Jason van Gent has improved the unimprovable
Next time you (sweetly) curse a stuck nut or a stripped thread on a bolt, think of Jason van Gent. The Wellington inventor has improved something you may have thought was already perfect: he’s created a better nut.
Van Gent invented his slip nut after everyday nuts and bolts annoyed him once too often. Van Gent, a wall and floor tiler, wanted to get the canopy off his ute. “It took two of us eight hours to remove it,” he says. There had to be a better way.
His first effort, the ‘Vincent nut’, took five minutes to think up. The next attempt, the ‘Aaveds nut’, took four months, but it’s a doozy: it looks just like a normal nut but it’s stronger, more reliable and, best of all, it’s a piece of cake to use, even on damaged bolts.
The Aaveds nut is made from three pieces of metal, held together by a thin strip of plastic. The nut can be clipped around a bolt and tightens with just a quarterturn. Once applied, it’s stronger than a normal nut because it’s held in place by its own shape, rather than the threads of the bolt. Removing the nut is just as easy; a quick twist and it unfolds. “It’s basic physics,” says van Gent. “It clamps like a cleat.”
His invention works on bolts that are bent or have damaged threads; it can be used where there’s not much space; and it’s stronger than normal nuts and resistant to vibration.
Sound complicated—and expensive? A US competitor sells a five-piece slip nut for $40 a pop for use in nuclear reactors and the Space Shuttle, but van Gent reckons his is the first design that can be cheaply mass-produced and he has his eye on a bigger market. “The industry measures nuts by the ton,” he says. “People don’t realise just how many fasteners there are around.”
His company, Faster Fasteners, based at Wellington’s Creative HQ incubator, has patented the Vincent nut and has an application pending for the Aaveds nut. The first target market is HVAC—heat, ventilation, air conditioning—because when you’re trying to attach a heavy object at the top of a long ladder, a quick and reliable fastener is a big deal.
If he can get a market foothold, manufacturing nuts—like software—scales beautifully. “It’s hard to make one nut out of a piece of steel,” says van Gent. “It’s easy to stamp thousands.”