Checking the Claim: FiberFix is 100 Times Stronger Than Duct Tape | Innovation | Smithsonian
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Checking the Claim: FiberFix is 100 Times Stronger Than Duct Tape

A company shows how its new product can make a broken shovel as good as new

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Credit: FiberFix

It’s probably fair to say that duct tape has become for repairman what baking soda is for housekeepers. Originally designed for the military, the handyman’s secret weapon has since gained a reputation for being versatile enough to fix just about anything.

Now, FiberFix, a new challenger on the block, is posing the question: “Yeah, but does ‘anything’ also include smashed shovels?”

Well, the makers of FiberFix have produced a demonstration video showing that not only can their innovative product make such heavy-duty hardware as good as new (at least functionally), it’s also advertised as being 100 times stronger than the industry leader. Being comprised of a special waterproof resin, the repair wrap also has the added benefit of being heat, cold and impact resistant.

Applying the material to a piece of equipment isn’t quite as easy as with duct tape, requiring that the user first soak the tape in water for five to ten seconds, and then use it soon after that. FiberFix starts to stiffen within the first few minutes, but it should fully set over the course of a day. The tape also comes with plastic gloves to prevent the sticky, non-toxic resin from getting on your clothes or any part of the body.

For FiberFix’s inventor, Brigham Young University student Spencer Quinn, the notion of a tape that “hardens like steel” came to mind initially during a routine doctor’s visit, when the physician relayed a story about how, instead of duct tape, he once used medical casting tape to temporarily repair his ATV. The method worked well enough to make it home. Quinn and his cousin, a mechanical engineer, then embarked on a long prototyping process that included testing as many as 50 variations. The final product, as Quinn describes, looked nothing like the medical bandages that inspired it.

“This definitely isn’t some re-purposed form of medical tape, which doesn’t bond, nor is moisture-proof,” Quinn says. “And you have no idea how difficult it was finding a resin that would bond to metal and wood.”

As for the company’s claim touting the tape’s strength, Quinn admits “100 times” was simply a catchier way to market the product since, in reality, he says FiberFix is actually even “significantly stronger.” To test their invention’s properties head-to-head with duct tape, the two used BYU’s engineering lab, where they subjected both to what’s called a three-point flexural load test, in which two pieces of wrapped galvanized steel were placed under a hydraulic press to measure how much weight they could withstand. FiberFix’s score? 2,000 pounds. Duct tape? 100.

In just a year since that unassuming doctor’s visit, FiberFix’s inventors appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank; struck a deal with Lori Greiner, one of the show’s investors, for $120,000 and 12 percent equity in the company; and placed rolls of the product in over 1,600 stores nationwide, including large retailers such as Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s, where they are now being sold from $5.99 to $9.99, depending on the width of the tape, and in $20 3-packs. But even before a finished version finally made its way to the market, Quinn was already testing how it would be received by selling prototypes to neighbors and whoever else might find a use for it.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t put a lot of time and effort into something that wasn’t going to be in demand,” Quinn says. “The amazing thing we discovered was that its something that’s so universal; it’s people who bought it from us that taught us all the different ways it can be used.”

So far, FiberFix has been used to repair damaged hot tubs, bedposts, bar stools and leaky pipes. The company, however, is careful to warn that it won’t work on every break (so don’t throw out that roll of duct tape yet). It isn’t meant, for example, to serve as a patch since the tape’s strength is formed from being able to bond to itself, layer by layer. And even though users would be able to sand and paint over the product without compromising its integrity, the thing is almost impossible to get it off. So, don’t use it as an arm cast. Or, as Quinn explains, think of it as something that’s designed to be a long-term fix.

Eventually, Quinn says he’d like his invention to become nothing short of a household brand, to the point where instead of people telling others to “duct tape it” they’ll say “just FiberFix it.”

“After helping to market Kinesio tape for athletes during the last Olympic games, I came to realize people can develop a kind of emotional attachment to the stuff,” Quinn adds. “When they find a tape they like and can rely on—no pun intended—they end up sticking to it.”

About Tuan C. Nguyen
Tuan C. Nguyen

Tuan C. Nguyen is a Silicon Valley-based journalist specializing in technology, health, design and innovation. His work has appeared in ABCNews.com, NBCNews.com, FoxNews.com, CBS' SmartPlanet and LiveScience.

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