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Small businesses are the true innovators

A diagram of how the Motobriiz system works.

A diagram of how the Motobriiz system works.

Electric light bulb inventor Thomas Edison once said, “There’s a way to do it better – find it.” That’s exactly what Mike Steele, inventor of a wind-powered automatic chain oiler, and Brian Jordan, inventor of a prosthetic finger, did.

Steele, CEO of Motobriiz, is an avid motorcyclist but loathed having to clean and lubricate the chain oil. It’s recommended that the chain oiler be cleaned every 300 to 500 miles – no small feat – and to Steele, a total nuisance. He knew there had to be a better way.

“It kept eating at me. I was tinkering around with chain oilers that work automatic, so I thought maybe wind could do this,” he says.

After a little research to determine the right amount of pressure, Steele made a prototype with a water bottle and tubing, and attached the device to his motorcycle to see if his idea would work. It was a complete success.

The tube pointed into the wind, and as he rode, the air pushed into the tubing, which then created pressure into a small chamber that makes the oil move. The oil then gets transferred directly into the bike chain and the flow naturally changes with the speed of the motorcycle.

“The neat thing about it is that it is completely automatic. The only moving part is your motorcycle,” Steele says.

Steele’s product motto: “If there’s wind in your face, there’s oil on your chain.” Motobriiz™ was born.

That was the summer of 2012. By December of that same year, he filed for a U.S. patent, and sold his first product in June 2013. Since its creation, Motobriiz™ has been sold in 41 countries. Today, Steele has patents in Australia, Canada, and another pending in Europe. He’s also developed two other products for the market – the Air Zapper™ and the Filtr8™ vacuum pump – and hopes to leave his job to focus on his new innovations full time.

Brian Jordan is also looking to leave his full-time job to focus all his energy on his innovation. Creator of the DigitTouch Prosthetic Finger, a biomechanical prosthetic finger that mimics the action of a real finger, Jordan wants to use his creation to help others.

First concept of the prosthetic on Brian Jordan's hand. (Submitted photo)

First concept of the prosthetic on Brian Jordan’s hand. (Submitted photo)

The DigiTouch prosthetic finger was developed by Jordan as the result of an unfortunate accident involving a saw in his machine shop. The saw severed the tips of his thumb, middle and index fingers. Doctors were able to repair his middle finger, but the tips of his thumb and index finger were not salvageable. During his recovery in occupational therapy, he inquired about a functional prosthetic for fingers and was told there was no such thing.

“As an inventor, this was not good enough for me. So I set out to create my own artificial working digit and now I want to share it with the world,” Jordan says.

As a trained aviator and engineer for the U.S. Navy, Jordan put his skills to work. Working first with metal, and then moving on to a plastic resin, the prototypes – or beta versions as Jordan refers to them – are almost ready for the masses.

“We strive for perfection. Our fingers are functional, but we want them to be better,” he says.

Perfection and customization is central to the success of each prosthetic. To streamline the production process, Jordan partnered with the University of Maryland’s MakerBot Innovation Center and will begin working with St. Mary’s College this summer to create 3D printed models.

He and his wife who run his company, Jordan Research and Development, also started a nonprofit to help more people. The nonprofit status, he says, allows them to get prosthetics to people who may not be able to afford them. Jordan is hoping to get his product registered with the Food and Drug Administration to get it covered for health insurance claims. He’s also working with occupational therapists to generate interest.

Once he’s perfected the DigiTouch prosthetic, Jordan doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We want to go the entire gamut – arms, exoskeleton – to help change the lives of people with limited movement,” he says.

This story was published in Small Business Solutions 2018, a publication prepared in collaboration with the Maryland Small Business Development Center by the staff of The Daily Record.

Articles in this publication:
Hi-Tech opportunities in Maryland | Small business cybersecurity | Small business innovatorsFunding programs  | Understanding the High-Tech Ecosystem | Future of Technology in Maryland | What to do if a hacker steals your company information

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