SNIPS Sheet Metal Industry Icon for 2021 is David Daw, an inventor who’s been innovating in the HVAC fabrication industry for over 50 years. He’s currently a Mestek Machinery marketing consultant and also receives royalties on his inventions from Ductmate, a unit of DMI Companies.
Daw started out in sheet metal sales and marketing in 1969 at Gripnail, and has since worked with (and sometimes against) every major player in the industry. To this day, he develops new products for sheet metal contractors around the world with his company Systemation, Inc.
“Working for Gripnail was a great ten year run. It lead to later successes I would enjoy years later with corner inserter machines licensed to Mestek Machinery and specialized TDC and TDF corners licensed to Ductmate and others,” Daw says, referring to 1990s technology whose patents expired in Feb. 2013-15.
Daw’s patented Cornermatic® machines work both with TDC and TDF rectangular duct connections (SMACNA T-25/a and T-25/b Joints) by Lockformer and Engel Industries respectively, first brought to market in the mid-90s. The Dual-Head Cornermatic transformed a 4-minute, labor-intensive process of installing corners by hand – basically workers pounding them in by hammer on the ground – to an automated process that took 30 seconds total. Daw’s subsequent redesigns in the Cornermatic Plus, then a combination machine, or COMBO combining Pittsburgh seam-closing with corner insertion, have met with enormous success in domestic and foreign markets since about 2014.
“At Gripnail, I was instrumental in developing automatic duct lining pinning machinery for both Welty-Way, the forerunner of Iowa Precision, and Engel Industries. This revolutionized a labor-intensive process. It was instrumental in the development of the Cornermatic machines," Daw says.
Regarding his current invention, The Bendermatic, he says “The only thing that keeps me going through more than six years of product development are the contractors who keep telling me they need this. ‘It’s a home run.’”
He expects his latest machine to hit the market in mid-2022 with the potential to again revolutionize the industry. After leaving Gripnail, Daw became the Southern California sales rep for Ductmate in 1980 where he resides today.
The product, a “four bolt connector system” that originated in Europe, now referred to in the industry as “Slide-On Connectors,” was starting to gain acceptance in the US; but initially it was a most difficult product to sell. It forced contractors to take a new look at rectangular duct fabrication, changing years of old methods.
Ductmate was the first US company into the market in the late ‘70s, but was quickly copied by others. After increasing sales over 500% in one year, he had a “falling out” with Ductmate’s owners and in late 1981 he teamed up with Art Vlastnik, Lockformer’s West Coast rep, to form QUIKDUC, a direct competitor.
In 1983, they entered the market; however, by then the TDC and TDF “Rolled-On ‘Flange’ Connectors” were taking off due to much lower installation costs. In 1986, Ductmate came with an offer to buy them out, bringing Daw back to Pittsburgh as Ductmate’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
By the late ‘80s, Daw was getting “itchy” for something new. The plasma cutting machine developed in the 1980s moved the industry into computerization, but that would only be the beginning. With an introduction from Pete Arndt, sales manager at Lockformer, to Estimation, one of the early leaders in computerized estimating, Daw became a straight commissioned rep covering New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida.
He sold HVAC and mechanical estimating software and hardware – a job he excelled at and loved until patent storm clouds on the horizon dealt a loss to Lockformer over CTI’s patents. In 1992, he was laid off, leaving a second company due to circumstances beyond his control. However, having time to see those dark patent clouds brewing for the industry, he had another idea that might just protect him from what might come to fore, a machine to automatically insert corners into TDC and TDF ductwork.
During 1992 and 1993, Daw along with his engineer, Bill Goodhue, formed Systemation, Inc., based in Rhode Island, and developed the first Single-Head Cornermatic machine. In 1994, they licensed the technology to Iowa Precision. However, the difficulties of developing a successful machine required a “specialized” corner and the patent application claimed both the machine and corner. It was granted patents covering both, setting Systemation up to receive royalties for machines and corners.
In 1995, Ductmate became a licensed supplier of the corners, bringing Daw back into a partnership with Ductmate, says Ray Yeager, CEO of DMI Companies.
“Market expansion and growth have always been a goal of Ductmate. Working closely with David Daw over the past 35 years has helped us to build new relationships with distributors and end users, allowing us to grow our presence within the market,” Yeager says.
“After David and Bill Goodhue brought out the Cornermatic, most people would have moved on and retired off that income. But he just kept going. He loves it, and I think he loves going up against the big guns," says David Ashton, a retired Northeastern sales rep for Ductmate who worked with Daw at QUIKDUC and followed him to Ductmate. He was Daw’s assistant at GRIPNAIL in the ‘70s too.
Speaking to why he thinks Daw has earned his place as a sheet metal industry icon, competitor Pat Rossetto, president of Duro-Dyne, has high praise.
“Without competitors like David Daw and Gripnail, we might be a lesser company. Having a competitor that keeps you on your toes makes you stay in shape," he says.
In the history of Rossetto’s company, now helmed by David Krupnick and himself, he admits Duro-Dyne took a wrong turn in not taking a license from Daw in 1994 for those “special” stackable corners that ran in the first Cornermatic machines.
“He went to Ductmate, which was loose competition at the time, and they brought his stackable corner to market. That revolutionized the industry,” Rossetto says, concluding Daw made Iowa Precision, now Mestek Machinery, the razor manufacturer of the HVAC ductwork fabrication industry – and Ductmate the razor blade manufacturer.