Throwing his hat into the ring

By on May 31, 2012

Photo: Mark Maxwell is a local inventor who created low-impact headgear for mechanics, kids and whoever else would be in jeopardy of a head injury. Photo by Lynn Meredith

Elburn man launches line of low-impact headgear
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—During his many years of working underneath heavy equipment and being conscious of trying not to hit his head, Mark Maxwell began to conceive of headgear that would not only protect workers’ heads should they knock up against steel, but also protect their heads and necks from the inevitable grease and grime that come with the job.

The result is a line of headgear, launched by Maxwell, that is shock-absorbent and prevents minor injuries.

The good news is that it’s not just for construction workers and mechanics. The headgear is so adaptable that it can be used as newborn caps, Little League baseball caps and protection for the elderly, law enforcement, military and skate and snow boarders—anyone who may be prone to minor head injuries from bumping their head or getting hit by an errant object. It can lessen the incidence of scrapes, bruises and even concussions that occur in household, work or recreational situations.

“It’s been in my mind for probably 20 years. Then I was sitting in a hotel in Norwalk, Conn., watching the TV show Modern Marvels. They were showing guys working on an assembly line of Corvettes, and one guy hit his head,” Maxwell said. “I thought to myself, ‘You know what, I’m doing this.’”

Maxwell resolved to call Invention Resource International (IRI), a company that helps inventors bring their product to market, much like an agent would. He gave the firm his information, and less than a week later they called back interested in working with him on the product line.

The next step was global patent research and building a prototype. The patent was approved in January, and the prototype, well, Maxwell handled that by going to Hobby Lobby.

“I found some fish-eye buttons to simulate the inside. They simulated the single-celled bubbles that are the buffer-zone that protects the head,” Maxwell said.

The headgear fits like a baseball cap with a Velcro-band closure. It has an inner lining beneath the dome shape of the cap that will absorb impacts and cushion and protect the wearer’s head. The lining is similar to protective bubble-wrap used in packaging, but tougher, more durable and more permanent. It’s light-weight and malleable to the shape of the cap and the wearer’s head, and it’s fire-retardant.

“Welders, military, law enforcement, department of transportation and municipal workers don’t have to wear hard hats. I’ve seen guys wrap carpeting around the cap and cut off the bill, so they could get in places. They used to take bubble wrap and put it under their caps,” Maxwell said.

The Low Impact Headgear also has a bandanna style that is easier to wear in tight places. Maxwell estimates the cost of the headgear to be approximately $20-30.

“This product is extra protection—like for cops when they go into a bar to break up a fight. They could get hit over the head with a bottle. You spend $25 on a hat or a bandanna, and you don’t have to pay (as much) workers’ compensation and loss of employment. What’s $25?” he said.

His immediate task is to find manufacturing. Maxwell has two stipulations: that the manufacturer follow his patent and that the product be made in the United States.

“I’m a construction guy and a proud American. I want it made in the USA,” Maxwell said.