David Gray, an electrician from Lisburn, had a constant gripe: the difficulty in manually clipping cables in place. Holding a cable, a hammer and a nail was delicate work – and he needed three hands to do it.
Metal staples are not allowed in 240-volt regions due to health and safety regulations. A fully insulated, plastic staple would do the job, but none existed in the marketplace.
Enter Gray’s Clip – not immediately, but after 25 years of thought and five long years of R&D. David and his wife Julie have committed huge financial resources – and years of their lives – for this invention. Both Invest NI and Queen’s University Belfast have lent critical support to the business.
Gray’s Clip is now a finalist for the 2018 Invent competition in the Engineering category. I spoke to co-founder Julie Gray.
What made you apply for Invent?
We didn’t get beyond the qualifying round last year, and we were disappointed because the product is good. Last year, we only had the staple to show – now, we have a battery-operated staple gun as well.
Really, we wanted validation from people who hadn’t seen the product before; that they could see the potential.
Do you have the stapler prototype now?
We have a proof-of-concept model for a battery-powered stapler. We re-engineered a stapler that was used for upholstery.
What did your market research turn up?
Nothing like this is available for the 240-volt market but in America, with 110 volts, they can use a partially insulated metal staple – it’s not allowed here. Still, it was important to see that a staple gun was successful in that market.
Is there initial interest in the product?
Electricians from all over the world are asking for it. If we had the product now, we’d be selling bucketloads of them.
So, you could sell into the lower-voltage market as well?
Yes, for the 240-volt and 110-volt markets, but also for audio, coaxial and data cables, too.
You sound like you bring business acumen to the team. What’s your background?
Before Davy persuaded me to help on this project, I was a business consultant, working for companies across the world for about seven years. Before that, I was a director at a multinational ticketing company working on the operational side of the business.
We’re a good team because Davy brings practical knowledge, and he designed it as an electrician for electricians.
What are the clips made out of?
The clip body is made of one plastic material; it needs to be flexible. The nails are made out of a different type of plastic; they need to penetrate hard construction timber. It’s not possible to overfire them – they can’t be driven any further than the body of the staples, so it can’t crush the cable. It’s four times faster than using a manual hammer and nail, and five times faster with the battery-powered solution. There are no more incidents of dropped hammers or repetitive strain injuries.
How will you distribute to this niche market?
Electricians buy from electrical wholesalers or from speciality tool companies, so we need to distribute through these channels rather than online.
A multinational power tool company has shown interest in being our global distributor, and we have interest from wholesalers in the UK and Australia.
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch
Gray’s Clip is a finalist in the annual Invent competition run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, aiming to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2018 will take place on Thursday 11 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund.
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