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Balloon technology a NZ winner

Balloon technology a NZ winner

The art of tying and flying a party balloon can be a highly technical and profitable business, as an Auckland consultant engineering company has discovered.

It may not fit the normal mould of research and development but the unique engineering processes involved and the export potential has earned Auckland’s Jasan Technical Services investment support from Technology New Zealand.

The challenge has been to develop a system that allows for up to five balloons, each with its own cup-like base support, to be displayed on long-handled wand or cane, with each balloon being sealed and tied automatically. Products exist which allow one balloon to be tied to a stick or wand but there is worldwide demand for bunching lots of balloons together on one handle for party, advertising and promotional use.

Jasan Director, Sean Carnell, says balloons are big business, particularly overseas, and his company is about to tap into the lucrative market with its balloon accessories. It is currently negotiating distribution rights with the world’s largest balloon manufacturers, who make more than one billion balloons each year.

Jasan has invented a system for automatic tying and has designed manufacturing machinery and processes to make the accessories for the balloon displays. Part of the challenge has been to select suitable materials and devise a high-speed manufacturing system that churns out bulk products accurately and cost effectively. The sorting, counting and packaging systems also require intricate technology.

The concept and systems are considered to have such strong international potential that Jasan has taken out patents to protect the intellectual property.

Balloons are big business worldwide. President George Bush’s election campaign spent more than $12 million on balloons to carry his message to voters. New Zealanders are estimated to spend $4 million on balloons each year.

Sean Carnell and his company have been at the forefront of computer aided design (CAD) and integrated production technology for many years and are no strangers to devising new products and the machinery to make them. Mr Carnell studied mechanical engineering but is also an experienced CAD and computer assisted machining (CAM) draughtsman. Successes include designing and manufacturing moulds for water pump bottles for high profile brands such as H2Go, pasta rollers for pasta machines, egg and fruit moulded trays and truck tensioners for the curtain sides of large transport trucks.

The first of Jasan’s ‘Beyond Balloons’ products will be launched into Australia later this year in time to hit the big Christmas market.

Mr Carnell says the balloon accessory R&D has cost more than $300,000 and the Technology New Zealand investment of $39,000 enabled the company to use the expertise of outside consultants.

Most of Jasan’s design and development work is done on behalf of clients but the balloon accessory technology is the first project it has completed for its own use. Mr Carnell says the experience has been valuable in developing new skills and expertise from concept stage through to sales and marketing, which will be useful when assisting clients with similar business propositions.

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