Entrepreneur Nancy von Hapke was walking in her neighbourhood after the holidays when she noticed something startling.
“When I walked down my street, I noticed that people were throwing out strings of lights at the curb. Entire boxes of lights, because maybe one bulb went out, or because they were tangled,” she says. “It’s so easy to just go get more. And I thought to myself, what a waste. That’s going straight into the landfill.”
This gave her the idea for “Ring Tree Lighting,” a new kind of holiday lighting system to replace traditional string Christmas tree lights, which tangle easily and are hard to store.
“I went online and asked my neighbourhood, if you have an idea, how do you do a prototype?” she says. “Before long, one lovely lady said to me, have you checked George Brown?”
Nancy contacted the Research and Innovation program within the college and was eventually connected to the PDx lab, a facility that offers early-stage prototype design, development and assessment services.
“I said, I'm an inventor, I'm looking at manufacturing a prototype, is that something you can help me with?” she said. “And immediately, they got back to me and said, ‘Yeah, we can do that!’ I told them my idea, and they were quite excited about it.”
So, Nancy came to PDx to design and develop the Ring Tree Lighting system: easy to install, stores with no tangling and can be easily hung by one person. The Ring Tree Lighting System achieves more “depth” of light on the tree than traditional string lights with removeable shorter strands that create less waste.
After Nancy presented a conceptual design, the PDx team worked together to create the design specification by sketch, draw and 3D model forms. With the final designs, the GBC research team manufactured all parts, configured electrical components, utilized existing programming for the luminaires, and presented the working, finished prototype to Nancy. The product is based on an innovative pin and ring system, which makes putting the lights on (and taking them off) of the tree a breeze and FUN.
“I really wanted to make sure the product had no waste, so there's no plastic packaging involved. It is packaged in a reusable canvas bag for year after year easy storage,” she says. “With traditional strands of lights, storage is difficult—people usually throw lights in bags and put them in boxes, and tangling is a huge issue. The Ring Tree Lights won’t tangle.”
Nancy took her working prototype to a manufacturer and the product is now available in the market. In the future, her company will work on developing new add-ons and kits to further customize your lighting system, including lights in different colours, shapes and weather-proofing.
“We want these to be the last set of lights that people ever need to buy,” she says. “We’ve designed them so you can really make your tree your own.”
Learn more about the Ring Tree Lighting system at their website. www.ringtreelighting.com.