Fresh off a successful U.S. debut at the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas, the minds behind a futuristic-looking rubber band launcher aim for it to be the next big “it” item.
“Shooting rubber bands is essentially in the male DNA. I don’t think there’s a guy who can sit at a table with a rubber band and not pick it up, work it onto his fingers and eventually fire it,” said Alan Dorfman, president of Bristol, Pa.-based Super Impulse USA, developers of the product. “We’re trying to do to rubber band launchers what Super Soakers did for water guns.”
Inventor Ben Stack said his love for rubber band launchers stretches back to his childhood, when he routinely made them as a hobby. While attending Philadelphia University, the 2014 grad had the opportunity to combine his lifetime of building experience with ample resources.
"This is a hit-or-miss industry. With the hits, the sky is the limit. And we're aiming for the sky for this one."
He further developed his launcher as part of his senior industrial design project. The school’s laser cutter allowed him to build a new iteration of his prototype every day, Stack said. He had the working mechanisms down, but this rapid process helped to solve some ergonomic issues.
Zoe McKinley, director of PhilaU’s Blackstone LaunchPad, sat in on one of his senior presentations. Impressed with what she saw, she introduced Stack to Dorfman, a 1982 graduate of the university.
During Stack’s pitch, he brought in a Nerf dart gun — along with his own product — for Dorfman to try out as a test for accuracy and ease of use. According to Dorfman, Nerf and other foam dart guns make up the chief competition for rubber band launchers in general.
“The foam darts were flying left and right,” he recalled. “I hit the target three times in a row with Ben’s rubber band launcher. Right then, I knew it was a great opportunity.”
Stack squashed his planned Kickstarter campaign and signed an inventor’s contract with Dorfman. In addition, he offered Stack a contract to develop the Precision Rubber Band System line (“Precision RBS” for short) and other projects.
Over the past six months, they’ve worked with a manufacturer overseas to further develop and fine tune the product, which comes in small, medium and large sizes and is aimed for those eight years and up. It will be available in U.S. retail outlets in March.
With a project of this scope, along with the engineering precision required, a ramp-up like this usually takes twice as long, Dorfman says. “However, Ben knew exactly what he wanted, we all had specific end product goals in mind and we’re working with a premier manufacturer.”
The two just returned from the Fall Toy Preview, an important industry trade show where they demoed the product for retail buyers, industry executives, sales reps and trade media. As a result of this event, they expect wide distribution of the Precision Rubber Band System from corner toy stores up to big-box stores.
“This is a hit-or-miss industry,” Dorfman said. “With the hits, the sky is the limit. And we’re aiming for the sky for this one.”
Blackstone LaunchPad Philadelphia supports student entrepreneurship in the Greater Philadelphia region through a partnership between Philadelphia University, Temple University and the University City Science Center.