Clearing snow at an airport or from a station platform is an immense operation. There must be another way, thought then TU/e student Henk Arntz. And so he set to work on the idea of vacuuming up and compressing snow instead of shoveling it aside. The first snow vacuum is now being developed.
What a heavy snow fall can be good for. Stuck in a train in 2010, halted by heavy snow, Henk Arntz had an idea prompted by his circumstances. Very simply, the notion of a snow vacuum cleaner. The TU/e student set to work with a clear purpose. He got in touch with Schiphol and devoted his graduation project to the technique.
The Snowcuber developed by Arntz can compress three cubic meters of snow to a single cubic meter. This snow is packed directly into a container for easy transport. “Initially, I had runways in mind, but not anymore. My first focus is going to be station platforms. That's a quicker way to earn revenue.”
There followed a scaled prototype, a patent application, financing, a prototype and a test phase. All in under two years. An exciting period is dawning: marketing the product. “In northern Finland the first Snowcuber is in action, as a test. This is something I'm doing with my colleague Thomas Haartsen. After that the real sales will begin.” The investment involved is considerable, and would not have been possible without TU/e's support. “It is great to be able to use the department's facilities. Otherwise, I simply couldn't afford to do this project.”
Arntz is reaching for the sky. In five years' time he wants SNOCOM to be the biggest player in the market. “A dozen or so parties are active in this market. What makes SNOCOM unique is the product; it is utterly unlike anything the competition has to offer.” For the time being, Arntz is focusing mainly on airports, but ports and city centers are also potential customers. “All logistical hubs where snow falls are potential markets.”
Turning this market on its head is a notion that appeals to the 25-year-old business owner. “I really enjoy being an entrepreneur; it is something I have always wanted to do. It's hard work getting there, but the business aspect appeals to me. Coming up with an idea and marketing it, that's a dream come true.”