Recently, while researching new patents for climbing protections on the Internet I came across an innovative spring loaded camming device (Patent WO2021019512A1). I immediately pushed my research further and discovered a website for the Alternative Current Angel:
Looks interesting...although it appears to need to be fully inserted to function? So deep cracks are ok, but no good for shallow breaks.
Edit: actually no, looking at other videos, it does only need the lobes in contact. It looks as if the backwards sloping arms were active in some footage.
Interesting bit of kit. First thought is it is innovate though there's the obvious disadvantage of you still having to carry a lot of units so cost and weight will be key factors.
I'd also say that with the attachment point being at "the head", not at the bottom of the stem, the potential for walking seems quite high.
Interesting to see if these "beat" the Omega Pacific link cam, which in practice was a great idea but was constantly prone to walking and getting stuck.
> I wouldn't hold your breath - looks like it will be extremely expensive to manufacture and therefore sell. Are normal cams so broken that we need a new variety?
Probably not essential but fair play for trying to think outside the box.
I still surmise that using the same basic concept for cracks from 7 mm to over a foot is flawed. Must be a better design for wide cracks , whether its commercial is another matter.
I wonder how many wild country hexs or dmm torque nuts I can buy or carry or the same price or weight? I'm thinking about 'upgrading' my hexes with a set of torque nuts. Total cost 55quid.
The range and variety of modern cams is fantastic. I've had many models and types of cams of various versions over the years.
With innovation comes improvement. These cams may not make it to the marketplace, but may generate an improvement and better cams in current products. They may make it to the marketplace, be successful, offering better safety and variety of uses.
Wouldn't you agree as a freelance product designer?
The trouble is that this is actually a mix of two or three previous designs, all of which failed commercially. Yes innovation is a good thing, but simplicity is also a good thing. Look at what happened with all the previous expanded range devices. The Trango Max Cam was a failure due to breaking parts. The Linkcam also largely failed and was notorious for broken cam lobes, and the cam pulling out due to the steel inner lobe. The Metolius cam is largely ignored because it weighs double a normal cam so you could just have two placements, i.e. execution was poor, despite being beautifully made. Those Kong things, well they are just bizarre and you need two hands to place them. Big Bro's are probably the most successful but are only useful when the crack shape is largely parallel.
The brilliance of the traditional designs (and I include Totems in that as their basic format is somewhat familiar) is their versatility, lightweight, general security of placement and that they are reasonably cheap to manufacture and sell. Added complexity is rarely a success unless it's been expensively manufactured and very well thought out and tested. I can see so many issues with these in that respect. Can they generate further improvements? Well this is theoretically an improvement on those previous designs, but to me it seems more to be an invention for the sake of invention. These are over 250g a unit - that is really not an improvement as it means you can only carry 3 for the same weight as a full rack which limits your placements. Range is of course a consideration, but when you place one consideration above all others and the others become so compromised you have to question the sanity. As a freelance designer you have to question not only the invention, but also the commercial and manufacturing viability of a product, no matter how ingenious it is. So I would also question your premise that with innovation comes improvement - that is not always the case! Improvement in what sense?
Fairly aligned with beardy Mike on this one. It’s solving a non-painful problem and given the rate of replacement of cams by active users I think most, like some have mentioned before in this thread choose to stick to what they know is tried and tested for fairly low costs. Even for new climbers, you will go with what your mates or club recommend or can borrow.
Also when reviewing their patent, everything hinges on claim 1 being accepted which as beardy puts it seems like a rehash of things seen before which would not work with the key aspects of being unobvious or novel to those skilled in the art of manufacturing cams. The industrial application is fairly succinct (climbing) but it’s likely to infringe on granted patents that claim for securing or anchoring between fixed surfaces.
The number of parts and assembly is complex compared to a regular cam which would put the QA and manufacturing costs up. Since there are established incumbent technologies on the market already and with no sales or economies of scale price per unit will likely be high.
Also who buys mission critical kit from weird companies with no proven track record?
I am sure you're right, Mike. If someone could come up with a cam that covered a huge range, and weighed and cost ~ twice as much as a regular cam, and was easy to use and reliable, then I'd buy one. The idea of a single 'uber-spare' cam that covered whichever one you had already placed in the pitch is tempting.
I looked quite seriously at the OP Link cams for this purpose, but they were plagued by failures and horrible to use in real life.
Uber cams are somewhat of a speciality. John Arran basically invented one 10 years before the others came out and I worked on it with HB, but then Hugh had his accident and it all fizzled out a bit. Shame really, it was basically the supercam. Out of all of them, the supercam is the only one which really makes sense, but it's been engineered like a tank...
> Also when reviewing their patent, everything hinges on claim 1 being accepted which as beardy puts it seems like a rehash of things seen before which would not work with the key aspects of being unobvious or novel to those skilled in the art of manufacturing cams. The industrial application is fairly succinct (climbing) but it’s likely to infringe on granted patents that claim for securing or anchoring between fixed surfaces.
That's not quite right. It is very usual for claim 1 to be an almost generic statement about the basis of the invention. Inless you have something truly novel which is quite rare. Of course if you can make the entire claim fit in that one paragraph, you'll have a very strong patent. DMM have managed to do this with their decoating of cam lobes patent.
More usually you will have sub claims which will further describe the invention. You'll find that these sub claims follow two patterns, either they are like a multibranched tree, where there are multiple branches of invention which relate back to claim 1. Or there will be a string of claims, i.e. claim 4 depends on claim 3, which depends on claim 2 which depends on claim 1. Of the two the second option is far far weaker, because if you add or remove a single point of invention, the patent is defunct. It makes them extremely easy to get around, and the only reason to do something like that is if your invention is simply not that novel and what you're trying to do is put the wind up someone who doesn't know how to read patents very well and scare them. If you have a genuine set of claims, they SHOULD follow the first pattern. But again if there are chains within the multibranched tree, those are easily broken. So the aim of any patent lawyer should make the claims as brief and as all enveloping as possible, with as few levels of subclaims as possible. All that said, this is an application which has not yet been examined, i.e. it has not been scrutinised - the patent office probably hasn't even opened the application yet. Therefore at this stage, you would be trying to claim the world in a handbasket, because in patent law, possession is 9/10s of the law. If it doesn't get thrown out at the examination, it's yours, and it's for others to prove that they did it before you. Which is lengthy and expensive to do - it does happen!
What does all that mean in relation to this particular patent? Well I haven't read it closely, but just scanning it there are multiple branches with multiple chains, which makes it weak both to contravention and to defend and enforce. It reads like someone who hasn't patented something before has gone to a lawyer and asked whether he can patent it, the lawyer has said yes, whacked in an application without doing much reading or searching, collected the fee and scarpered. Once it gets to scrutiny, half the claims plus will be binned leaving a bare bines skeleton of a patent which wont stand up. I might be wrong, but that's how it looks...
Have a like, I definitely learned something from you regarding weak and stronger claim tree construction, usually I am trying to break claims as part of keeping FTO.
My point was really towards everything being dependent on claim 1 making it easy to challenge or subvert. I hadn’t picked up it looks like an amateur submission, but simple phrases like a plurality of x to simply block other adding an extra cam lobe etc are all absent.
Different fields I suppose, I am after strong IP position given that’s attractive for license deals. I leave the weak blocking patents for the industrial partners to sort out as part of their own IP strategy.
Well I spend plenty of time having to read them in detail to work out precisely what you are allowed to do and what you're not. It's quite entertaining walking into a meeting and being told I'm not allowed to do what I'm proposing to do because the company already owns the patent which covers what I'm proposing and I have to point out they don't actually know what they've patented properly - I had a classic with a gate and nose coupling description when they company thought they owned a patent on the nose design, when in fact it was only the gate mechanism they owned - they'd described the nose in detail in the description paragraphs but not the nose, because it wasn't novel... the dudes face was a picture...
With regards plurality, you can't really patent a specific number of this or that anyway. I always hate the language at any rate - it's only purpose is to bamboozle and having listened to what people say during design meetings, as a scare tactic it works because its difficult to work out what the hell they are actually saying. Very often there's a lot more words than substance. Literally the strongest patents I've seen in the outdoor industry are some of the Paul Zedel Petzl patents and the DMM one mentioned above which is just so straightforward, like you say, that first paragraph becomes all important...
Perhaps I'm wrong but isn't the trigger element the patented element on cams?
The camming when loaded is just mechanics, used on many devices in industry, even some crane buckets or paving slab grabs use the same principle.
That depends on which patent you're talking about! There are lots. For example the C4 BD stem is patented. The removal of anodisation on the DMM cams is patented. The X4 stem and I believe axle was. The tricam was... the flexible stem on friends was... there are lots!
Not sure if this is viral marketing or a genuine observation but the device does look interesting.
Looking at it the arms on which the lobes are mounted aren't geometrically locked when the cam is placed, they appear to have to mechanically lock together (via some sort of lockable serrated 'washer' thing in the scissor hinge between them I think) then unlock for removal. Also the arms always and heavily loaded in bending (traditional cam lobes are subject to no bending in an ideal placement) so there's a real limit to how much weight and bulk could be designed out of this without moving to exotic materials.
When they're not fully inserted so the lower ends of the arms are engaged to prevent movement they look like they'll be quite prone to coming unstuck when 'walked' by the rope, the upward walking small cam lobe has little scope to expand before it becomes maxed out and unstuck. Maybe not much of an issue given the cord loop and lack of loaded stem.
> That depends on which patent you're talking about! There are lots. For example the C4 BD stem is patented. The removal of anodisation on the DMM cams is patented. The X4 stem and I believe axle was. The tricam was... the flexible stem on friends was... there are lots!
It is even more complex than I imagined! I still sense they are reinventing the wheel though.
To be honest, patents for a designer are a pain in the butt as so many things have been previously thought of. Quite often things have been invented and then are not used specifically to block competitors from using the idea - Petzl are super into that stuff, and unfortunately as I said before they have good patent lawyers! Still, I guess that's the point of patents... very often there is a way around it but you really have to think hard and read hard...
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