Innovation

No spills

by Samar Al-Montser

It’s no fun spilling your coffee or drinks because of wobbly tables. Although they can be easily replaced, there’s a better stabilising solution.

Chris Heyring, founder of NoRock, on his stable tables

The solution to wobbly tables is to simply replace them but maintenance costs will skyrocket. This might sound like a petty problem, but it goes back to the core of the stabilising concept. Australian inventor Chris Heyring, the founder of NoRock who produces a line of self-stabilising tables, found the solution. He uses a stabilising technology to balance tables on whatever unstable surface. He has used this technology not only for tables but other purposes including stabilising systems for Toyota, sports cars and even boats.

Chris began learning about this technology in the late 70’s while he lectured in fine art and design in Nigeria and Australia. ‘I couldn’t resist playing with various inventions,’ he says. This included studying and making models of hyperbolic paraboloids, which is a doubly-curved surface that looks like a saddle and can be used for multiple purposes.

Besides tables, this stabilising technology can be used for many other appliances, such as hospital equipment’s which need to be wheeled around a hospital without rocking. The same basic concept has also been used in the hydraulic suspension design for trucks and boats.

His first ever invention was in Ethiopia, where he used to make models to try to invent mechanical solutions. As a child in Africa, he became interested in the off-road 4×4 vehicles and the requirements for them to have a suspension that articulates and warps into the shape of hyperbolic paraboloids. ‘I was fascinated by the comfortable hydraulic suspension systems on Citroen cars and to this day I still own a 1975 Citroen DS with a hydraulic suspension system,’ he recalls.

Chris simply enjoyed the challenge of studying the geometrical requirements and inventing the mechanical parts required to create a simple, robust and mechanical solution. This led him to create stabilising technologies for companies like Mercedes Benz. ‘Companies like Mercedes Benz never asked where I learned what I knew because they saw my inventions obviously worked well,’ he says.

The “Hyperbolic Paraboloid-ist” at work

Rocking a NoRock
Over the years, he taught himself more about geometry and engineering which took him through a journey of stabilising inventions, which included founding the company NoRock. His journey in the school of hard knocks taught him the engineering required to distribute the weight of an object (such as a car body or a table top), onto four points, (such as four table legs or four wheels). That is what led to his NoRock invention in 2002. He started working on perfecting the technologies realising how they could solve the most frustrating ancient problem of the wobbly café table.

 

NoRock project at Yarri Restaurant, in Dunsborough, Western Australia

NoRock begins with a few sketches and prototypes out of steel. This involves welding as they put parts together and use a lathe when needed. ‘Once we have established the best functioning mechanical solution, we decide whether the NoRock table made would look best and be economical, using a fabricated steel structure or using an aluminium die-cast process, or a combination and including some plastic parts,’ he explains. This process goes through several iterations and many trials, including durability and stability tests, before deciding which table design to use.

 

Inventive journey
His adventure began when he and his wife, Anny, started their first company called Tensile Structures. At Tensile Structures, they designed and built exhibition structures, corporate tents and architectural tension roof systems. That’s when it became apparent to him that these structures could be adapted to make spectacular tension membranes for events such as technology expos, the America’s Cup, major golf tournaments and others.

They won many design awards and invented several high-tech tent systems and technologies which established a new demand in the market. ‘This taught us our disruptive marketing strategy. We have never, ever had to advertise any of our products since then,’ he explains.

The Dakar Rally car

10 years later, in 1990, he started to invent several patented car suspension systems which resulted in forming another company called Kinetic Ltd. ‘We worked on equipping our suspension technology on prototype vehicles belonging to all the major SUV car manufacturers such as Land Rover, Toyota, Mercedes, Nissan, Jeep, and several others, including military vehicles,’ he says. Within a few months of starting Kinetic, a few different patents were registered. Chris then started converting the suspension of a new Toyota Hilux in the veranda of his house with the help of his wife. ‘In most countries, you can now purchase the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, Nissan Patrol and even McLaren super sports cars with the standard factory built Kinetic technologies,’ he says.

Nauti-Craft’s marine suspension system

Another technology Chris invented was the Reverse Function Stabilizer (RFS) system, that was used in all the Toyotas, World Rally and Dakar Rally cars, while the new Nissan SUVs, McLaren vehicles and Nauti-Craft boats all use derivatives of his hydraulic system with variations. ‘We have other systems but they were not so economical and too heavy for mass production,’ he explains. Chris also launched Nauti-Craft in 2009, a research and development company focused on the design and development of a marine suspension system.

To partner with big companies, he made prototypes, computer-aided designs (CAD) and dynamic computer simulations such as ADAMS. ‘We made compelling videos and showed them to various companies,’ he says. Chris expanded his distributors to Europe and North America in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

For NoRock, he says he would like to appoint distributors and sales agents in all countries which need stabilised platforms like café tables. ‘In reality, I can’t think of any county that doesn’t suffer from the wobbly table syndrome,’ he ends.

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Photo Credit: No-Rock.com

23 Apr 2018
Last modified: 25 Apr 2018
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