An illuminating idea

Wes Harper works in a lot of tight spaces and often has a hard time seeing what he is doing.

"Everywhere I go, lighting is an issue," he said.

Then one day in December 2002, Harper had an idea that helped him see through the darkness.

He invented illuminating safety and work glasses, and received the patent issuance Tuesday.

"Everyone who sees these absolutely flips. They say, 'We need a pair of these,'" Harper's business associate Jim Stoddard said.

The products are similar to safety glasses and have LED lights attached on the outer part of the lens to allow people to see in the dark or into dark places.

"You need to have both hands to do your work," Harper said.

He cited miners, railroad workers and mechanics as examples of the market for his products. Stoddard said they could come in handy for doing electric work or sewing as well.

Nighttime sports enthusiasts also may see a need for the glasses, including those who bike after dark.

"There are just a huge amount of uses for these," Harper said.

One of the features that makes Harper's glasses different from others like them is that every connection is spark-proof, as the connections are designed for industrial use.

A rechargeable lithium ion battery runs the lights for 12

hours or longer.

The parts are replaceable, so repairing the glasses will be inexpensive, he said.

Harper estimates the glasses will cost between $85 and $115 when they reach store shelves.

Harper and Stoddard are working to get a proof-of-concept set of glasses that they can distribute to local workers and get feedback on their product.

Philips, a company in Los Angeles, will make molds for the glasses, and a manufacturer will produce about 1,000 pairs for the initial run.

The cost for the proof-of-concept set will be $160,000, and the men are seeking investors.

"We understand this is a real high-risk thing," Harper said.

Stoddard said that investors who get in on the ground floor will get the greatest return, though there will be opportunities later, when the product will be produced in a greater capacity.

The men are considering having the administrative office, and possibly the manufacturing plant, in Craig, creating some jobs in town.

"We'd like to be local, but if there's no response locally, we won't be local," Stoddard said.

The men said the process of getting this project off the ground has been difficult, and continues to be.

"It's a pretty complicated process just to make a simple gadget," Harper said. "I'm just trying to make a pair of glasses."

Harper wrote the patent, which Stoddard said was significant because lawyers typically charge $8,000 or more and have trouble getting patents approved.

Harper and Stoddard also need to establish a corporation, which they plan to name the Optical Illumination Corporation, or OIC, which is a pun on the phrase, "Oh, I see."

Harper said it was important to him to have the glasses look no different from others when the lights are off.

"I've walked around town with them and people don't know what they are," he said.

He also has walked around his house and had an unusual feeling.

"It kind of gives the illusion of daytime," he said.

Harper left his patent open-ended enough to include adjustments as he thinks are necessary. The men have considered expanding into motorcycle and bicycle helmets, and adding corrective lens attachments for those who were prescription glasses.

But for now, the men are focusing on the next step -- getting investors and getting their proof of concept out. And they are optimistic.

"Everyone who sees these says they're awesome, they need them," Stoddard said. "That's good feedback."

Anyone interested in additional information or investing should call Stoddard at 824-7957 or by stopping by Pack Center Shipping, or Harper at 321-2355.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.