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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

March 2012 Neal Caldwell of Dalen Products

Meeting Date: 
March 17, 2012

The March 17 meeting of the TIA featured Neal Caldwell, a local inventor and owner of Dalen Products, a company located in West Knoxville.

Neal is a local inventor who has persevered and now owns a successful company. He started out going to engineering school and quickly moved to working for Robertshaw Controls in Knoxville. He was always inventing and innovating. He was the inventor on several patents while at Robertshaw Controls.

After a while, Neal became frustrated inventing for someone else and started inventing for himself. The first of such inventions was the Vent-o-matic, a small greenhouse with thermostatic ventilators. He started his company Dalen Products and sold his Vent-o-matic through catalogs. He added new products, such as an inflatable snake and an inflatable owl.

Patent 5,901,491 for an owl with movable headHis business grew. And he got more ideas.

His inflatable owl turned into a hard plastic owl made in the United States. That owl was hand-painted. The hard plastic owl had to be moved every few days to keep the birds wary. If the owl was not moved, the birds caught on and the owl lost effectiveness in keeping birds away. So, he invented an articulated owl with a moving head. Then he added solar power. Neal has several patents on his owls.

But he did not stop with owls. He also invented a way of packaging bird netting that outsold the competition. He then turned to landscape fabric. His patented fabric relies upon capillary action to allow moisture to pass through the fabric.

Neal said he often starts by asking himself how he can make something better. As can be seen from the multitude of his products and patents, he is often successful in thinking how to improve things.

Neal wrapped up his talk with some sage words, "Don't be stupid." He illustrated those words by showing several failed products. One product was a CD holder for a car's visor. The holder used elastic, which failed under the normal heat in a car parked in the sun. After a few weeks, the holder was worthless. Another product was an electric clock with luminous hands on a white background. With the clock plugged in, the hands became invisible against the face. When the power went off, the hands were visible, but not moving.