The way Orin Hemminger sees it, people go to great lengths to make delicious coffee, but carelessly pour it into mugs that don’t allow the flavor to be fully realized. With his invention, the ThermoBuffer, he’s hoping to remedy that.
The ThermoBuffer is a triple-walled stainless steel mug with an inner chamber that contains a patented buffering layer. The gap between its inner walls is filled with water, creating a heat sink of sorts that quickly draws excess warmth out of fresh coffee when it’s poured into the mug. Vacuum insulation in the mug’s outer chamber helps maintain an ideal beverage temperature for hours.
With the help of several research papers from scientific journals, Hemmlinger determined that the ideal temperature for warm beverages is between 135 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Every mug out there started out too hot and ended up too cold,” says Hemmlinger, who was working toward his PhD in chemical engineering at The Ohio State University when he began developing ThermoBuffer four years ago.
“It probably took about two months of toying around in the evening with tin cans and soda cans and other various containers before I was able to construct a prototype that performed in a way that optimized time in the ideal temperature range,” he says.
Hemminger then linked up with two fellow OSU students and entered a university business plan competition. The team took third place and made valuable contacts that helped position it to apply for a startup feasibility grant from TechColumbus.
“We added a design student to the team and won a TechGenesis grant from TechColumbus, which awarded us $50,000 to use for patenting, market studies, and prototyping,” he says. “The market study indicated enormous interest in such a product, and we filed for a patent. We got a working prototype made and needed to make tweaks to it, but we were out of grant money.
A large amount of money was needed to launch mass production of the ThermoBuffer, and the team wasn’t sure where to turn. Then, Hemminger discovered Indiegogo and decided crowdfunding was the ideal way to raise money for production.
Though Hemminger was determined to manufacture ThermoBuffer domestically, he quickly learned that would not be possible.
“No travel mugs are made in the U.S., and I could not find any manufacturer capable or willing to make the ThermoBuffer mug,” he says. “So I shifted gears to China and spent many nights Skyping with factories in China at 10 p.m. This got me nowhere fast. The language and cultural barriers were too much to overcome.”
TechColumbus recommended that Hemminger work with an international trade agent to serve as a liaison between ThermoBuffer and the factory.
“They speak Chinese and English, and ours was able to find a mug manufacturer interested in working on our project,” he says.
The $65,000 Indiegogo campaign will fund the initial production run. If the funding goal isn’t reached, Hemminger plans to do another campaign.
To learn more about ThermoBuffer, visit Facebook.com/ThermoBuffer.