Five years of hard work is about to pay off for postman Tony Hitchin.
His newest invention, that allows the hardness of any metal component to be tested, is set to save industry millions.
Mr Hitchin's device has already made it to the final shortlist of the Lord Stafford Awards in the Development in Innovation category and is nearing the end of production.
A trained engineer, who runs Tactile Touch on the Bilton Industrial Estate in Coventry, Mr Hitchin has developed the device with the help of Coventry University.
A £10,000 loan from the University's Enterprise Fellowship Scheme gave the budding inventor the start he needed, but he still had to work as a postman while his creation took shape.
Current methods of hardness testing force a ball or diamond into the test surface, but the new device can determine the hardness of car engine parts without causing damage.
The device, which is shaped like a pencil, works by sending ultra-sonic waves through a sphere which is placed on top of the test metal.
The probe then measures the resistance from the test metal as the ball vibrates.
Mr Hitchin said: "The hardness tester has cost £150,000 to develop but the savings to industry could amount to millions of pounds.
"The product will enable industries such as nuclear energy, aerospace and defence, to test actual components rather than test pieces, yielding results that are more relevant and cost-effective.
"Normally the hardness on cam shafts for example is tested by taking one and forcing diamonds or a ball into the surface. But this wrecks the component."
The device, which can be calibrated to measure in the three industry units of hard-ness - Rockwell, Brinnell and Vickers - can also save money for the airline industry, said Mr Hitchin.
He said: "Air engines can be damaged by the temperature changes as planes go through air pockets.
"When aircraft land, the blades are sometimes taken away for testing. This can mean destroying part of them, but it is also expensive to move them.
"With my device, the hard-ness of the components can be tested in situ."
Mr Hitchin has applied for UK and European patents for his device which he aims to launch later this year.
He added: "The next step is to secure a contract with a mass producer of metal components. Discussions have already taken place with BMW."
Mr Hitchin began developing the product in 2000, when he was invited to apply for a scheme run by Coventry University, from where he graduated with a degree in Manufacturing Systems Engineering in 1995.
The Graduates into Business (GIB) scheme was designed to give graduates business training and guidance in establishing high-tech businesses.
After completing the GIB scheme, Mr Hitchin needed funding and in 2001 was accepted onto Coventry University's Enterprise Fellow-ship Scheme (EFS), which gives budding entrepreneurs a £10,000 loan, access to laboratory and office facilities and assigns them business and technical mentors.