Evaluating Product Innovation - Silicone Technology

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    By Roberto Nani and Daniele Regazzoni


    This paper relates the use of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) to translate and manage silicone-based gasketing technology into new fields of application such as human necessities: baking and butchering, kitchen equipments and healthcare. The paper is formed by two main parts. The first part describes the approach used to identify new technological branches, starting from the intrinsic and extrinsic features of the reference technology. The second part of the paper thoroughly describes a case study regarding a specific kitchen-targeted silicone product. This approach is structured in order to define a new set of products and services targeting developers, start-ups and managing of intellectual property (IP).


    Intellectual property enforcement, patent search, time and space separation, silicone, colander

    Intellectual Property Enforcement

    Marketing strategies analysis, aimed at technological translation and developed by means of a patent investigation tool, together with the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) methodology, represent a valuable option to support strategies for technological innovation as well as a means of defense against competitors.1 This has the goal to stress the advantages for the subject matter experts (SMEs).

    Starting from the silicone technology the authors:

    The authors have specifically aimed to figure out the trend evolution of the most used kitchen tools if realized in silicone.

    A patent investigation about silicone and similar technologies provided the researchers with the frame into which TRIZ solutions can develop. A patent investigation can be considered as a complementary activity in collecting problems – it helps to better define the working field and its limits. In this case, problems have been solved primarily by applying the ARIZ 85C algorithm.

    This approach helped develop two new products that can be considered as evidence for the value of patent investigations:

    Marketing Strategy

    The systematic approach proposed focusing on the following points:

    1. A marketing strategies analysis according to TRIZ tools and also based on an enhanced patent search method. The latter included:2
    2. A reclassification of the main functions of the silicone products according to TRIZ tools based on patent and commercial data, including:3

    TRIZ Generic Problem to TRIZ Specific Solution

    According to TRIZ, detecting the generic problem must come first. In utilizing a technology without dismantling the corresponding manufacturing unit already in use was required. The generic problem was described as re-conversion.

    The first effort was to find a generic solution (energetic model), which meant detecting some patent-classes compatible for production-process and materials with the plants at work. The next step was finding a specific solution by forcing the generic solution (forced model).

    Kinetic model = intrinsic features

    A kinetic model [M] = f(Class, r) of a system is an expression of class C to which said system refers and the intrinsic characteristic r of said class C. A kinetic model referring to the silicone technology is represented by the following Boolean expression:
    [M] = f(C, r) = (((mould*) ‹in› (TITLE,AB,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex* ) ‹in› (TITLE,AB,CLAIMS)))  (1)


    The classes (according to the IPC) characterizing the Boolean algorithm (1) applied to a patent database are shown in Figure 1.

     Figure 1: Main IPC Classes of Kinetic Model

    Potential model = extrinsic features

    A potential model [K] = f(Subclass, Extrinsic) of a system is an expression of the subclass or group S to which said system refers and the extrinsic properties E of said subclass or group S. It is represented by the following Boolean expression:

    [K] = f(S, E) = (((gasket) ‹in› (TITLE, AB, CLAIMS) ) AND ((seal*) ‹in› (TITLE, AB, CLAIMS)))  (2)


    The classes according to IPC characterizing the Boolean algorithm (2) applied to a patent DB are shown in Figure 2.

     Figure 2: Main IPC-R Classes of
     Potential Model

    Forced model

    No relationship exists between the kinetic model and potential model, if taken separately. A model, capable of combining the class C and its intrinsic characteristic r, and the subclass S and its extrinsic properties E, exerts a force [F] acting on said system. M and K respect the following conditions:

    Main IPC-R classes of M do not equal Main IPC-R classes of K

    The statement (3) allows for the combining of M and K, constituting a model of the class C and its intrinsic characteristic r, and the subclass S and its extrinsic properties E.

    The main IPC-R group obtained by the Boolean algorithm (2) is F16J15/10 (sealings with non-metallic packing compressed between sealing surfaces). Figure 3 represents the IPC code of classes constituting the main group F16J15/10.

     Figure 3: IPC Class Code of
     Main Group F16J15/10

    The combination of every class forming the main group F16J15/10 with the Boolean algorithm (1) allows the individuation of two relevant IPC-R classes (Figure 4).

    The relative global model is represented by the Boolean algorithms:
    [K(b29c OR b65d)] AND [M] = (((B29C OR B65D) ‹in› IC ) AND (((mould*) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex* ) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS))))   (4)


    Figure 4 shows the plot of the results obtained by the global model, in terms of IPC classes recurrence.

     Figure 4: [K(IPC-R Class F16J15/10)] + M

    The model represented by algorithm (4) can be forced. In the specific case "convertible" is one of the force that can be applied to the model represented by the algorithm (4):

    [F] = ((convert*) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS))  (5)

    The resulting exerted model is:
    [K(B29C OR B65D)] AND [M] AND [F] = ((convert* ‹in› (TI,AB,CLAIMS) ) AND (( (b29c OR  b65d) ‹in› IC ) AND (((mould*) ‹in› (TI,AB,CLAIMS) ) AND ((flex* ) ‹in› (TI,AB,CLAIMS)))))   (6)

    The images shown in Figure 5 are taken form the patents obtained as a result of the exerted model (6).

     Figure 5: EP1491456A2,
     EP0853584B1, EP0738224B1

    The results describe the state of the art referring to the specific features – convertible and converting, which are pertinent to the two relevant technological classes similar to the silicone technology (B29C, B65D). "Convertible" represents the combined conditions of separation in space and time.

    At this stage, the patent classification obtained by exerting the energetic model described by the Boolean algorithm (4) by means of the following exert:
    [F]=((40 principles) ‹in› (TITLE,ABSTRACT,CLAIMS)) (7)

    Boolean algorithms specifying the actions and/or words and its related thesaurus have been performed according to TRIZ criteria and with reference to the 40 inventive principles in order to classify each application and patent (granted).2 This approach consists of:

    The results of this further patent classification are listed in Figure 6 displaying the name of the TRIZ principle, the number of the patents characterized by the function of the principle and the pictures connoting some of the identified patents.

     Figure 6: Pictures From Statement (7)

    Product Innovation

    This case study is about a specific silicone kitchen tool: a colander. It should be a new kitchen tool, made of an elastic and flexible membrane, capable of achieving a certain number of typical functions, thus developing the "traditional" colander into a "convertible" colander.
    The traditional colander is a container for cooked pasta, rice or vegetables whose goal is to separate and drain food from the cooking water. This function is performed by means of small holes, placed along a regular pattern.
    The convertible colander shares the main feature with the traditional one – it is a container characterized by small regularly drilled holes. But in the proposed version the holes are located only on the bottom. The colander (shown in Figures 7 and 8) is characterized by a bottom that is flexible and can be used in different positions – it can be concave or convex in respect to the internal volume. In other words, it can reach two different stable positions:

    1. Outwards, projected bottom or
    2. Inwards, recessed bottom.

    Pressing the internal face of the bottom moves it outwards. The bottom reaches the stable position shown in Figure 7. As a result:

    The operator pours pasta, rice or vegetables into the colander. These foods are poured together with the cooking water. Water flows out of the colander through the shrunken holes. The shrunken edges do not allow rice grains, small pasta or thin vegetables to pass through, or close, the holes.

     Figure 7: Bottom With Convexity
     Outwards, Restricted Holes

    To change the colander to get the convex bottom inside (recessed bottom), the operator, by operating from outside the colander, pushes its bottom inwards. The bottom reaches the second stable position, rotating with respect to its edge profile as shown in Figure 8. In particular:

    The operator throws into the colander pasta, rice or vegetables together with water used when cooking. Water penetrates the upper surface through the dilated holes. Finally, water reaches the extrados surface by abandoning the colander.

     Figure 8: Bottom With Convexity
     Inwards, Dilated Holes

    Although this is a good underlying idea of a bi-stable bottomed colander, this technical solution still has some serious issues. The biggest problem is that when pouring a big amount of food inside a colander, the weight of the food and the speed of the pouring may change the convexity of the inside bottom into a concavity.

    Focusing the Problem

    The first four steps of ARIZ 85C have been applied solve this problem:

    An uncertain sketch of the problem must be moved to a clear and simple formulation of the same.
    The problem: A straining system aimed at separating solids from liquids that fits for any foodstuff, such as various sizes of pasta, vegetables and rice, consists of a convertible colander made of an elastic and flexible membrane.

    Figure 9 depicts the system problem elements according to the law of system completeness and energy conductivity.

     Figure 9: Elements According to System
     Completeness and Energy Flow

    Which will be the most effective model of conflict? Which will provide a better performance for the main process? The main useful function of the main process is to provide the required drainage of water. Consider that the colander's bottom can be pushed up outward to reach a blown out shape. In this case, the diameters of holes on the upper face of the bottom become so tiny that water cannot flow through them and so does not leave the colander.

    Problem model

    Analyzing and describing the operational zone (OZ)

    The area included between the negative and the positive zoned is defined as the operational zone. In this specific case this zone is formed by the holes – the cave – shown in Figure 10.

     Figure 10: Operational Zone

    The operational time of the available resources of time (Figure 11) are:

     Figure 11: Operational Time

    a) time before the water is poured into the colander;
    b) time length from the moment when water when the
    water starts pouring into the colander till it leaves the
    colander ( > 5 s) = the deluge

    Available resources

    At this stage, try to define the substance-field resources (SFR) of the analyzed system, environment and product:

    1. System (internal) resources
    2. Available (external) resources
    3. SFR of the super-system

    Ideal final result (IFR)-1

    Next formulate and describe IFR-1 using the following pattern:



    harmful action

    water from staying inside the colander

    WITHIN the

    operational time

    the deluge

    INSIDE the

    operational zone

    the cave


    keeps the tool's ability to provide

    keeps the bottom's ability

    useful action

    to strain foodstuffs

    without complicating the system and without harmful side effects

    Intensify the formulation of IFR-1 by introducing additional requirements:

    existing resources

    internal surface


    the negative effect

    water from staying inside the colander

    WITHIN the

    operational time

    the deluge

    INSIDE the

    operational zone

    the cave


    a useful effect

    straining of foodstuffs

    without complicating the system and without harmful side effects

    Physical contradiction (PhC)

    Once the technical contradictions have been identified, the physical contradictions (PhC) (which prevent the IFR) can be defined:


    internal surface

    HAS to BE

    physical macro-state



    one of the conflicting actions

    water from staying inside the colander

    AND HAS to BE

    opposite physical macro-state



    another conflicting action or requirement

    that residues of filamentary foods get trapped in holes 

    WITHIN the

    operational time

    the deluge

    INSIDE the

    operational zone

    the cave


    physical state or action




    the deluge


    opposite state or action



    another macro-state

    obstructed holes

    WITHIN the

    operational time

    the deluge

    INSIDE the

    operational zone

    the cave

    The operational zone ‹the cave› has to provide ‹undercut groove› within ‹the deluge (>5s)›. The colander has a blown-shaped bottom; water, however, can flow through the colander rapidly, seen in Figure 12.

     Figure 12: Blown-shaped Bottom

     Figure 13: Small
     Holes Into One
     Big External Hole

     Figure 14: Thin
     Connecting Big

     Figure 15: Continuous Undercut Grooves

    Transition to the technical solution

    The bottom comprises a set of grooves, arranged concentrically (as shown on Figures 16-18) or radially (not shown), so that the grooves cross the internal surface.

    The convertible colander solves the physical contradiction as it simultaneously takes into consideration the need of using big holes for straining big-sized pasta and small holes for straining rice, cooked vegetables, thin pasta or other thin stuff. The convertible colander, with an internal grooved surface, allows for the draining of large amounts of water through big-sized holes while food is blocked by the edges of the internal surface without getting in contact with the draining holes.

    Changing the bottom convexity between the two stable conditions (from convex to concave and vice versa) is no longer needed for the colander's main function, but this feature is preserved to improve the washing process. (Actually, the configuration with a convexity inside the colander allows cleaning it since slits are easily reached by simply passing the fingers of one's hand over them.)

     Figure 16: Bottom
     of Colander With
     an Internal Grooved

     Figure 17: Internal Bottom Perspective

     Figure 18: External Bottom Perspective


    The TRIZ-based paradigm has been specifically developed to overcome what lacks in the management of IP management.1 It can be used to evaluate parameters such as the level of obsolescence and the evolutionary potential of new products in different fields of application.

    The developed product embodies the convergence of some partial solutions gained through the use of TRIZ tools. The final result has been achieved exploiting the characteristics of silicone that allow a focus on a single product, a certain number of typical state-of-the-art functions normally achieved by several kitchen products. Intrinsic silicone characteristics (such as flexibility) and extrinsic characteristics (such as buckling, enlarging) allow for easily highlighting contradictions and solving them using separation and inventive principles. The analysis allowed translating specific knowledge about silicone gaskets technology into the food and beverage market segment – identifying the problems caused by the modified environment and solving them.

    The solution proposed has been filed as an international patent and will be soon available on the market.


    This study has been developed thanks to the help and the support of FLUORGUM SPA and, in particular, thanks to their director, Mr. Giorgio Tosini, who is trying to apply extensively TRIZ-related research methods.

    The authors would like to thank Nicoletta Locatelli for her kind support in writing this paper.


    1. Regazzoni D., Rizzi C., Nani R., "Intellectual Property Management: A TRIZ-based Approach to Manage Innovation within SMEs," Proceedings of ERIMA07, March 15-16, 2007, Biarritz, France.
    2. Nani R., Regazzoni D., "Practice-based Methodology for Effectively Modelling and Documenting Search, Protection and Innovation," Proceedings of ETRIA World TRIZ Future Conference, Belgium, Kortrijk, October 9-11, 2006.
    3. Nani R., "Boolean Combination and TRIZ Criteria: A Practical Application of a Patent-Commercial-Data Base," Proceedings of ETRIA Conference, Graz, Austria, November 16-18, 2005.
    4. Khomenko N., "ARIZ Theory and Practice: First Acquaitance," LGeCo, Laboratory of Engineering Design INSA Strasbourg, France, September 2006.
    5. Souchkov V., "Advanced TRIZ-based Systematic Innovation," Hands-on training material, September 14-16, 2005.

    About the Authors:

    Roberto Nani has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Politecnico of Milan, Italy. He is an expert in patent research. Mr. Nani works for Itema Group, Italy, is associated with Abremar Patent Office in Torino, Italy and he holds seminars in advanced and systematic research at Bergamo University (Industrial Engineering Department). Contact Roberto Nani at Roberto.Nani (at) promatech.it.

    Daniele Regazzoni, Ph.D., is mechanical engineer working as a research fellow in the Industrial Engineering Department of the University of Bergamo, Italy. He teaches in the courses of technical drawing, virtual prototyping and modelling of industrial processes. Dr. Regazzoni's main research areas concern Systematic Innovation (mainly TRIZ and derived methods and tools) and PDM/PLM solutions. Contact Daniele Regazzoni at daniele.regazzoni (at) unibg.it.

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