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E. Douglas Hougen

7-16-1916 to 2-17-1999
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Inventive life comes full circle for Hougen
By Jeff Karoub
Flint Journal Business Writer

Even for an inventor, E. Douglas Hougen was ahead of his time.

Among his more notable creations were a hole cutter that didn't create shavings, an electric paint mixer and a device that strengthens human lungs.

He also built a manufacturing business that sells his products around the world.

Yet his accomplishments and creativity stemmed  from one interest, said family and friends who mourned him Wednesday.

"His total focus and time was thinking about inventing things that would be good ... for helping people," said his son Randy Hougen, who is president and chief executive officer of Hougen Manufacturing in Flint Township.

E. Douglas Hougen died Wednesday at his Flint Township home.  He was 82.

"Even when he was dying, he was telling me what he wants patented," Randy Hougen said Wednesday.

"I think he revolutionized the cutting tool industry."

A former instructor at what is now Kettering University, Hougen began inventing products in his basement during the 1950's and built a legendary reputation for his creativity.

Among his best-known inventions is that hole cuter, called the Rotabroach. The high-tech machine is used on automobiles and buildings; it cuts a ring and ejects a metal slug instead of the shavings left by traditional drills.

He also invented a magnetic drill and, more recently, the X-Air-Ciser, a hand-held device that strengthens lungs and removes mucus.  Hougen, who suffered several heart attacks and spent the past several years in poor health, invented the device for himself.

His creativity even went beyond the capabilities of current technology, said Bill Honaker, Hougen's patent attorney.

"He's got a tool called the Z-Max, ...(and) it is the fastest, best cutting tool I have ever seen," Honaker said.  "It cuts aluminum and metals like butter.  At a Chicago trade show, people were 15, 20 deep (during a demonstration).

"The problem is, nobody can manufacture it - technology is not up to the ability to manufacture it on a commercial scale."

Honaker recently estimated that Hougen holds more than 400 domestic and foreign patents on at least 50 inventions.  Of those, about 30 are related to cutting tools.

"His are a type of inventions that you go out and get the job done with," Honaker said.

"His cutting tools (are used) on the space shuttle.  It won't be long before most railroads, all vehicles and most bridges will use them."

"They're everywhere."

One of Hougen's last acts was contributing $5,000 to the Inventors Council of Mid-Michigan www.rjriley.com/icmm/.  The donation was provided through the Hougen Foundation, a charitable fund Hougen established in 1981.

The council intends to use the money to start programs in local schools that would make students aware of the inventing process.

"To us, he is almost a messiah," said Bob Ross, head of the council.  "In my way of thinking, he's one of the remarkable people, not only in Genesee County, but in the state of Michigan, because of his ability to come up with ideas and  (pursue them) until they came out on the market.

"He didn't quit."

Randy Hougen said his father's generosity was typical.

Hougen regularly contributed to an array of organizations and institutions, including the American Red Cross and Kettering http://www.kettering.edu . He also founded an inventiveness contest in local schools.

"He brought out the best in people," Randy Hougen said.

In 1997, Hougen was featured in a series about inventors that ran on the Discovery Channel.  He also wrote a book called "Inventing as a Way of Life."

A funeral service will be held at noon Saturday at Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 W. Hill Road, in Grand Blanc Township.  Cremation will take place after the service.

Contributions may be made to the Hougen Foundation, Box 2005, Flint, Mi. 48501-2005

Jeff Karoub can be reached at (810) 766-6316.

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