After having to leave Shanghai, China due to COVID-19 concerns, Michigan State alumnus Nick Moritz, alongside fellow alumnus and co-founder Clif Wells, invented the Toad Opener, a new product that eliminates dangerous and unnecessary touchpoints on doors.
The patent-pending product, which can already be found in numerous states, allows doors to be opened in a hands-free manner by using a foot, instead.
“It’s created an opportunity for Nick and I to really make a difference and help with public safety and health,” Wells said. “So, it’s really cool how things are starting to grow and take off.”
Moritz graduated from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences in 2007, and Wells graduated from the business and Honors Colleges in 2009. The two met in Shanghai, while Moritz was the president of the MSU Alumni Association there.
The two did not become partners in business until the ongoing pandemic, after Moritz saw a similar door opener at an establishment.
“Right before the bars were all closed, I saw one of those things, and I was like, ‘Oh, man! That is going to be killer!’” Moritz said. “I said, ‘I can do that.’”
After first trying to have a business simply installing the door openers but finding no help from suppliers, Moritz stumbled upon Wells’ LinkedIn page and learned that he had printed a few door openers and PPE equipment with his 3D printing company, DigiReal.
Throughout the months of April and May, the two tried several prototypes before developing Toad Openers, which are developed and manufactured completely via 3D printing technology.
“We control the production by using my DigiReal company to 3D print all of the door openers,” Wells said.
Controlling their own means of production allows Moritz and Wells to be able to customize colors, logos and sizes of their product, as each one is printed on-demand.
“We don’t have any overheads, no … stock, per say,” Wells said. “It’s all printed on demand.”
Toad Openers work on nearly all types of doors.
What sets this product apart from others with a similar concept is that a Toad Opener does not need to be drilled into place on a door.
“Drilling into the door to secure the units is way too labor-intensive, way too difficult and people don’t like you to drill holes into their 100-year-old doors, not to mention refrigerated doors and glass,” Moritz said.
Thus, the duo worked directly with 3M to come up with an adhesive alternative to drilling into doors, leading the product to become patent-pending.
The adhesive nature of the Toad Opener permits its easy removal if need be, but Moritz and Wells said the product will be useful outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well.
The elimination of shared touchpoints can also mitigate the spread of other diseases whose spread may be facilitated through touch, like the flu.
“This is beyond the scope of just the current crisis,” Wells said. “This is here to stay and has measurable impacts on reducing touchpoints just in general.”
As for the future, Moritz and Wells said they hope use of the product is widespread, especially due to the looming coronavirus.
“We want to be in as many businesses, schools, universities, gas stations as humanly possible,” Wells said. “So, as there’s a threat looming of possibly (another) lockdown … everyone’s going to be more apprehensive than they were before to reopen and are going to want to have things in place for customer’s peace of mind.”
However, Toad Openers are already having success. Toad Openers can be found across Michigan and America, in states like New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada and California, according to Wells.
Additionally, the business is soon to embark on international ventures, as well.
“We’ve already been exporting the product to different states, and we’re soon-to-be international,” Moritz said. “We’re just growing like crazy.”
The prospect of international use of Toad Openers is something that can be managed easily, as they can be quickly produced with a 3D printer.
“We’re talking about an unlimited sea of doors throughout the world,” Moritz said. “Because of the 3D printing … these things can be made all throughout the globe.”
Rather than pay shipping and handling costs, anyone can license the design or set up a small, local print farm to produce their own openers.
Another advantage of Toad Openers, according to Moritz and Wells, is how many jobs the company may yield in a time where some may have difficulties finding one.
“If we’ve got a commercial building with 800 doors, that’s 10 … men and women who can both be sellers and installers and get people back to work,” Moritz said.
While installation at a university like MSU would benefit students by reducing dangerous touchpoints, Moritz and Wells said they would like to work with students to promote further innovation and installation.
“We would love to … have this be really a student-led thing, where they can help us innovate, print them, put them on … (and) figure out what needs to be done,” Moritz said.
While sizes can be customized, 4-inch openers are $50, and 2-inch openers are $45. More information, as well as how to order Toad Openers, can be found here.