Named by Time magazine as one of the 50 best Inventions of 2010, Sugru is the brainchild of Irish fine arts student Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, who hails from Co. Kilkenny.
Sugru has the appearance of Play-Doh or modeling clay when it is unwrapped it from its packaging. A sticky material, it sticks to aluminum, steel, wood, ceramics, glass and even some plastics and fabrics. It can be shaped into whatever shape the user wants, and once exposed to room temperature it hardens to a tough, silicone rubber which can withstand temperatures of up to 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
Five years in development, the product was launched in London in December 2009 and has achieved great success so far. It is available online through the company’s website, sugru.com.
Barely a year after the product launch, the company has customers in over 60 countries around the globe.
Becoming an inventor was a logical step for Ní Dhulchaointigh, as the Irish woman admits she has always been quite artistic. “I've always been into art since I was really small,” she told the Irish Voice during a recent interview.
After studying fine art at the National College of Art in Dublin, Ní Dhulchaointigh set her sights on London where she pursued a master of arts degree in product design. This, she says, is where the idea for the product was initially conceived.
“When I was studying product design, I realized that new things aren't actually that interesting to most people,” she said.
“I realized that the things people love are usually old things, things that have broken and been repaired, things that bear the scars of years of use. So I wanted to make something that would encourage people to see repair as a good thing, and to enjoy the things they have rather than buying new stuff.”
Ní Dhulchaointigh admits she was amazed when her design made it into Time’s best invention list for 2010.
“It's so awesome to get recognition from such a huge and influential publication,” she said.
“Sugru is a very new product and a new idea, so I didn't expect this, at least not yet! I believe that someday Sugru can be as ubiquitous and well used as duct tape, but it'll take a little while to get there!”
It seems Time magazine was equally as exited, describing the Irish woman’s product as a brightly colored silicone rubber that looks like Play-Doh and acts like super glue.
“It seems like a very interesting material that was needed for a long time,” remarked Josh Quittner, editor at large at Time.
Ní Dhulchaointigh took inspiration from the Irish language when she was thinking of a name for the product. The word sugru is Gaelic for play.
“I went to a Gaelscoil (Irish speaking school) when I was growing up and I thought that could be a good place to look for a new word that not too many people had previous associations with,” she said.
“I'd love if Sugru helps people to have a more playful and lighthearted attitude to the stuff they own, so as the Irish word for play the name carries that hope too,” she said.
The unique thing about the product is that it has so many uses. From repairing mugs, replacing pan handles, mending car wing mirrors and patching up Wellingtons, there are an endless amount of uses for Sugru, which the inventor admits is one of the most exciting aspects as a designer.
“Every day lots of customers are in touch with us asking us questions, and sharing with us what they've done with Sugru. This is by far the most enjoyable aspect of what I do,” Ní Dhulchaointigh says.
With her company based in the U.K., Ní Dhulchaointigh is conscious of how important the American market is to the future of her product.
“Forty percent of our packs get shipped to homes all over the U.S. We are working towards setting up distribution in the U.S. during 2011, and we're looking for like minded investors at the moment to help us make that happen,” she says.
“Americans, more than any other nationality, are so ready to make and craft and DIY, they've got a very DIY mindset which I think is so fantastic.”
It seems this is only the start for a new and exciting product from an Irish inventor whose future in the U.S. market looks very bright.
“We're so looking forward to many more trips to the US, and building an exciting business there,” says Ní Dhulchaointigh.
Starting at $9 for six, five gram sachets, Sugru can be purchased online at http://sugru.com.
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