A few years ago we were approached by Harley Davidson for a very unusual project. I got a call from the custom paint division and they requested a meeting with me. I’m thinking “Great. We’re going to do patent plaques for Harley Davidson”. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, they wanted to create a “gas tank wall plaque”.

Now, for anyone in the Midwest, getting into Harley Davidson is like the Holy Grail account. But a gas tank wall plaque? What were they thinking?

But we love challenges here at U.S. Patent Services (like a microprocessor controlled patent plaque for Pixar) so I hop in my car and get to a meeting at the Harley Davidson headquarters downtown. I meet with the representatives and I was given the concept of a full size motorcycle gas tank cut in half and mounted to a board. That was it. I was given some blank steal tank shells and sent on my way.

At first, the problems posed by this seemed ridiculous. How do we get gas tanks, paint them, cut them in half, mount them to a board, add decorative back plates and a name plate, etc., etc? And do it all for under $80. And then supply 3,000 of them to Harley Davidson.

After many, many months of investigation and development, a big part to the solution was found with a company that had a proprietary method of printing onto flat sheets of PVC, then thermal molding them into shape such that all the proportions of the printed image were maintained in the final draw or “pull” as they called it. In essence, this meant reverse engineering the distortion of the plastic during the forming process. It required printing an image that was digitally distorted onto flat material which became undistorted during the forming process. It was a perfect solution, at the right cost and offered the advantage of allowing for virtually any design.

To secure the imprinted tank shell to the board, a lip was molded into the shell that was sandwiched between the board and a large die cut decorative plate placed over the shell onto the board. For effect, rivets were added to the perimeter of the plate. They initially requested two design versions, one modern and one retro.

As you can see from the picture, we did it! We engineered a perfect solution at an impossibly low cost. That is what makes us such a great company. We are about solutions and not afraid to take risks to serve our clients