By Susan B. Murron
Necessity is truly the mother of invention. Buck and Arlene Weimer, owners of the Under-Tec Corp., tell the story of how Buck came up with the idea for his invention, Under-Ease underwear, and protective underwear designed to filter out the odor of human gas.
Arlene Weimer has had Crohn’s Disease, a form of inflammatory bowel syndrome, since she was 25. “When I get an acute attack, I can’t digest and have really foul-smelling gas. Buck and I have been together for about 35 years, and about seven years ago after a bit Thanksgiving meal, I was having – not a bad, acute attack – but it was bad gas. He was laying in bed and thinking, ‘Well, I can’t divorce her over this because it doesn’t look good on your resume,’ and besides, he loves me,” said Arlene.
“So he thought of a pair of underwear that could filter out the foul smell and then he went about doing research on the filter,” she added.
Eventually, Buck developed underwear that could do this effectively. “It’s air-tight underwear, but in the back bottom area we have what is called the exit hole, where we have a pocket made out of porous material to allow the gas to escape,” said Buck.
Buck had many challenges to overcome in the initial design of the protective underwear. “The problem was to capture the foul-smelling gas, which is basically hydrogen sulfide and to allow the non-smelling gas to pass through, which is basically methane, hydrogen and oxygen,” he said.
Buck utilized his creativity to experiment with prototypes. “I started off with a filter that I got out of gas masks OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) uses for coal mines. And then I went down to the drugstore to buy a pair of disposable underwear used for incontinence and just cut a hole in the back and sewed this filter in. It wasn’t real good, but it was a good start,” he said.
Buck’s experimentation resulted in a filter of seven layers, but only one-quarter of an inch thick. “Charcoal is in the center of it and the outside of it is Australian sheep’s wool, which is like a felt and very effective as a filter,” explained Buck.
Once the Weimers were satisfied with their finished product, they were faced with another challenge – the patenting process.
Buck went through the patenting process himself, something he says was a lot of work and rather expensive.
“Initially they rejected it, but I went through the appeals process and won, so then they gave me the patent.” The patent was issued about two years ago.
Patience was in order for the next obstacle – getting the pattern made to facilitate production.
“We couldn’t really find anybody in Pueblo who was skilled enough to make a professional pattern,” Buck said. Buck and Arlene decided to go one of the clothing-manufacturing centers in Los Angeles. It was there that they finally found somebody and located a manufacturer. That process took another two years.
The Weimers used their own money to finance their endeavors. “It was a lot of work,” admitted Buck. “And a lot of hours and $20,000 of our own money – so I guess we’re committed,” added Arlene.
The Weimers are thankful to their board members for their guidance. “The best advice that they gave us was to go slow and start small. We were ready to advertise all over the United States on our Web site. And they told us to start just in Pueblo and the region, get all the kinks out of the system …” said Buck.
Now, Buck is confident that most of the kinks have worked out, and is ready to begin building his inventory before taking the product to a national level.
And national demand could come soon. Buck and Arlene have been featured on radio, television and in newspaper, but will soon be broadening their advertising scope.
“Modern Maturity (magazine) is ready for our press release and they have like 20 million (readers) that they send out to. And it’s a real target market because we’re finding that mostly older people are responding to (our product). We have that in place, and we have Gastro-Enterology Journal and (we have plans) to get a press release to the op five newspapers in every state in the country,” said Arlene.
The Weimers have found satisfaction, thanks to their perseverance. “It’s been a wonderful experience for us, taking it from the original idea all the way through the development and patenting process and the manufacturing process, and now starting the marketing process,” said Buck.
People with different conditions and different ages have a need for their product, explained the Weimers. “It’s really for people not only with inflammatory bowel syndrome, but for people with irritable bowel, people who eat lots of fiber or have lactose intolerance,” said Arlene. “And also for diabetics who take medication. The main by-products of the medication is malodorous flatulence,” added Buck.
“And (wearing Under-Ease) is nice when you travel,” said Arlene. “Any closed-in area in trains, plains and automobiles – especially in bed,” added Buck.
The tales of gratitude the Weimers have received customers have touched their hearts. “A little old lady called and said she hadn’t gone to church in two years and she’d really been wanting something like this. And a little boy in Colorado Springs, his father came down to get a pair and (explained that his soon) had cystic fibrosis and had some surgery and his best friend wouldn’t play with him,” said Arlene.
“We’re both service-oriented and we want to help people of all ages get away from the isolation and get into more social relationships,” said Arlene. “Our theme is ‘Wear them for the ones you love,” Buck said.