"I receive up to eight new ideas a month from interested consumers," Zedalis said. "Almost all of them claim to have invented the greatest condom ever known."
Most submissions fall into one of two general categories: Either adding additional texture such as bumps, or changing to a unique shape that probably isn't practical to manufacture.
Zedalis has recently been getting a lot of suggestions about adding bells and whistles. Literally. "People are interested in condoms that play music," he said. "This is possible using the same technology found in greeting cards."
Imagine those self-recorded messages.
While the female condom was introduced to this country in 1993, Zedalis noted that it has not been a hit. "It's perceived as difficult to use and uncomfortable," he said.
The typical model consists of a pocket or pouch that fits over the opening of the vagina. It's inserted by a flexible ring that remains on the outside of the vagina to hold it in place, guide intercourse and prevent internal bunching.
An idea that has been better received: Many condom makers are exploring the addition of L-arginine to the lubricant, a compound that purports to enhance female pleasure.
Short of abstinence, Zedalis said, condoms are the most effective form of birth control. While not perfect, they also have the benefit of helping to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, genital herpes and chlamydia.
Despite the quest for ever-increasing thinness and comfort, condoms are an effective barrier not only to sperm but viruses and bacteria as well.
Once condoms leave the factory, samples are again pulled and tested for holes and defects and then again by the Food and Drug Administration. Acceptable failure rates are about 5 per 1,000, although, Zedalis said, most manufacturers aim for rates up to 10 times better than that.