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Transforming hobby into innovation

Local machinist creates innovative tools for animated lighting


In a little more than three years, Matthew Ross developed a passion for animated Christmas light displays. So much so that he’s taken it upon himself to create tools for fellow hobbyists, allowing for bigger, better and more intricate displays. One such tool is the Rainey Pixel Clip.

“What we’re using in the Christmas lighting hobby now are jumbotron lights. You take lights designed for those and repurpose into hobby use,” said Ross, a machinist at A-dec Inc. “Up until this point we’ve been using zip ties and electrical tape (to attach lights to the tree frames).”by: GARY ALLEN - Innovation -- Matthew Ross developed a new clip to innovate the animated Christmas lighting hobby. He's raising funds through Kickstarter for the production of the Rainey Pixel Clip, shown attached to pixels on his tree frame.

The Pixel Clip is a simple plastic clip, specially designed to hold the individual bulbs and attach to either a packing strip or aluminum bars — both options for constructing animated Christmas trees.

“I designed these trees first and wanted to get into commercial production of the trees, but the problem of going to a commercial (outlet) and saying, ‘Hey, buy my trees held together with tape and zip ties,’ it’s just not professional looking,” he said. “My father is also building a tree with pallet strapping, but he’s in early ’70s and with arthritic hands it’s difficult to apply those, so that’s when I (started designing the clip).”

But he said it’s surprisingly expensive to get a mold designed for the clips, so he turned to Kickstarter for help.

“Some things you need to use (Kickstarter) for when they’re a little more than you would expect to get a project rolling,” Ross said.

He’s asking for $25,000, but as of Monday had only raised $1,111.

“The reaction to it and the interest I had ahead of time was more than when the Kickstarter actually launched,” he said. “One of the problems is the DIY guys; they’re slow to adopt certain new things until they can see it’s tried, true, tested and proven. There’s been a lot of epic failures released to the hobby. If someone’s planned their display around that item, and planned it for a year, if it fails that’s pretty detrimental to the display.”

Ross said he continues to get emails expressing interest in purchasing the clips, but only if the project is successful.

“I’ve got a lot of people who want to see how the Kickstarter (effort) goes before they donate,” he said. “So it’s trying to communicate that Kickstarter doesn’t work that way, it’s all or nothing. If we’re a dollar short we don’t get it.”

He’s been working on a contingency plan just in case funding doesn’t come through.

“I’ve actually been in contact with some companies that cater directly to the Christmas light hobbyist,” Ross said. “With one there is a possibility they’ll pick the clip up if Kickstarter doesn’t come through, but they’re also watching the Kickstarter to gauge the interest in the clip.”

It’s kind of like a Catch-22: People don’t want to commit to the project unless it’s succeeding, but it won’t succeed unless people commit.

“In reality because they’re not contributing, others don’t contribute because they don’t see the balance going up,” he said.

To learn more about Ross’s project, or to donate, visit his Kickstarter at http://kck.st/N8Fuew.