Newswise — Wichita State Assistant Professor of Trumpet David Hunsicker has played the trumpet for 35 years. He has performed with orchestral ensembles, jazz bands, and in musicals, and has taught aspiring musicians at Wichita State University since 2013. Now he can add inventor and business owner to his resumé.
Hunsicker partnered with WSU's National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and WSU Ventures to create the Gapper, a flexible plastic device that helps musicians control the third valve slide on the trumpet.
"Two of the more common, but difficult, notes to tune are the low D and the C Sharp," says Hunsicker. "You have to kick the slide out at just the right time in order to hit the note properly."
Hunsicker says the ring on the third valve slide is too big for musicians with smaller hands. The gap between the finger and the ring causes a delay in moving the slide, which can result in a missed or out of tune note, or lead to a repetitive stress injury.
"That's why we call it the Gapper. It fills the gap between the finger and the ring," says Hunsicker.
Hunsicker used to address the problem by wrapping the third valve slide ring with tape, but found that the tape caused more problems down the line.
After a while the tape would start to wear off and leave a sticky residue. It also could potentially destroy the finish on the trumpet, says Hunsicker.
Hunsicker had the idea for the Gapper for over a decade, but he didn't realize he had the opportunity to create it right here on campus until Rodney Miller, the College of Fine Arts dean, challenged his faculty to think of how they could utilize WSU's GoCreate makerspace.
Hunsicker took a rudimentary prototype to WSU Ventures, who encouraged him to get in touch with someone at GoCreate who could put his idea into action. He was then introduced to Chris Rempe, NIAR's 3D Prototyping Lab specialist.
Hunsicker and Rempe worked together to find the right material for the Gapper that would be flexible enough to be used on multiple horns, but not too flexible where it wouldn't stay put. After a few trial-and-error sessions, they found the correct settings to create a consistent product.
"It's amazing the things a 3D Printer can do," says Hunsicker.
Although he is the sole employee of his company, Hunsicker has the help of Wichita State students. Several members of his trumpet studio have tested Gappers on their own instruments.
Aerospace engineering student and trumpet player Mason Bivens from Duncan, Oklahoma, has been helping plan the next step of development for the Gapper and the customer-discovery aspect.
"I've learned a lot from my time helping with the Gapper," says Bivens. "My advice to other dreaming entrepreneurs is that if you have a business idea, go for it and see if it will work out."
Bivens, a student of Hunsicker's for the past three years, can't imagine playing his trumpet without a Gapper.
"It helps me play more in-tune, and is much more comfortable."
After launching his website two weeks ago, business has been steady and orders continue to pile in. Hunsicker hopes that his success inspires colleagues to utilize the resources available to them on campus.
"We have such brilliant minds here at WSU, and I think we're all still learning the advantages we have on our campus," says Hunsicker. "I never thought I would work with NIAR. I mean, they build airplane parts. But here I am."