Characters in novels, movies, and even comic books allow us to view a variety of situations through a unique set of eyes. Nate Ball and his team at Atlas Devices have developed a great appreciation for this concept.
After forming his company in 2005, the inventor stepped up his work with the U.S. Army in meeting their request for a tool that could pull a soldier up a rope – similar to the grappling gun used by the iconic Batman from the movie and comic book lore. While the Army wasn’t targeting the same applications as the Dark Knight, it was seeking a better, sturdier tool for expediting the safe removal of soldiers from the battlefield, or in assisting with civilian rescue operations.
The solution was a battery-powered winch that could be worn around the midsection, which Atlas Devices calls an ascender. The APA-5 is described on the company’s website as a force multiplier tool that reduces the time and effort of vertical lifting. It offers a 600-pound lifting capacity with ropes ranging from six to 11 mm in diameter.
It utilizes a variable speed trigger control similar to handheld drills and impacts. A wireless remote is also available. Atlas has seen its super hero-inspired ascenders used by fire departments, first responders, and even utility companies for power line installation work.
The success of the ascenders brought the Army calling again in search of a new ladder design that was more durable than current offerings, and easier to transport. The Army liked Atlas Devices’ ladder option, and a battlefield modification even saw it used as a stretcher. Ball’s design team seized on the new application opportunity and introduced an additional product option featuring straps that further accommodate the ladder’s multiple uses.
In both instances, the genuine source of product innovation stemmed from real-world applications and engineering focused on solving a problem. For Atlas Devices and companies like it, this offers insight into the benefits of working closely with targeted customers in gaining a better understanding of product applications.