Published January 27. 2013 4:00AM
Mystic - Harrison Macris wants to make some waves in the boating industry by bringing modern lighting to the fore - and aft.
The 25-year-old Macris, a Stonington High School graduate who went on to earn engineering and entrepreneurship degrees at Boston University, has developed a new lighting system for boats that he says trumps the standard round fixtures with thick glass lenses.
"This is such a special technology," Macris said while giving a tour of his new, all-white office space at the Mystic Business Park that he began leasing just last month for his company Macris Industries.
The LED underwater lights that he and several associates, including older brother Constantine, have developed under the Macris Industries name come in thin, rectangular shapes and are powered by a lithium-ion battery. The flexible lights are housed within a strong composite material with an aluminum core that is extremely impact- and weather-resistant.
"We make them in all different colors," Macris said. "People like blue for their boats."
Ted Kelley of Mystic, a 76-year-old former yacht broker and marine photographer who claims to have "been around the buoys a few times," said he was a bit skeptical when Macris first came to him with his lighting idea. But the more he looked into other boat-lighting options, the stronger the realization that Macris was onto something, Kelley said.
"I realized he had something pretty unique," he said.
Kelley said that while other lights required the drilling of at least a one-inch hole for installation, the Macris product is designed so that only five-sixteenths of an inch is required. The light-emitting diodes of Macris' product mean there are no bulbs to burn out, reducing maintenance costs, he added.
What's more, Kelley said, light is known to attract fish at night, and the LED product puts out a glow that penetrates deeper in the water than traditional fare. Whether or not they draw fish, he added, the Macris lights make a boat look unique - a quality that should attract the sportfishing crowd.
The light strips are created using a proprietary system in which polymers are injected into a mold under vacuum conditions, leaving no air space for materials to expand or contract.
"It works in all temperatures," he said of the light-strip product. "It doesn't get brittle, it doesn't crack."
Macris Industries has a capacity of manufacturing up to 24 lighting strips a day as it gears up for the boating season, and the company is in talks with major suppliers such as West Marine as well as with local marinas and outboard installers to introduce the specially designed lights to the public.
Macris said the lights so far have been installed in about 10 boats, including on the launches at Dodson Boatyard in Stonington, and none has failed. The lights are easy to install because the strips flex with the curves of a boat, he reported.
"The big thing is getting them on boats before they're in the water," Macris said.
Macris, president and founder of Macris Industries, is the sole full-time employee of the company. He said four others come to help in their off hours, meaning many of the brainstorming sessions are held late at night.
"We are trying to bring a young, energetic, startup atmosphere to southeastern Connecticut, after spending time at companies in Boston, Cambridge and New York City," Macris said in an email.
While recreational boating is Macris' initial focus, he said the company eventually plans to expand in a variety of areas, including outdoor utility lights, security and military applications, deep-sea vehicles and search-and-rescue missions.
Macris installed lights onto the bottom of Voluntown Fire Department's search-and-rescue boat last summer in a body-recovery drill at Beach Pond. The rescue team has traditionally used spotlights to try to recover bodies at night in a time-consuming process, but Macris reported that the LED lights were much more efficient and led to a quick recovery.
Macris also foresees the possibility of developing an underwater light with motion sensors that would illuminate the water near a boat when intruders are detected.
Macris said he has decided to take a slow-growth approach to building his company, trying to perfect his product before launching into the marketing phase.
"I'm dedicated to keeping it local," Macris said. "We design all our circuit boards in house."
Lights come in 6-inch, 12-inch and 24-inch strips. The mid-range strip runs about $500 - more expensive than traditional boat lights, but cheaper in terms of the illumination it puts out, Macris said.
Smaller boats will require only two strips of lights, Macris said, while larger center-console vessels with two outboards might need three to five.
"With bigger boats, the sky's the limit," he said.