Students heat up new ideas for West Coast wax company

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In luxury salons today, clients line up to dip their hands into relaxing and therapeutic hot wax treatments. It's a different story when it comes to dipping feet, however.

"I can personally sympathize with customers," said Amanda Ross, a sophomore from Westland, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. "I have a foot phobia myself."

So Professor Bill Riffe asked his Manufacturing Processes class to give some thought to new applications. Eight students, split into two teams, provided alternatives for the Calwax Corp. of Irwindale, Calif. (Web site: The students explained their findings to Alan Case, Calwax vice president of Marketing and Sales, during team presentations March 18 in Kettering's Academic Building. Presentations included ideas and drawings but no prototypes.

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"Team 1 started with 50 ideas and ended with one," said Ryan Denski, a sophomore from Brighton majoring in Manufacturing Engineering. "This turned into more than I expected. I didn't believe a company rep would come from California. You work hard when a representative is coming in; you want to be a good representative for Kettering."

Eric Grimm of Kalamazoo said Team 2 started with 20 ideas, mostly focused on mobility and versatility. "We looked at different methods of application," the Manufacturing major said. For Team 2, that meant a wax spray bottle with a variable speed motor and heating units. A peristaltic pump, roller cover, tubing, drip pan, and application heads, including sponge brush and showerhead, completed the idea.

"We looked at the broad perspective and narrowed it down each day, combining ideas," Ross said. "Soon we had a solution for the problem."

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Team 2 rejected ideas on a wax mitten, a cup warmer, a spray box (like a car wash so knees and elbows could get treatment), a hot wax gun (like a glue gun), roll on wax, brush on wax, and a tanning bed approach (like a waffle iron).

Team 1 proposed a tank design that would allow salons to set up four hot wax treatment stations at once. Daniel VanderLey, a sophomore from Hudsonville, said the tank would sit high for a gravity feed and feature a digital temperature control. "A specifically designed hose would keep the wax liquid," he explained. Their approach also included heated wires inside the hoses and a protective coating on the outside. The design features a peristaltic pump, on and off switch, removable spray and accessories. Their "reject list" included a series of drip, rub, ballpoint and toaster-style options.

"As a wax supplier," Case said, "we always hope they throw a lot of wax away."


Case said only four major companies made devices for hot wax treatments, two of which have now withdrawn from the market. "It's interesting that you mentioned a wax mitten," he said. "The industry is currently looking at a glove. You were on target with that one."

"Remember," he advised, "don't be too tough on the early ideas. They are the ones that are often the most productive."

Case said he will take the suggestions back to Calwax for further consideration. He was introduced to Kettering University by alumnus Dennis Myers '61 of Laguna Beach, Calif., who is a consultant for Calwax.


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Written by Pat Mroczek
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