Two inventors approached me at CONEXPO-CON/AGG today while I was putting in my "at home" time in the McGraw-Hill Construction booth so people who wanted to, could find me. Both had intriguing, patent-protected products and the encounters were delightful.

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Daniel Lax, right, was all smiles and happiness. His Westbury, N.Y.-based company, Clear-Vu Lighting. is developing temporary LED lighting systems for construction. He came over from his booth a couple of miles away across the show to drop a foot-long chunk of polycarbonate on the desk between us. It forms a housing with rows or LEDs on one face, and covers a long heatsink radiator on the back. From one end leads a cable and clip system to clamp it onto a 24-volt buss. As he pointed out, the biggest determinant for LED life is operating temperature, so his heatsink keeps temperatures low to ensure longevity.

Performance is the attraction, though. Output, he says, is a relatively low-contrast 5 foot-candles at 12 ft.,  consuming 75 Watts in the process. A typical installation in a single track subway tunnel, for example, would space the lights 7 1/2 ft apart, staggered on opposite sides. They are tough enough to throw across the room without breaking and, unlike the current state of practice, which is to fasten a set of five 150 W bulbs on lamp bases to a plank and hang it from a 120-v dropcord, one can throw his LEDs across the room without breakage and they won't explode if dripped on by water.

Clear-vu has other new LED-based products with similar, apparent advantages, which is just the sort of thing we look for in a good trade show. They are at booth 988D in the Blue Lot.

David Woods, the president and chief inventor behind WoodsCan Industries, Inc., in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, came around next with a fabric briefcase he laid down, zipped up, on the counter between us. His marketing director, Michael Marek, did all the talking while David nodded occasionally under his billcap and smiled. 

He has a simple device that looks like a cross between a battery-powered drill and a heat-gun but is actually an air compressor and an air horn. You pull the trigger and it howls. 

So why not just buy an air horn? And what has that got to do with construction?

I got Woods to talk. "I've worked in the drill-and-blast industry for most of my life (he is 52-years-old) and worked with the air canisters for most of that time," he says. Air horns are used to signal impending blasts across huge jobsites to alert workers to cease operations and stand clear to avoid potential danger, and then to give the all-clear when it is safe to resume operations. "I have spent years dealing with air horns, and changing canisters and fixing them when they don't work ... and all of that while  all of that machinery is still there waiting for the all-clear," he explains.

He decided to build his pistol-grip compressor and horn as a replacement and modified an inexpensive rechargeable Chinese-made battery-powered drill for his prototype.

"He cut the top off and replaced the motor and chuck with an air compressor and horn," marketing director Marek explained. And it worked. He has actually done that about 400 times now, perfecting his design. "You know anybody who can use a bunch of chucks and motors?" Marek asks.

Now he has a production model priced at $549.

That's a lot of throw-away air horns, I point out, but ask the current price for those things. Marek says the canisters run $15 to $25 apiece. The horns about $40. 

Woods employer, Western Grater Contracting Co., Victoria, B.C., burns through about $7,000 worth of air horns and canisters a year, Woods says. Suddenly the idea of a $549 air horn seems to make sense.

But as much as I love ideas, I don't trust them without proof. I ask Woods if he has one in the briefcase and he rather reluctantly takes it out while cautioning me not to pull the trigger, because it is really loud. I catch the attention of Tudor Van Hampton, our equipment editor on the other side of our booth, and aim it at the ceiling.

"You're going to do it, aren't you," Woods says.

And I do, blasting a large part of CON EXPO's South all into a moment of shocked silence and drawing Van Hampton over with curiosity.

WoodsCan doesn't have a booth this year. Just watch for a guy with the billcap and cloth briefcase and see if he will let you blow the horn.

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"Meet the Editors" continues on Thursday at  the McGraw-Hill Construction booth. I'm due back between 3 and 4 p.m. Van Hampton, Midwest bureau chief, will be there from 10 to 11 a.m. and Aileen Cho, senior editor, is scheduled between 1 and  2 p.m.

Come meet an ENR editor and enjoy some free popcorn, courtesy of McGraw-Hill Constuction.

The booth is S-10519 on the first floor of the South Hall, near the bottom of the escalators.

See all of ENR's accumulating coverage of CONEXPO-CON/AGG here.