The power loom, which partially automated textile weaving, was one of the most important inventions of the Industrial Revolution. Most of the important weaving inventions during this time were not patented. Because imitation did not destroy profits, it simply didn’t pay to use patents. (This wasn’t limited to the loom: Only 15 percent of the U.S. inventions shown at the 1851 World’s Fair in London were patented.)
This admission has led to innovation of the loom to the consumer market. Playgrounds and living rooms are under invasion from colored bands. Children are spending hours twisting them into bracelets. Parents are getting tired of picking them up from behind sofas and off the floor. Some schools have even banned them after pupils used them as weapons.
The Rainbow Loom, a plastic device for turning small rubber bands into jewellery, has sold more than three million units worldwide. The sheer scale of the craze can be seen in the stats for Amazon UK. All 30 of the best-selling toys are either looms or loom-related. The products top the sales list for every age group except the under-twos.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore a loom band bracelet on her recent trip to New Zealand, and David Beckham, One Direction’s Harry Styles and the Duchess of Cornwall have done the same.
Cheong Choon Ng, the 45-year-old inventer, was born in Malaysia but has lived in the US for the last 23 years. He is married to Fen, and has two daughters Teresa, 16, and Michelle, 13. Seeing the potential Cheong made a plastic version, patented it and then spent his £5,800 of family savings to get it made in China. The Rainbow Loom kits went on sale for £10 in summer 2011 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Shanghai Metal manufactures the Stainless Steel Precision Strip used in looms. To find out more, please visit our website, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Or you could try our new mobile app by scanning our QR code.
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Siobhan R.// SMC Editor