Here's a peek at what I've been working on...

Matt you are making it up in your head. I asked reasonable questions based on having manufactured numerous products in the past and am called on to consult for numerous companies that make various products today. My hope was to offer help. Not condemn you.

So I'l try again:

How much do you think these will sell for? A reasonable question as I see from what you've said so far that you will be putting a bit of effort into the construction.

How much do you think one will weigh? I'm concerned because the rule of thumb is after about 15 pounds a light stand can't hold much. Already you are using diamond plating. Add the guts , a balast, a clamp to fasten it and I thought this might be a heavy fixture and that will be a problem for most folks. Worst kind of fixture is one that falls and breaks constantly. Especially when you've sold twenty and twenty people called you and said your design sucks as it knocks all the stands over unless you bag them real well.

And finally, I want you to have success but can tell you if you think you can put a cheap ballast in these and get long life, you will learn something the hard way. The key ingredient to a successful fluorescent is the ballast and in these portable types of fixtures that ignite a lot and travel a lot ballasts can be trouble. So I figured it would be economical for you to make a head and let someone that has a reliable ballast fill in the blanks. TRust me, you don't want things returned as maintenance can kill the best designs. I'm watching you make a huge effort to make a fixture and already you seem to have bought eh farm on connectors, and I don't know what else (but the video shows you spent some money as yo have bags of connectors). My best suggestion for you is to make one, see if it works, put it in some folks hands and then see if they want it. Only then should you make a big purchase. There are rules to manufacturing whether you are a major corporation or a mom and pop garage outfit and regardless, if you break them you end up loosing money, not make it. You're making a few mistakes as I see it and I'm simply trying to help. I have nothing against you, just don't want to see you fall on your face just because a few posts said "looks great". Looks great and sells are two different things. I have no allegiance to any company. I simply use lots of equipment and think some is crap and some good and when folks ask, I tell them what has worked for me. YOu asked me about why I stopped making my fluorescent. One of the reasons was that I could not make the profit margin that I needed to make a successful product and cover the overhead (three times the cost to manufacture is standard bottom line). Spending eight hours building a single fixture and selling it for $150 is a loosing proposition. So I'm just asking you questions to make sure your venture is rewarding both monetarily and professionally. And if its just because you want to make them and sell them and don't care about making money, then all the best.
From what I can see, Matt has been pretty thorough in sourcing high quality components for his lights--and that's pretty unusual for someone trying to come up with a low cost product. I'm sure the ballast will be equal or better than the quality of the other components. I mean c'mon, the guy is excited about the quality of the aluminum in his parabolic reflector. Most low cost manufacturers outsource everything to a low cost labor source and cut every corner possible on materials.
<From what I can see, Matt has been pretty thorough in sourcing high quality components for his lights--and that's pretty unusual for someone trying to come up with a low cost product. >

I'd use the term "rugged" over "high quality". Lightweight is an important factor in manufacturing such equipment today. Regardless of cost, no one wants to lug around a piece of metal that needs a big case to carry. There is no reason he could not make a fixture body easily out of many materials such as Coroplast and still use his nice shiny reflectors saving himself hours of molding aluminum and welding, let alone raw material costs which ups his manufacturing time and cost considerably. I just want to see him make a fixture that is comparable to what's out their while being able to charge less. Yes diamond plate looks great on a pickup truck as a runner but realistically it's a bulky thing to carry around in a kit shaped as a light when its easy enough to design a fixture that folds up into something easily transportable, that cost a third to make so you can sell it at a reasonable price yet make a reasonable profit for your time and effort.
Wow... I was stuck on page two and I didn't realize we had more replies. Please read my edited post from page 2. I was a little offended and I'm sorry that I probably came across harsher then I intended. I edited it down a bit.

Walter, I have no problems with criticisms... and frankly, I'm not going about this as a good businessman. I'm doing this because I enjoy creating things and problem solving. The creation is the light and the problem is the lack of affordable options for guys at my production level and below. A few months ago I started shopping for a set of three location flos (again) and I was reminded of why I developed some home-brew stuff years ago. Modern location flos are high dollar!

From a logic standpoint I've looked at the problem in it's simplest terms. Are there functional and practical lighting choices out there? YES. So why build something? What can I provide that's not already available? I think that people (without a budget) are encumbered by two realities. 1) For any decent production you NEED lights. There is no way around it... and 2) If a person has virtually no budget but wants to continue to PRODUCE then they will need their OWN lights. Renting isn't a practical option for a guy who's continuously working for little cash just because he/she loves video... but they still need lights!

So what can I bring to the table? I'm a creative person with numerous skills and I enjoy sharing my modest abilities with others. Those little posts of "looks great" make my day... Perhaps I'm delusional, but I expect the handful of people that try my lights to really enjoy them. If you show me a person who needs lights, doesn't have much money, and appreciates the look and feel of something that's hand-crafted (meaning nicely built, but visibly "made by somebody")... then that person will feel like a kid at Christmas when he/she opens this box for the first time.

Truly, I realize there's no "real money" in this for me. There is NO way I plan to triple my investment even though I know that's normal for something like this. If you want to know the God's Honest Truth of this there's NO way I'll be making even double on materials cost... forget triple (which I know is the norm) and after accounting for LABOR I'm making these for free! So why do it? Hell if I know... I just want to. At the very least I know that when I'm done with this I'll have some really cool lights that I'll enjoy using myself... and if I get a following then maybe I'll raise the price later so that I AM making some money?

I've got a book about Soichiro Honda... and how he built the very first scooters called [the Honda] "Dream" in his garage... maybe that's what this is about.

The bottom line is this. These lights will look cool to me... they will be lightweight (under 7lbs at the most and probably under 6lbs... including onboard ballast)... they will be functional, and practical, and tough... and most importantly they will be cheap.

Now to expand on the bottom line. For a light to be cheap you have to give in the places that you can. Obviously a $200 light isn't going to COST me $200 and take me all day to build... so these will NOT have Kino Flo ballasts or Go-Easy ballasts in 'em... Those ballasts ALONE will cost what my entire light costs! Also a $200 light won't have an "any position" mounting because that also adds $65 to MY cost. This is why I said I'll have to sell these at a couple levels and price things out... I'm not going to do this and have it actually COST me money each time I sell a light. I am NOT a wealthy guy... by any means. All I can guarantee for now is that I WILL have a model that's built with the components you've seen so far... for UNDER $200. Now just how many features I can pack onto that light and maintain that price remains to be seen.

I also wanted to mention that the ballasts have a 5 year warranty... but that's from the date of manufacture... so if you buy one of my lights you're probably looking at 4.5 years... and maybe they'll last 10-20? It depends on how much you use the light and how much abuse it gets... but these ballasts were made to go in a fixture and since the ENTIRE fixture is aluminum it will operate as a heatsink as it lights... so all things considered I'd expect the best... but I'll tell you right now that if I'm selling lights for peanuts I'm not going to offer 4 year warranties... but if the purchaser ships the light to me and pays for return shipping then I'd bet the business on replacing ballasts in the first year... 'cause I don't think it's gonna' be an issue.
MattinSTL said:
I'm not going about this as a good businessman. I'm doing this because I enjoy creating things and problem solving.

now it makes sense. I was looking at it from a business perspective. Thats where we weren't seeing eye to eye.
Walter's cool... As I always say in the audio forum, I'm just some guy... and I mean that.

I am not a major company like Kino Flo or any of the others... so if anybody thinks I'm a CEO or something... here's where you get it straight. I am just a guy... not a company.

I'll have some lights done by the end of next week... I'll post about it and I'll send something out for the moderators and friends to check out...

I'll put something that's 95% done together tomorrow and I'll be testing the hell out of things between now and next Friday... maybe I'll so some more step aerobics with the light ON this time... and the testing sessions will only get worse from there. By Wednesday I'll be in the J's... Javelin throw and Jazzercise...
I agree completely that these fixtures need to be lightweight. If it comes in around 6 pounds with ballast, I think that'll be fine. It sounds like the diamond plate stock is thin, but rigid. I recently bought a Kino Flo Diva 400 and that light weighs about 14-15 pounds which seems a little heavy, especially since the shell is corrugated plastic--but it is a 4 lamp fixture. The Diva 200 comes in at 8.5 pounds, so I think these are reasonable targets to shoot for. A Lowel Caselite 2 weighs 10 pounds with lamps. If Matt's 2 lamp fixture is less than 10 pounds, I think it would be great. The Divas require a fairly beefy case for transport because of their lightweight construction. Something sharp could really tear up that plastic. Matt's lights could probably use a lighter soft case for transport.
Fine... you're just gonna' give me a "fine"...?

Seriously, I'm trying my hardest to make these the lightest weight and highest durability... simultaneously. If I can pull that off... and still have something "cheap"... I'll say that is fine indeed.

I don't know about a case, but you could clamp two of them face-to-face and throw 'em into your van like Bret Fahvre.
Fine? Did I say fine. I meant ducky..that would be just ducky.:laugh: Now clamping them face to face is a cool idea. If you had some sort of clips that could lock a pair together for transport, that would be insanely great.
Definitely consider transport. I think the Lowel CaseLites are the greatest product Lowel's ever come up with. They're 95% of the light the Diva is, but they cost less, use their own integrated hard case, and are half the size of the Diva in its case. That small size and portability is key to the CaseLite's design, and its appeal.

A light without some sort of case is a broken light waiting to happen. But if you can clamp 'em together, and the shell is rugged enough to serve as a case, and they have a handle or some way to carry 'em, that's going to be a bonus.

The CaseLites, by the way, are very dense (meaning: heavy for their small size). Light weight is always a bonus!
Barry... perhaps these lights will "evolve" over a few batches. I have to shear down the aluminum plate from a 5' x 10' sheet that I have to buy (and shear) at the same time. So this first run of 12 or so lights will be the same shape as the clip I showed... 'cause they're already to raw size. As I said earlier I've tried to find the proper compromises through each design and this design is prioritized on function and cost... and small size. My original prototype had a channel down the front that a peice of aluminum could slide into thereby "sealing" the light... but it's nearly impossible to make that small channel precise enough to work right. So I finally dumped that design (for now).

I'm going to do several models and obviously the more pricey designs will also be more convenient in other ways. They will get their absolutel lumens by using two or more tubes and the depth of the reflector isn't as critical... that way the case can be more shallow... which allows other directions, such as the CaseLight approach.

Basically what I've done with this smallest light is I've found that you can get an insane amount of light from a single 55w tube if you have a perfectly designed reflector... shape and depth. My reflectors on this first light are nearly twice as deep as on other lights... the light bounces around in this cavity so much that the tube is nearly lost in the mix... creating a much larger emissive surface then is actually there.

So this "cheap" design will be what it is... and it's small enough that transport won't be a problem... plus it will tackle jobs that people have been using much larger lights for.

Perhaps I should have got a bunch of each idea done and then suddenly dropped a bomb on the forums... but that's not my style. I like to talk about what I'm doing and get input that will shape future ideas.
Maybe some sort of snap on grill will work to protect the light. The idea of clamping them together isgreat if you have an even number. But if you don't, you still need to protect the light. They lok rugged as hell 3/4 of the way around. If you can find a simple way to cover the face, I think the shell would still work as it's own case.

It's all about evolution Matt. That's why so many things never get done: people want them perfect from the gate. You are better off making the ones you have and soliciting feedback. Make your changes based on that. Obviously it's a good idea to think something out as much as possible, but you are avoiding the paralyses of analyses. That's a good thing. You are definitely on to something.
Wow, that reflector really helps. The light seemed a little bluer with the reflector on. Maybe that's because of the walls.
Yeah, do you like how my living room walls are Chroma Key Blue? It's not my favorite color, but it's better then Chroma Key Green.

Now I have to say that the light isn't blue and the reflector doesn't make it blue... the reflector is ultra-pure anodized aluminum and the light is 5500k Kino Flo...

Isn't it amazing what a difference a really high quality reflector makes? That's why I'm not compromising on anything... the reflector is as good as a second tube! Wait till you see what happens with a reflector AND a second tube... Also, when you get a chance, put your DVX on F4.0 and see what any normal room looks like... now check a dark room... If I would have opened the exposure up then everything would have been overexposed... even the dimmed clips.

Even without a special reflector these lights work great at normal F-stops... completing the design results in a 55w powerhouse... This is about light output, not increasing watts and heat... so the reflector is as important a component as the tube!

There's a reason why the Kino ParaBeam costs nearly double the price of a Diva... hmm, could it be... THE REFLECTORS! (say like the Church Lady)... and of course there are other quality factors... but in the Kino brag sheets, where they say the ParaBeam "can sweep back the darkness for a four person news desk"... I keep thinking, "yep, I'm way ahead of ya' on that"... The ParaBeam kicks ass because of the PARA-bolic reflectors.
Do you plan on designing an actual parabolic reflector? From what I saw you have a basic reflective cave, but a parabolic uses an actual mathematical parabola as the shape of the reflector (curved, no solid walls). Greatly increases light output (in a relatively tight beam), although I don't know how much a parabolic would add over what you've already got. Any reflector helps increase intensity, but a parabolic seems to be optimal for focusing light and getting the maximum output.

The ParaBeam has a parabolic for the vertical, but no reflector for trapping the sides, so you get two types of light out of it depending on whether you have it oriented horizontally or vertically. It's a pretty tight beam on the vertical, but the horizontal sprays light like any fluo.

Here's another idea for you: have you considered designing a "deep" light, to get some actual throw out of fluo's? That could give you a unique market position. I've got a couple of Lowel Scandles to complement my CaseLites, and with the big cone reflector on them, they actually have a little punch, which I was surprised to discover. The CaseLite with its mirror barn doors actually puts out more lumens in close proximity, but it's a wide spray of light that loses intensity quickly. But one of these Scandles, with the collapsible cone reflector, can actually light up a house across the street -- not brightly, mind you, but it does have a noticeable impact. The deeper the reflector, the more focused in one direction the light beam will be, meaning less falloff. I always thought a circular PAR fluo would be an interesting light design; the Scandles seems to be the closest thing to it so far, but I really like your price point. Basically trying to get somewhat of a fluorescent hard light. To do that though, you'd probably have to use a different type of light -- I don't think a 2' x 2" biax would lend itself to the right type of shape, you might need something more like a spiral CFL.

Anyway, looks good, put me down for a couple!
Barry G... the clips I've shown so far only depict the outer aluminum shell and the MATERIAL that the reflectors are made from... if you notice the shape of the light (by viewing the end) you'll see that this is, in fact, the direction that you suggest. Thank YOU for making your points! I needed somebody to grasp what I was trying to explain as people are stressing compact and portable as I'm stressing DEEPER and more effective!

Yes, these WILL have a parabolic reflector. I chose not to show one yet, but you can see the DRAMATIC effect that it has when I just hold one behind the bare tube... (see my previous clip of the "cheap flo")... the aluminum "box" you've seen is just that... an empty box... Just wait until you see one of these "loaded".

I bought a 350 pound tool just to form the parabolic reflectors... I'm pretty darn serious about the reflectors in case you didn't notice... (laughing)...

I like the fact that it's FREE light... no extra heat, power, or tubes required! It's just the increased cost of a better design...
Hey Matt, wazz happenin', you ok?

Hope you didn't have an accident with that 350lb tool for forming the parabolic reflectors!