Sunday, February 12th marked the birth date of Ray Confer, my grandfather and the founder of Confer Plastics (and a long-time Gasport resident). He would have been 90 on Sunday. In honor of his life, let’s look at his most ubiquitous invention: the living hinge, something he thought of while working on the family farm in Gasport.
Ray designed the living hinge in the early 1960s as a means to more efficiently make plastic tool cases. The addition of metal hinges always added cost to the final product due to materials and assembly. So, Ray came up with an ingenious way to eliminate the metal hinges by molding a plastic hinge in process as a part of the case itself, rather than as an add on.
Basically, the living hinge is a thin section of plastic that connects two halves of a part to keep them together and allow the part to be opened and closed over and over again. You can see the hinge in this photo that shows a SCUBA gear case in its open state.
The living hinge is a part of our everyday lives. It can be found in toolboxes, tackle boxes, and those plastic clamshells that are used as takeout containers and storage boxes for produce.
Ray’s invention – one created out of necessity and ingenuity – is everywhere.