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The Domestic Sewing Machine for the Right Handed User

A domestic sewing machine for the right handed user? Yes, it’s an invention that is in the works and the company that is working toward making this adaptation a reality is called REVCON from Western Australia.

REVCON Director Rex Pulker has been in contact with the VDTA/SDTA with his invention profile which will follow in this article.

In speaking with VDTA/SDTA, Pulker stated that he has been granted patents for Australia and the U.K. and is in the final stages of patent pending in China, India, and Japan for this machine which ideally “could be the new generation sewing machine.”

Click for larger imageSummarizing his idea, Pulker shared, “For some 38 years, I along with a number of colleagues have been involved very successfully throughout Australia in the domestic sewing machine industry. Our involvement has covered importation, retail, service, tuition and design. For over 20 years of this period, we were the country’s leading seller of domestic units. During this time, we were continually aware of the on-going operational problems that arose with our right-handed clients when confronted with the ‘bias’ of the configuration of all domestic machines. The enormous feedback we’ve received from teaching schools, retailers, and consumers during the past few years regarding this problem has led to the need for us to proceed with a proposal to suggest to the manufacturing industry, that they produce a choice of models which would appeal to both the left and right-handed users.”

Pulker said this, of course, would involve the reversing of the traditional configuration to place the working area in front of the right hand, therefore enabling 80 percent of future operators to comfortably utilize their natural hand when carrying out all of the functions that demand dexterity. The existing bias has inadvertently produced an ergonomic anomaly for the majority of users who are naturally right-handed.

“I aim to commercialize intellectual property relating to adaptation of the domestic sewing machine for use by right-handed persons. The path to be pursued is licensing commercialization rights to sewing machine manufacturers in countries where patent pending status has been secured,” said Pulker. “The countries are Australia, the UK, India, China and Japan, which are the major centres for manufacture and use the domestic sewing machines. The global domestic sewing machine market is worth over $1 billion annually.”

What follows is Pulker’s proposal which he is sharing to create awareness. He is also seeking feedback and comments from within the industry. See the end of this article for his contact information.

BRIEF PRODUCT HISTORY
During the early years of industrialization, manufacturers and designers brought to the world’s markets an amazing array of product and machines to satisfy the emerging needs and ever increasing demands of international consumers. The sewing machine was one of these products.

As was always the case when designers endeavored to create what is currently referred to as a user friendly product, the main operational consideration was given to the bulk of consumers who were naturally right handed. The sewing machine was no different.

The earliest known models of sewing machines were operated manually by rotation of a hand crank. Due to the manual nature of this operation, early sewing machines were provided with the hand crank on the right hand side of the machine to capitalize on the fact that the majority of persons have greater strength in their right arm by virtue of being right handed.

The fact that total consideration was given to the drive mechanism on the right meant that all other operational functions were placed to the left. Therefore, the majority if not all functions demanding dexterity on a sewing machine are placed on the left and are therefore more ably performed naturally by the left handed operator.

The right hander is forced to adapt to the various functions of the machine. Any demonstration using the existing configuration clearly shows that the actions of setting up, use, and maintenance of a sewing machine are more ably achieved by the left hander due to the fact that most of the user operations are on the left of the operator. This is illustrated in the diagram below, which shows the needle, feed dogs, presser foot, and bobbin being located on the left side of the machine.

Click for larger imageFigure 1: Most of the functions demanding dexterity on a sewing machine are placed on the left.

It is true that regardless of whether or not one is left or right handed and regardless of the configuration of a machine, an operator given time and practice will achieve an acceptable level of competence despite the use of the inappropriate hand. With a sewing machine however, there has been no choice.

When the use of the hand crank was dispensed with then the consideration that was given to right handers for the drive system should have been applied to all other operational functions. This was not done and for obvious reasons. The industry was young and establishing itself internationally and the construction of the machines was of large solid cast iron moulds. The cost of reversing the configuration would have been prohibitive during a crucial time in its development. There is however no evidence that reversing the configuration was even considered.

Following years produced an amazing number of design and operational benefits to improve the scope and performance of a sewing machine. But despite the fact that sewing machines have progressed from these early versions to utilize other means of operating the machine such as foot operated treadles and subsequently the electronically driven foot control, the configuration of the sewing machine as designed to accommodate the hand crank for the right hand has remained virtually unchanged.

Click for larger imageThe consequence is that after 160 years we have a piece of machinery that more ably suits the left handed operator, rather than the majority of users who are right handed. For the right handed user the existing configuration of the sewing machine is simply back-to-front.

Nevertheless, from my experience in the industry, it appears that none of the manufacturers have done anything about this problem, probably due to a number of reasons. First, manufacturers have chosen the path of least resistance in line with the sewing machine’s evolution. Second, right handed people, being the majority of the population, automatically assume that any machine would have been designed to suit right-handed usage.

PROPOSAL
I began to investigate the opportunity for developing and commercializing a solution for right-handed domestic sewing machines in 2002. Given my background of 35 years in the sewing machine industry, I was able to carry out a thorough assessment through the following:

  • Find out through extensive industry contacts and research whether a right-handed sewing machine had been developed in the past;
  • From knowledge of how the sewing machine works, how operators become skilled in it, and its manufacturing process, select the optimal solution for a right-handed machine;
  • Evaluate the opportunity to protect the solution through a patent;
  • Through vast industry contacts and client base, make inquiries about the demand for such a sewing machine.

The resulting solution is my invention, which is a method for adapting the conventional design of the sewing machine into a design intended for right-handed persons. The method works by designing a sewing machine that is a mirror image of the conventional design, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 2: Invention of a right-handed sewing machine, taken from the patent document.

THE INNOVATION & COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATION
A sewing machine adapted for right-handed use will allow new operators to achieve the fine motor proficiency with a machine more easily and perform all fine motor tasks with greater speed, while existing skills with a sewing machine will transfer quite rapidly. This change in configuration is a quantum change in an industry that has been greatly lacking in any real innovation for quite some time.

Monopoly rights to the right-handed configuration will also give a manufacturer a significant basis for competitive differentiation, the ability to stimulate new sales, and to capture market share.

I am in the process of developing a demonstration video. The invention is easily demonstrated by reversing the image of a left-handed user operating a conventional sewing machine. Furthermore, technical feedback from various manufacturer representatives has indicated that it is relatively straightforward for manufacturers to adapt their current production facilities to implement my invention.

PATENT PENDING
In May 2003, the initial application for the patent of the right-handed domestic sewing machine was lodged. I have received favorable decision from the Australian patent office’s international search, which materially improves the position of the application in other countries.

The Australian Patent Office stated the following with regard to the patent application: “The problem to be solved in the present invention is to make a universal domestic sewing machine that has most of the essential operative functions adapted for use by a right-handed person

…In conclusion, the invention as defined is both novel and has an inventive step over the prior art.”

I have Patent Pending status for the invention in the following countries: India, China and Japan. (Patents in Australia and the U.K. have been granted.)

When moving to the national phase of the patent process, the target countries were chosen for the following reasons:

  • India has a long history of manufacture and consumption of the domestic sewing machine. With its enormous population, India is expected to become one of the most prolific marketers, users, and manufacturers of the right-handed configuration.
  • Japan owns, manufactures, markets, and distributes most of the world’s top selling brands of domestic sewing machines. In addition, within Japan there is a large market for domestic sewing machines.
  • China – Apart from having the world’s largest population, over 60 percent of households in China own a domestic sewing machine. It is therefore the largest domestic market in the world. Most brand names are sold or manufactured in China.
  • The UK and Australia are comparatively smaller markets to the other countries selected, but both have an aggressive approach to the importation, marketing, and sales of the domestic sewing machine. Of the world’s 192 countries, these countries represent half of the world’s population.

SUPPORT RECEIVED FROM THE MARKET
During the past 35 years, including 20 years as Australia’s leading single independent retailer of domestic sewing machines, I have conducted many thousands of sales, product demonstrations, lessons and repairs of the domestic sewing machine. The consistent anomaly that has been ever present with the users is that because the configuration places the working area in front of the left hand, the right hander always has to adapt. Thousands of observations have shown that the working area for the majority of operators should be placed in front of the appropriate hand on the right side. Once the anomaly is identified there has been a unanimous awareness that the orientation is back to front.

COMMERCIALIZATION
The next stage in development is commercialization through selling licensing right to the sewing machine manufacturers in countries where Patent Pending status has been secured. I have engaged the support of an expert advisory firm to assist in the commercialization phase.
Commercialization of the invention will improve ease of use by the majority of the user population. About 85-90 percent of the population is right-handed.
The proposed business model is to license the commercialization rights to sewing machine manufacturers and derive income through the following: upfront licensing fee, territorial exclusivity fee, and ongoing royalties based on sales.

COMMENTS/INQUIRIES
Currently, Pulker is welcoming expressions of interest from the manufacturing industry and from members of the VDTA/SDTA. If you would like to view more about this invention, you can visit www.letsgetitright.com.au.
Comments, letters of support or inquiries can be sent to Pulker at the below address:
Let’s Get It Right
REVCON
Attention Rex Pulker
P.O. Box 7177, Applecross North, Western Australia 6153
E-mail: info@LetsGetitRIGHT.com.au

Reprinted from SQE Professional, July 2008