Case Study: Vex Box
Client: Paul Coy
Patent in the UK has been granted and the product trademarked. The product doesn’t need an international patent because it is only suited to UK electrical sockets.
The Vex Box is a variable template for single and double electrical sockets. It allows electricians to install sockets while making it easier for plasterers to get a better finish around the socket. It’s ideal for new builds and refurbishments and has been well received within the industry.
Electrical boxes set too far back in the wall can make it difficult for plasterers to get a decent finish because they have no edge to work to. The light bulb moment came while Paul was working at the Great Railway Station in Quorn. Working in the building industry meant that he knew that there wasn’t a similar product on the market able to create the edge which meant plasterers could work more easily with the area around plug sockets. It needed to be flexible and strong.
Paul approached Innovate in 2011; their Intellectual Property Team first conducted a worldwide patent search to see if the product was original. After this, Innovate’s Product Design Team helped with visualizing the idea using CAD modelling. The critical problem in developing the Vex Box was not the idea itself but getting the production process right. The first prototypes were made from laser cut sheet steel but turned out not to be very practical. These initial designs had sharp edges and were too heavy to do the job. They also needed a finish to prevent rusting and didn’t fold or tended to break off easily.
The solution was to use injection moulding which after trial and error covered all the initial problems. The challenge here, however, was that this made it a one-shot product. It was very difficult to change the mould once the Vexbox had been machined, this was critical to its usability.
The next issue was choosing a polymer that was both fire resilient but strong enough to be resistant, and could be folded and cut accordingly. That involved working with the moulding company to iron out problems in the production process. Meanwhile, Paul was working with Innovate to gain a patent in the UK (the Vex Box wouldn’t work with overseas sockets). The production option was to first self-manufacture and sell online initially until outlets could be found to widen reach.
The Vex Box is currently being sold online while wholesalers are being approached to see if they will come on board. The product has been well received by the industry and there has been no negative feedback. Furthermore, there has been a fair amount of praise about how simple, useful and clever the product is. The Vex Box was also a finalist in the Electrical Times Awards 2016.
Of his experience with Innovate, Paul said:
“The photo realistic drawings which were produced by Innovate even at the concept stage were so accurate that they are still used now on the website to advertise Vexbox. Also, I adopted the logo that Innovate produced as it was very fitting for the product and the rendered drawings were used for the patent application, so all in all, very good value for money.”