for a copper tube that coils around pipes carrying hot water out of a heating unit: Fresh water in the copper tubes is preheated on its way into the boiler, requiring less time and energy to produce hot water.
The Smart ECO-Cap also has an efficiency bent: Manufacturers can easily change their molds to create the grooved caps, Ferraro noted, and since they actually use less plastic than a non-grooved lid, “for every 100 caps you make, you get a free cap.” That might not be the exact math, but the bottom line is “it saves plastic,” the inventor said, “so it’s ecological.”
While none of his prior patents has have met with great commercial success, Ferraro believes he’ll break that mold with the Smart ECO-Cap, which is inexpensive to produce and has real marketing potential. “A perk,” according to Ferraro, “something special to offer consumers.”
So all the pieces are in place, save one: time. Ferraro managed to get the product patented but has done little beyond that, citing the demands of running his family’s six-man manufacturing shop, which launched in 1980 as a supplier to Grumman and other aerospace stalwarts.
“If I stop working, I can’t feed my family,” he said. “It’s that simple. Things have been tough on manufacturers, and if I stop working, I stop shipping.”
Having just rebuilt his house – devastated by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy – and footing the bill for his daughter’s college education, the newly minted member of the Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club of Suffolk County is “hoping to contact the right people” to execute his master plan: licensing other companies to use the Smart ECO-Cap design.
“It works fantastically,” he said. “And everybody tells me the same thing: Whether they’re opening a pill bottle or a bottle of antifreeze, they always have to go to the kitchen to get a knife or find their keys or whatever, so there’s a real need for this.
“I’m getting to a point where I’m ready to push this forward and make something happen,” Ferraro added. “If I meet the right people, I think something will.”