Can you think of something more universal and handy than Velcro? If you look around your house and your closet, I am sure you can find hundreds of items that use it. Well, soon those items may be replaced by something better.
As much as I appreciate the old hook-and-loop Velcro, invented in 1941 by Georges de Mestral, I am glad to find out that a better Velcro has finally been created.
This new and improved Velcro still has the same goal in mind - to bind two items together, but it doesn't have all the shortcomings of the original Velcro: noisy when it's pulled apart, absorbs moisture, wears out quickly, catches on to hair and fabrics, etc.
Leonard Duffy, a 66 year old architect, is the inventor of this reinvented Velcro. What he invented is 8 times stronger and much more durable than the original. Best of all, it is much quieter too. Anyone trying to open something with Velcro quietly knows how impossible that is.
Mr. Duffy calls his innovation "sliding engaging fastener". His invention has "‘islands' with undercut edges that self-align then slide into interlocked positions, resisting shear and uplift." So instead of a hook and a loop to connect to each other, there are shapes with special cut edges that slide and hold each other in place. For more details on how it actually works, you can see his U.S. Patent 5983467 at freepatentsonline.
It took Leonard Duffy 8 years and $40,000 to develop the new kind of Velcro and has already thought of great ways to use it. With the new Velcro, he has won the grand prize in the "Create the Future" design for creating the Unity Wrap. The Unity Wrap is a breathable, waterproof cast inspired by his sister-in-law who had to wear a removable cast with straps made of Velcro which pulled at her clothes and because of moisture absorption eventually smelled bad. He listened to her complaints and now a prosthetic company and product designers are interested in his Velcro cast innovation. You can read more about it at the 2007 PopSci Invention Awards.
*Want to see a cool close up picture of Velcro being pulled apart? Take a look at Trazy's photos of Velcro magnified.