Throwback 90s Items to Inspire NVH Engineers

Inspiration for NVH Engineers

The inspiration behind the Pac-Man character was supposedly an image of a pizza with a slice removed.  The Pac-Man franchise for the Atari 2600 made a profit of $200,000,000! (Source:

Bubble wrap was not originally designed to protect products during shipment. The concept of bubble wrap came when the inventors behind it were trying to develop a new type of textured wallpaper.

Play-Doh wasn't originally developed to be a kids' toy. It was actually created as a product that was meant to be a wallpaper cleaning substance.

The point here is that inspiration comes in so many different forms and can have a huge impact on the world.  In a lot of cases, inspiration and creativity stem from memories from your past or items you're able to see in a different way. With that said, why don't we go down memory row to take a slightly different look at products that made the 90s as great as we all know it was.

This post was designed as a way of looking at products in a creative way to inspire future innovations.  Some of these may seem like a stretch, but in a sea of dry, technical information, we feel it's important to spice up the content you consume every so often.

Sockem Boppers

If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you remember going to battle with a sibling or friend with these "inflatable pillows". 

These double cavity air chambers use a durable heavy gauge vinyl. The combination of the two made it somewhat safe to throw a haymaker at your friends.

Different Way of Looking At These

Vibration Reduction: Pneumatic or air isolators as a way of reducing vibration impact a vehicle may experience. If you can take a Sockem Bopper punch from your older sibling, what can we do to apply contained air in an NVH application?

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The Bumble Ball

Here's one you may have forgotten about, even though they're still being made today. The Bumble Ball is a motorized toy made popular in the mid-90s that vibrates and bounces around when activated.

Different Way of Looking At These

The core of this toy is made from plastic, but the bumpers on the outside are made from a rubber material. This helps with protecting the core and giving the toy the ability to withstand harsh conditions that a child may put it through (such as throwing it).

The bumpers are a cone design, which gives it much needed strength and stability.  This is a popular way of implementing stoppers/bumpers throughout a vehicle in points where a high amount of force needs to absorbed (examples: Door and front hood stoppers).

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90s Pogo Sticks

The iconic pink/green duo pogo sticks made popular in the 90s. These were the ultimate way of competing with your siblings on who can get the most hops in before falling off.  These are the traditional version pogo-stick that use steel springs to create a bounce. When you land down the spring compresses, and as you pull back up the compressed spring recoils, resulting in a push back up into the air. This also takes away the sheer impact of a hard land onto the ground after jumping from a higher point, making it a safer option for usage.

Different Way of Looking at Pogo Sticks

The more obvious way of looking at pogo sticks is to relate them to the suspension system and shock absorption. But, what if we were to use this concept in other ways? What if we found ways of integrating a coil design into other NVH designs?

pogo stick related to nvhpogo stick related to nvh

Roller Skates

You remember these bad boys, don't you? These skates were iconic to kids that were born in the 90s. Roller skating in general was extremely popular during this decade. During this time, most 90s kids owned their own pair and skating rinks were all the rage.

What you'll notice about most skates is that they include either a front-toe stopper and/or a back stopper used to bring them to a complete stop.

automotive rubber nvh inspirationautomotive rubber nvh inspiration

Different Way of Looking At These

NVH Bumper: These are similar to what you'll find with door and trunk bumpers. The difference here is that you'll find that front toe stoppers are typically over-molded onto a threaded bolt or they're occasionally molded with an integrated thread design.

Design: They usually include some sort of friction grip design, as well as featuring colorful selection of options. In manufacturing, this plays a great role for DFA (design for assembly) as color coordination makes it much easier for process creation as well as easy identification.  These are an essential part of the roller skate's overall design. They don't want to stick to old, boring parts. Definitely not during the 90s.

Pinball Bumpers

While pinball machines were not invented in the 90s, they were highly popular with the rise of local arcades and pizza parlors.  Pinball machines were a staple to the 90s, and are actually well-engineered machines that we all could learn from.

How Pinball Bumpers Work:

When a pinball enters a bumper's area, it rolls onto a ring that will drop and activate the solenoid below causing magnets to be activated. Once the magnets are activated, they will pull a ring from above the ball to be pulled down onto the ball, forcing the ball to shoot out in a different direction. Check out this video of how it works: Click here

Different Way of Looking At Pinball Bumpers

Pinball bumpers react to the ball hitting them and use magnets to cause a reaction. It's amazing when you look at how all the different ways we've used magnets for various applications, including vibration absorption.

Magnetic dynamic vibration absorber which is simple to construct can be easily tuned by changing the distance between magnets to excitation frequency to minimize the vibrations and can be effectively used to minimize vibrations of structure (source).

The ability to customize is huge in today's mobility market as you're seeing manufacturers, like Tesla, be able to improve a vehicle's performance simply by pushing an update - similar to what you see with cell phone OS updates - rather than having customers come into a repair shop to make changes.


Creativity is an amazing thing. You never know exactly where the next big idea may come from, but the more you expose yourself to ideas, products, stories, etc. in the world, the more likely you are to generate the next big innovation.

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