I propose that all pursuits of a color quality metric represented in any form of numeric value based on averages of performance over any number of color samples is wholy inadequate and a wast of time. We have been using such a system for far too long, with too many questions and related surrounding quality issues unanswered to continue with such a weak approach. I suggest that we pursue a Lighting Qualities Classification system that encompass eight (8) core variables that are critical to identification and selection of lighting products. This would be represented in a similar fashion as the successful Ingress Protection (IP) rating system already in use.

My concept is that there are three core categories of concern that lighting customers and specifiers want answers to in an easy to use and apply form. These are Uniformity, Color Quality, and for some, Human Factors. A color quality standard, as we already know, is meaningless if uniformity is not known. The current and all proposed metrics for lighting quality also fail to deliver any insight into color tonal shifts caused by Duv, and do not indicate or suggest that all sources of identical result are going to be uniform in appearance. This proposed LQC classification system addresses these issues, representing lighting product performance using data already available from current test results, in a manner that can be applied to select appropriate products for application.

Here is my first raft concept of the LQC classification in a table format, similar to that used to define the IP rating system:

LQC Rating System Table

LQC Rating System Table – Proposed Draft

In this classification system one can expect:

Uniformity Performance – Products from a range of manufacturers, or individual products from any one manufacturer, with a classification of 5 will deliver uniform appearance, while the greatest variations will occur in products with a classification of 1.

Quality Performance – Products from a range of manufacturers, or individual products from any one manufacturer, with a classification of 5 will deliver uniformly high color fidelity, minimal saturation effects, and strong color rendering over the complete spectral range, while the greatest variations and lowest color rendering results will occur in products with a classification of 1.

Human Factors Performance –  Products with a classification of 5 will deliver optimal human visual performance, while those with a classification of 1 will deliver less than optimum performance. This is an optional classification (like the thrd value in the IP rating for impact protection) recognizing that in some applications, human visual performance, either for acuity or to optimize energy use, is not a priority – such as high end hospitality where warm sources and mood/appearance are the primary drivers.

Based on this, decision makers can pre-qualify products based on application needs and requirements. Just as an IP67 rating is unnecessary for 100% of applications, an LQC555 product is not a universal requirement. Here are some examples of application of this LQC classification system:

Parking Garage Lighting – LQC124 will produce a product with minimal attention to uniformity, a good color rendering quality (for identification of color), and a high human factors performance level to optimize energy use and visibility.

Classroom – LQC445 will produce good uniformity, high color rendering performance, and strong human visual system support for learning environments at a reasonable economic level.

High End Retail or Museum – LQC55, or LQC553 will produce maximum uniformity, maximum color performance, and acceptable human factors for the application using warm color sources (optional classification).

Residential – LQC442 will produce a product that suits the majority of fussy homeowners and represents the human factors likely to be available when using warm color light sources

Critical Task and Inspection Lighting – LQC555 will produce maximum performance in uniformity, color and visual performance.

Low Activity Storage (low color demand) – LQC11, or LQC111 will support the most economical light sources and indicates a minimal need for quality over cost.

High Speed, Low Color Demand Task Application on a Budget – LQC115 might be applied,  utilizing TM-24 methods to reduce energy consumption through application of enhanced visual performance, with lowest cost products as a priority

I recognize that a classification system of this type requires more refinement. However, I suggest that this is a robust approach that with minimal understanding, manufacturers can apply this to market products toward specific intended application, while decision makers and designers can select and communicate their requirements through specification of a desired or necessary classification for the intended application.

The application of this type of multiple factors classification system encompasses the core concerns of decision makers,  answers questions not now being delivered, removes the need for decision makers to attempt to hack together evaluations based on data that is not always readily available, and builds a foundation to build products and identify latent demands that are now concealed by the virtual lack of actionable metrics for us all to work from.

Specifications could also be written around identification of a range of acceptable product classes within the three categories. For example, one might  need uniformity to remain very tight, where a specification of anb absolute “5” classification is set. However, that same specification may not require perfect quality performance beyond that, so a quality value might be represented as >2, or indicated as  range of 2-5. Meanwhile that same specification may consider energy efficiency as an important requirement, demanding a Human Factors classification of >4 or a range of 4-5 as acceptable. This opens the door to a wider range of products, from LQC524 up through LQC555 to be applied and offered by manufacturers.

Manufacturers can use this classification system to expose and promote their products performance and its comparison to competition. For example, a manufacturer that is committed to the highest uniformity in their product offerings, at the most popular quality levels, can state that all of their products deliver an LQC of 53 or better, while specific offerings targeting the human factors market space can be promoted as delivering an LQC of 534 or greater, indicating the only area of variability and performance selection is choosing a color metric that fits the application.

Just as the IP rating system is more descriptive than the UL Wet and Damp labeling standards, the LQC classification reaches beyond simplistic single aspect lighting qualities of CRIe or TM30,  that are now creating more questions than answers.

 

Zero Flicker Task Light

Posted: January 21, 2016 in Light Meters, Tasca
Tags: ,
The Tasca task lighting head. My pet project for more than 6 years now.

The Tasca task lighting head. My pet project for over 6 years.

 

When I created Tasca, I had several goals in mind:

  • Strong light output  – Check – 800 lumens is top of its class
  • Smooth wide light pattern – Check – 78 degree beam pattern with no hot spots, no streaks, no rings, >200Fc at 18″
  • High color performance – Check >80CRIe standard @4000K, moving to >90CRIe @4000 or 5000K in latest models
  • No sparkly LED arrays – Check – single high quality COB array source
  • High efficiency – Check – >70lm/W total fixture efficacy
  • Tough and Ready – Check –  examples have been in operation 24/7/365 in shop environments with zero failures
  • ZERO FLICKER – Check – see below

During the development of Tasca, finding a flicker meter was a little tough, so I improvised an oscilloscope and photocell rig that allowed me to see light output modulation. Using this we experimented and tested combinations of LEDs, drivers, and power supplies. I felt the end result was pretty much spot on, as near to the zero flicker from battery operated sources or even daylight as one could get. Yet, until recently, I had not been able to verify this was the case. Enter the UPRtek MF250N flicker meter (review to follow soon). With this, I have finally been able to see how well the Tasca head was performing. I was thrilled with what we found.

The Target

Daylight and the DC LED ideal models to set a high bar.

Daylight and a DC powered LED were set up as our performance target. They simply don't flicker, so using the meter, I tested these bench marks.

Daylight (left) and a DC powered LED (right) were set up as our performance target. They simply don’t flicker, so using the meter, I tested these bench marks. Note that small aberrations in readings (like the frequency of 5 for daylight along with a frequency magnitude of 2.6, or the frequency magnitude of 0.6 with no frequency for DC connected LED), are just that. This happens in all metering to some degree, and are within a margin of error for this meter system.

The Tasca Head Result

The results speak for themselves.

This is Tasca

The results for the Tasca head are exactly what I’d expected. Their simply is no flicker. While the meter indicates a Flicker percent of 000.6, and a magnitude of 0.2,  there is no frequency component, so these are irrelevant.

I was thrilled with the results. It meant several things. First, these metered results were essentially identical to what we got with our shop made flicker measuring rig. Second, the product itself is simply doing exactly what I intended it to do, which is truly satisfying.

Comparisons for Fun and Perspective

As long as we had the meter out, I figured why not get a few more readings for comparison. The results:

This is a T12 on magnetic ballasts. The beast that started the flicker discussion.

This is a T12 on magnetic ballasts. The beast that started the flicker discussion. The wave form shows obvious modulation, supported by poor results in both flicker % and index. The height of the wave shape is evident in the VFMA (Flicker Amplitude) and FMag (Magnitude) readings as well.

 

AC LED

LEDs connected to AC circuits are not a good thing, even this one using additional bits to supposedly reduce flicker. The results are the highest flicker % and Flicker index of any source in this comparison, in every measure.

 

Capacitor AC LED

This is an AC connected LED with big capacitors added in an attempt to fill the gaps. While it reduces the flicker index to some degree, it has no effect on the flicker %, while the odd wave form creates strange results in other areas.

 

This is a retrofit LED

This is a retrofit LED. In general, it does not do a bad job reducing flicker, but is obviously playing a trade off game between cost of driver/power supply and output modulation.

 

T8

This T8 fluorescent with electronic ballast is doing a nice job of controlling modulation, with a very small, impossible to see modulation at the native 120Hz.

P.S. Notes on the Flicker Argument

I recognize that there is a grand debate about flicker and whether or not it is an issue at all. Most of the argument against setting strict flicker standards are put forth by those who seek to market low cost LED products that exhibit flicker of 120Hz, whether that be AC LED product based or just low end power supply components.

There is no case to be made that flicker is a positive component of lighting, and extensive past industry experience with T12 fluorescent lamps on magnetic ballasts, and HID sources used in commercial application, is what started and fueled the discussion of 120Hz flicker as an issue. Complaints of visible modulation, headache, migraine, etc.. have been studied and found to be corollary to  the existence of flicker. Further, studies have proven a connection between flicker below 200Hz having a negative effect on visual performance in schools. While it is true that organizations like NEMA, IES, CIE, and IEEE have yet to come to an agreement as to what defines bad flicker vs. acceptable flicker, this lack of agreement does not indicate there is no issue. In fact, that these organizations have and continue to discuss this issue, against the steady pressure of manufacturers to set it aside, is an indication that there is a very real issue with flicker, that will eventually be resolved – albeit with some compromise included to placate manufacturers involved in standards proceedings. As a member of the IEEE 1789 committee on the topic of the risks of flicker, I can attest to the depth in which this topic has been investigated and discussed, and bear witness to the hundreds of papers written on it and its effects on vision and human physiology.

In my own opinion and recommendations to others, I ask one question – If there are sources and products available that exhibit no flicker, or flicker of such character as to not be an issue (such as T8 and T5 fluorescent on electronic ballasts, and quality LED driven products), what is the reasoning for continuing to accept any products that flicker in the zone of 100Hz to 200Hz, with a flicker amplitude >0.3 (minimal modulation depth) at all? Any level that exceeds, approaches or shares flicker characteristics with the T12 fluorescent lamp on magnetic ballasts, in my opinion, should be considered unacceptable for any use, regardless of arguments over cost saving. This includes any continued use of magnetic ballasted HID sources for interior illumination and AC connected LEDs (with no flicker mitigation) – as these are all far worse than the T12 lamp.

While in ambient lighting, a weak case might be made that flicker may be of small consequence – I propose that in task illumination, where visual acuity is critical, focus is the goal, and high illuminance and task demands increase the risk of stress, there is no rational case to be made to accept flicker of any level. For this reason, I have focused my attention and effort on creating lighting systems (and sources for components) that present either no flicker at all, or characteristics, such as high frequency operation (>2,000Hz), very low modulation depth (amplitude of <0.3%), low flicker index (<0.05), at all light level settings or dim states. I believe these to be reasonable and attainable standards, and have found no reason to accept poorer performance.

In the discussion of lighting quality, there appears to be a desire to see a simplistic set of performance factors to be met, that can be universally pointed to as “quality”. This is most apparent from fixture manufacturers, who wish to have a set of 3-5 reductive bullet points to indicate their product is a “quality” product. Color rendering is one such factor frequently singled out in this effort, regardless of its relevance to an application.  A quality lighting system is more than the sum of products lumped together into a specification, each defined as quality components, without contextual inter-connectivity. Lighting quality is the result of creating a recipe of approaches, priorities and understanding/agreement that delivers a system that satisfies the end-user occupants, the facility operator, and external influences  to the highest practical level. To this end, I have attempted below to summarize, in the most reduced form possible, the systematic factors that define a quality design.

There is no magic formula for lighting quality.

  • Quality of applied lighting approaches/systems are defined by room by room, that establish approaches to:
    1. Lighted spatial appearance, image, aesthetics
    2. Glare/brightness control
    3. Color selection and performance factors
    4. Natural and artificial light integration
    5. Visual performance support and enhancement
    6. Time and space connectivity and relationship
    7. Controls operation and function
    8. Energy use and efficiency
    9. Operational commitment – short and long term
  • Prioritization of lighting qualities requires careful evaluation and consideration of the following considerations:
    1. Practical needs of those occupying spaces
    2. Type and character of visual tasks involved
    3. Human factors (demographics, condition, etc.)
    4. Desire to support/enhancement human health
    5. Sensitivity to flicker and/or color variation/distortion
    6. Comfort of occupants
    7. Available budget (energy and capital) initial and operating
  • To deliver a quality lighting system/solution within the priorities and approaches defined above requires:
    1. Recognition that energy efficiency is not a quality of light, but it is a component of a quality lighting system
    2. Understanding of both the visual and non-visual effects of light on humans
    3. Understanding that the subjective and objective measures of quality are defined by appropriate application within established priorities and goals
    4. Recognition that human occupants are not singular entities that can be lumped into averaged assumptions.
    5. Understanding that the visual environment is a blend of objective need, subjective perception, and practical limitations that cover a broad range of requirements and perspectives.
    6. Realization that “lighting” quality factors must be resolved in concert with non-lighting features within spaces that enhance or detract from quality lighting in isolation.

Within each of these reduced descriptions lies a depth of detail that can be applied depending on the level of priority established. For example, for a space focused on task accuracy, consideration of human factors would require digging deeper into age range, physical condition, etc… to establish the demands on task lighting and the need for flexibility to accommodate the range of occupants anticipated. The dynamics of design may also place all of these factors in whatever order is appropriate to establish a quality end product in context to the practical definition of the project involved.  In truth, the most important factor in realizing a quality solution is the quality of the approach taken and how completely it includes consideration of the range of factors, considerations and priorities involved. The more superficial an approach is, the less likely the result will be of high quality. This does not mean that quality designs need be overly complex, or time-consuming, it just means that a conscious effort to balance these considerations is what defines a quality end result.

While we might all agree that glare control is important, in some applications selecting the lowest glare product may be less important than selecting a higher efficiency product. Glare is also dependent on viewing angle and movement dynamics that cannot be universally represented by a set of features defined as “quality”, outside the context of application. High color quality is not a universal requirement – ranging from highest priority to nearly irrelevant in low demand transient occupancy. Enhancement of human visual performance can be critical in high demand tasks, yet be of minimal value in low demand transient spaces. Lighting for visual effect is meaningful for some applications, or generally irrelevant. Human factors, such as supporting visual performance, as well as mood and health enhancement factors, are naturally a component of all lighting systems designs, as lighting exists for human consumption, with no other purpose beyond this context. However, the degree of effort invested in enhancing the human experience varies greatly, from critical to merely supportive. For these reasons, and many more, lighting quality cannot be reduced to a simplistic set of universal factors, out of practical context. Lighting quality is achieved through prioritization and spatial end use delineation that establishes factors that, when met, define a quality solution and end result. The deeper one digs into the needs of end users and how light effects them, the greater the opportunity there is to create a quality experience, thus, defining a quality lighting system.

IALD Departure

Posted: December 28, 2015 in General Commentary
Tags: , ,

The following is not directly related to the work of solid-state lighting, but does reflect a situation that others have found themselves in related to organizations and the industry that solid-state lighting exists within. I offer it as a personal insight and experience with one of lighting’s major organizations –  perhaps offering comfort to others in similar situations.

1985 – Proud Associate Member and Optomistic Young Professional

In 1985, after working as a lighting designer and electrical systems designer for 4 years, completing numerous lighting educational courses independently, through GE and Sylvania, and the IES, I felt it appropriate, and timely to join what I believed was the ultimate brotherhood of lighting designers. I carefully completed the application with proper supporting documentation for that time, and was accepted as an Associate member of the IALD in June, 1985. My goal was to continue to advance my skills and capabilities and do what I could for the lighting industry, as well as my lighting customers. When I achieved 10 years experience, I planned to submit application for full membership. Lighting was my job full-time at this point, and I was an enthusiastic young professional looking forward to making it a long and rewarding career in what I found an exciting and inspiring industry.

My first IALD certificate. For me a symbol of belonging to something larger than my individual efforts.

My first IALD certificate. For me a symbol of belonging to something larger than my individual efforts.

In the intervening 9 years from 1985-1994, I was active as a lighting designer, but also began working with manufacturers to produce products the market needed. This included consulting design work for Marco, Capri, Winona Lighting, and several others, designing products for customer specific projects, as well as general designs targeted at retail application. Finding it continually frustrating to find products with the qualities I needed to complete lighting projects, I was drawn into more and more product design work. I was in good company, as this was the time when folks like Bill Lam, Silvan Shemitz, and numerous others had moved into product development to build better solutions to lighting design problems. This path was the path of the great Thomas Edison, who acted as product and application design entrepreneur in an effort to not only promote product deployment, but improve lighting as a whole. I saw no conflict in the pursuit of both lighting application design and product design and development simultaneously. I made every effort to insure that when any potential conflict of interest arose, I informed the customer, and either withdrew my participation, or excluded any manufacturer  I was working with at the time from consideration – which was a little paradoxical at times, since the products being developed were specifically targeted at application customer needs.. But, I accepted this. As a career, in this same time period, I was torn between consulting work and working as an in-house designer for manufacturers. I decided to try the more direct relationship with Winona Lighting, in 1989, as Director of Design. I continued to provide a limited amount of Lighting Design consulting work, after assisting a friend take over my major customers still active as a lighting consultant. This was a particularly difficult choice to make, as  I was President of the Las Vegas Chapter of the IES at the time. I was compelled to make the move based on the exciting potential of bringing products to market that met the needs I found unmet as a designer, while still actively engaging with application customers independent of Winona, and through Winona’s interaction with some of the most well-recognized lighting consultants in the USA. This led to my moving on to Visa lighting with a similar position, but larger organization, increasing the potential for offering greater reach of viable product solutions.

1994- Discharged as an associate member of the IALD.

The letter below arrived shortly after I moved to Milwaukee, WI to work with Visa Lighting:

For a young professional, letters like this, without any review or communication prior, are taken personally and with gravity.

For a young professional, letters like this, without any review or communication prior, are taken personally and with gravity. This letter came with no warning or other communication to verify the eligibility conflict or learn of my position. 

My Response

I was stuck pretty hard by his. Especially as it came from the blue. I was not contacted by anyone as to the truth of what was “brought to (their) attention”, nor was I given an opportunity to defend my activities, or efforts, on both the product side as well as the application design side. This also came as a blow in that I had been assuming that with 10 years experience, I would be qualified to apply for full professional membership, where perhaps I might become more involved in bringing what I was learning and doing to bear in an organization I felt represented my real core interests as a lighting designer. My response below reflected both my thoughts and feelings at that moment:

This was my response to the letter from the IALD, reflecting my feelings and position at the time.

This was my response to the letter from the IALD, reflecting my feelings and position at the time. There was no response to this letter of any kind, nor had anyone in the IALD contacted me, then or since.

1994 thru 2015

For several years, stung by what felt like a rejection of my contributions by an organization I held in high regard, I abstained from pursuing the IALD, stopped promoting the organization. At some point, the creation of affiliate status allowed me to reconnect. I was asked by several of my technical customers at the time whether this was a way for them to contribute, and in review, and with no other alternative, I re-applied for affiliate status, very reluctantly, as it did not represent my activities as a design entity that delivers both product and application project work with equal vigor and interest in connecting end use need with products to fill those needs. I was also drawn to membership in the LIRC, but found myself feeling useless as a very small voice in a sea of corporate marketers, so resigned from that activity soon after. In 2006, I moved from employment with luminaire manufactures and rebuilt my firm Lumenique as my home for all activity, which includes the mix of application design, product design, consulting to end-user owners, and manufacturers. I also make a line of my own task lighting product. I never bothered to redress member positioning, as I am still a bit put off by the way I was tossed to the curb so many years ago. The luster of the organization has been tarnished for me personally, so I have remained a an affiliate, paying the dues, but not actually actively promoting or maintained any real involvement with it.

2016, a New Year

My dues payment comes at the end of each year, which is now. In review of my feelings about the organization, the position it has boxed me into (without a single conversation with me personally), and any benefit I see in remaining in this state of limbo of sorts, I have decided to pass, and allow the affiliate status lapse. Over the years I have witnessed the organization back the NCQLP LC program that awards LC status to sales representatives, manufacturer regional managers working for manufacturers who have never designed a single project, and numerous others who have never headed a design project, or ever worked directly for an end use customer, architect, interior designer, or design build contractor, beyond a sales role. I have seen the LC tag on letterhead and signatures of individuals I know for a fact have not a single clue what is involved in lighting design. How can this be the case, when being associated with a manufacturer (including sales channel members) results in a persona non-grata status as a member of the IALD itself? I have also seen the organization give the cold shoulder to some truly stellar potential members who once saw it as a pathway to deliver new value to the community, and show open hostility to the growth of emerging new technologies.  I accept that the IES has filled its ranks with sales, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and contracting members – overwhelming the ranks of actual “illuminating Engineering” professionals, this has been its makeup from its inception. Conversely, the IALD has been playing the part of exclusionary organization, while offering credibility to those who cannot qualify as Associate or Professional Membership in the organization itself – by its own hallowed by-laws. These, and other odd experiences over the years (won’t bore anyone with the details here) has left me feeling it is time to change.

Time to Call it

This all said, and still with some reluctance, I have decided to move on from direct support of the IALD as an organization. I remain a full supporter of the Lighting Profession, and all those who are engaged in the work of building a better industry as a whole. I remain committed to providing editorial content that inspires fresh thinking and insight, to delivering assistance to manufacturers interested in creating valuable products to lighting customers, to lighting customers seeking excellence in lighting performance, and advancing the knowledge of new entries into the market in both application and product levels. I remain committed to the lighting industry as my home, as I am uniquely connected to it in so many ways.   I do not need the IALD to do any of these things, and the IALD has shown it does not desire me as a participant in what it does in its own efforts in these directions. Thus, it appears there is a very real “disconnect of interests”.

I am a bit saddened that I was never able to have any impact or contribute to the IALD in a meaningful way beyond paying annual dues. While I accept that some of this is my own fault for not making a more direct plea or effort to change any of this,  it is very difficult to get past feeling the fight taken out so early in my three and a half decade long career in light – combined with being reasonably busy doing what I do – taking priority of time and energies directed elsewhere. I am sure both the IALD and I will do just fine pursuing our own destinies, individually and separately, while traveling the same paths into lighting’s future.

So, in the words of Douglas Adams, I say (to the IALD) “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Virtual Facilities Tour

Posted: December 15, 2015 in Facilities
Tags:

After  a month of moving and settling in, we are now up and running in our new facilities. We’ve got room to move around, space to lay out projects, and our equipment is now properly set up, powered, and fully operational. This affords us to produce the level of quality we strive for, and opens doors for expanding capabilities. This is just the beginning of my personal effort to explore delivery of product and service of distinctive character and value. It also affords me the space to experiment, play, and create unrestrained by the cramped quarters we were operating out of in the home-based facilities. Believe it or not, most everything you see here in the tour was crammed into our home until the first week of November. It’s a work in process. As we add capabilities, as well as do a little lighting remodeling, I’ll post updates. Stop in and visit!

This is our conference/training/demo room. We'll be offering small courses o SSL technology here, as well as using it to brainstorm customer solutions and demonstrate new ideas.

This is our conference/training/demo room. We’ll be offering small courses o SSL technology here, as well as using it to brainstorm customer solutions and demonstrate new ideas.

The training room looking into Angie's work space. She likes it dark with a lot of task lighting, something we are working on now.

The training room looking into Angie’s work space. She likes it dark with a lot of task lighting, something we are working on now.

Yeah, its just a hallway. But it is also an exhibit space. To the left is a lounge for relaxing.

Yeah, its just a hallway. But it is also an exhibit space, and storage for small parts that need to live in a clean environment. To the left beyond the bookcase is a lounge for relaxing with video. The door in front of the bike is #5, which is the electronics area.

This is just a partial view of the electronics and electrical test area. To the right (out of view) is our glass and plastics lab, while behind the camera is inventory of small parts and customer components.

This is just a partial view of the electronics assembly and electrical test area. To the right (out of view) is our glass and plastics lab, while behind the camera is inventory of small parts and customer components.

My office also houses the 3D printers. They need the clean/warm space to work best, and I like having them close.

My office also houses the 3D printers. They need the clean/warm space to work best, and I like having them close.

This view of the shop space shows the main space with sheet-metal fab in the center/right.

This view of the shop space shows the main space with sheet-metal fab in the center/right, working clockwise from the lathe to the left, mills, paint/powder coat, welding, tools with anodizing line behind, wood shop to the right, just out of the frame. We’ve intentionally left floor area open to facilitate large project mock-ups and assembly at the front and rear areas of the main floor space.

More

From the opposite corner looking down, lower right is the wood working space, sheet metal in the middle again, lathe and mills beyond. The anodizing line is on the right center, and is being set up to run clear, black and red, with other colors added as we need them. This also shows the shop lights that are on the agenda for replacement with something less “classic”.

Last shop view from floor level

Last shop view from floor level. This shows space we have left intentionally open for WIP materials and shipping/holding area. The rest of the space will likely fill up as we add more needed tools/equipment and racking for storing materials.

So, that’s a few of the spaces we’ve set up for ourselves. There are other rooms, like our confidential customer storage space, and the plastics/glass working room, printer space and various storage rooms. It is all being tinkered with as we go, and is likely to evolve over time as we come to work in it more. The photometric test lab remains in its original location at home for now, just a few minutes away. It is all a massive improvement over having all of the equipment shown here jammed into half the space. We intend to make use of this to create all manner of new fun things heading into the new year. Hope to see you drop by and say hello!

 

 

The recent press release announcing Philips, Cisco, et al,  joint venturing to deploy and build Power over Ethernet (PoE) networks in lighting is going to fuel this discussion and create a stir, without a doubt. In the press release, all the current hot buttons were pressed with vigor, from App controlled lighting using smart phones to ties to the Internet of Things (IoT). The picture painted by this release, presentations on this topic, and other articles floating about, indicate a future where lighting breaks its bonds of wiring to be free to serve us all in magical, never before realized new ways, using less energy through magic DC power, finally severing us from the drag of AC power. It’s certainly got folks talking.

At the recent LED Specifier Summit in Chicago, I was asked by no less than 8 people what I thought about PoE, and whether it was going to be the next big disruptive innovation to strike lighting. Concurrent to this were phone discussions with technology providers and fixture manufacturers, asking similar questions. It was hard not to think that something was going on, as everyone seems to be all quivery about it. The problem is… I am not so sure what all the fuss is about, and whether anyone is really thinking this through. I like the concept of a distributed network style, low voltage DC lighting infrastructure. It solves fixture design issue, and presents intriguing possibilities for integrating controls, lighting and the IT universes together in ways our current system of isolation-in-high-voltage simply cannot easily address.

Advantages Impossible to Ignore

As we move into more electronics integration into lighting, it is hard not to look at the IT universe, and its capacity to deliver data in both wired and wireless networks reliably and effectively throughout large areas. It would be phenomenal to have that same level of inter-connectivity between controls and controlled lighting, with each fixture set up with its own address, and simple software interfaces to allow any fixture to be controlled by any control or population of controls, in addition to responding to global data, like time of day, light conditions, even weather conditions. No more stupid controls circuits where lighting I don’t want on is left on, because its hard wired to another I need to remain lighted. The concepts of Human Centric Lighting, and even those of the far-reaching Semantic Light concept cannot be obtained without a layer of control sophistication the existing lighting market struggles to deliver. HA! I just injected two more hot-button topics the press release had not even mentioned….

The inter-connectivity of a lighting infrastructure that has close ties to the IT universe, Bluetooth utility, wireless network visibility and access also solves issues of controlling portable lighting, specifically at the task level, that are normally plug connected with no wired control connection. To be able to address these products as components of a larger lighting package and system would bring them finally into the picture as more than accessory add-ins. In this, energy code compliance could integrate all forms of light, from portable to daylight harvesting, into one unified total system, monitored, commissioned and controllable using a single controls layer.

While there is movement toward higher and higher voltages in LED packages, the fact remains, LEDs themselves are low voltage devices. Distribution of remotely controlled, current limited 24VDC, or even 48VDC makes more sense with LEDs than any other source, and resolves a great deal of the issues of packaging driver, power conversion and light source into luminaires. Portable, surface wall and ceiling mounted products could become much cleaner and slimmer, freed of housing chunks of non-luminous hardware. Dimming control within this proposed data biased infrastructure would be far more consistent, and tunable to match human visual response, with far fewer compromises to electronic interaction and proprietary hardware interference.

Further, the idea of the IoT is pretty fantastic as a concept. Having lights not only controlled locally, but to external data sources has some interesting implications. From daylight following to being able to send someone a message that includes a “lighting” message is intriguing. To have a web site not only present a video on-screen, but control the room lights in response to the presentation at various points has real potential for video conferencing, especially when tied to white light tuning – HA, HA! I just added yet another hot button topic to this discussion.

I’ll dump a couple more hot topics into this. The discussion of AC driven LEDs and the entire flicker issue (hot topic alert), is essentially eliminated with a DC infrastructure. The issue of lumen depreciated luminaire life ratings ends, as we could adopt one of my favorite concepts – Lumen Priority, where luminaires deliver steady state illuminance over their lifetime, with reactive control to modulate current to overcome lumen depreciation of sources and dirt accumulation. The IoT would create an opportunity for this type of control to be globally monitored, allowing real-time collection of light loss data for all to utilize in future product development.

Of all the advantages of a PoE foundation to lighting that intrigues and interests me most, is that it could finally end the mish-mash of proprietary controls, generic controls, 0-10V, Ecosystem, DALI, DMX, Zigbee, Enocean, Triac, MOSFET, leading edge, trailing edge, 1%, 10%, 20%, etc… etc… that makes creation of product and lighting system functionality a nightmare. One infrastructure, one controls foundation, all products connected to remote current control power, portable and building mounted, landscape to roadway…. end of story. I am IN!

Problems that Can’t be Ignored

First and foremost, distribution of low voltage power to lighting products is a bad idea. Edison lost the DC battle, because DC stinks in distributed power systems. Tesla and the AC power grid is efficient and can support long distribution distances with minimal losses. Anyone who believes any different needs to revisit the library on this topic. Voltage drop cannot be ignored, as it is a power robbing parasite. For example, a 24W luminaire connected @120VAC, 75 feet from its power source over #12 AWG wire, experiences only .09V drop (.07%), adding up to .02W load, or .08% power loss. Even if the driver losses 5%, the total is just 5.08% total per luminaire. That same 24W luminaire tied to a DC power supply, 75 Feet from its power source, over #18AWG wire, experiences 1.53V drop, (6.83%), adding up to 1.53W load, or 6.38% power loss. If the driver at the head end of that circuit is 98% efficient, the total loss to feed that luminaire is up to 8.38%… not exactly a loss anyone is going to embrace. To eliminate the cable loss, to get it back to the 120VAC level, would mean running #6AWG to that DC fixture… not exactly a savings in distributed power hardware, nor practical in any sense of the word. Oh yes, lets not forget that the existing infrastructure of commercial lighting is not 120VAC, it is 277VAC, where the voltage drop, number if circuits involved, etc… are less than half what most of the marketing materials for PoE show as examples and cost analysis. Marketers doing what marketers do I guess.

So, really, the idea of true DC is really dead before it is even born. However, all is not lost. DC LEDs are not actually DC, are they? DC power is usually attained using switching power supplies which can deliver AC at a frequency of >20KHz. Now, the issue of DC (which is not DC at all) simply evaporates. In the aforementioned 24W luminaire, at 24VDC, over 18AWG wire, operating at 20KHz, voltage drop is now only .31 (1.29%), adding up to just .06W, or 1.2% loss. That’s not hard to absorb in the grand scheme of things, so let’s just say forget the DC thing, and look to high frequency AC circuits, since LEDs really run just fine in this type of system – perhaps better that straight DC in many cases (another topic). This is also perfectly compatible with any Ethernet system concept, since the design of that entire infrastructure is around digital data frequencies at higher speeds than that. It also makes use of PWM or PAM control of current delivered to the luminaire simpler still.

Next, let’s talk hard wiring. If anyone believes that the ideal solution to wiring lighting is to had it over to the IT, low voltage cable tossers, they need to get on their coveralls and pop a few ceiling tiles. I have had many experiences with the absolute  mess these folks think is acceptable cabling practice. Look at the spider web of cables, unsupported, running this way and that over ceiling tiles and through walls. It is a disaster now. In fact, it is so bad, that when a computer drop, phone cable, or camera line fails, they just abandon it in place, throw another cable through the plenum and down the wall, and call it a day. Now, add a run for every 24W of connected lighting load, router boxes and hubs tossed around among for good measure, redundant cabling to cover failures and miss-wiring… it is going to be an absolute, without a doubt nightmare. This is also not going to be simply accepted by code authorities. About the time the PoE revolution is beginning to heat up, there are going to be meetings and codes re-written to resolve the emerging and expanding mess of unprotected, un-supported, and disorganized wires running this way and that. There are cities everywhere that demand low voltage cables be run in pipe, for a reason. This will apply to lighting run on PoE networks as much as it does fire alarms, clocks, camera, and data today, so claims that this is not an issue, are simply incorrect. The savings of running wire in pipe for a low voltage system over line voltage are only in the cost of the wire, and perhaps the pipe size – the labor and hardware remain the same.

About installer expertise. In virtually every instance I have been party to related to LED product failures in the field, it has come down to installer errors more than any other cause. Everything from wiring line to low voltage connections, cutting off connectors and miss-wiring controls (power to 0-10V control input), arcing from live wire connection, etc… While PoE appears to resolve some of these, as the connectors preclude anyone goofing up the circuits, the fact remains, almost all of the cabling that will be run will be made from raw cable, with terminations made in the field. Than means there are more than ample opportunities for bad cable connections, broken wires, broken connectors, cut cables, etc… The idea that the IT players already experienced in this type of connection will take over from union labor paid electricians is, well absurd. Take it from someone who has had more than a few run ins with the brothers, they are not going to just let go of the work and accept this new development without being heard. How they will be heard is through the local inspectors, who will be encouraged to make code adjustments to keep the peace. It has happened before… look at the example of how EMT pipe came to being, to take the pipe work away from the plumbers unions. While I am sure there are pundits who will insist that those days are over, that the contractors have less power now then they did back “in those days”, I suggest they revisit the transformation of the market from  design/contract to design build, to see that contractors have more power today than ever to influence what is and what is not acceptable in their universe.

More on the installer base. Forgetting issues of control, the real issue of moving toward PoE will come down to installers qualified to install these new systems. There is a lot of training to be done, information to be distributed, and buy-ins to be obtained between now and full implementation. I am seeing classes, certifications, and other programs to deploy this in a way we can all depend on. None of this is even on the agenda from what I am seeing, but the concept is also far from settled and in full swing… so we’ll see.

The issue of disruption and the perceived need for it

Do business owners perceive of a need to see a massive disruption to the way lighting is connected and distributed today? No they don’t. You can show them all the wonderful presentations about energy saved (most don’t care a great deal), you can espouse the wonders of flexibility (they don’t actually understand how things work now, so this has not point of reference to work from), and you can attempt to excite them with promises of great new capabilities (they are not demanding)… and the end result will be no change at all.

There will be a few example case studies of large profile projects displayed, usually enjoying their slice of the new frontier at deeply discounted prices just be used as window dressing. That is not a revolution. The revolution comes when the customer is demanding and absorbing the new thing at a rate greater than those producing it can keep up with. That requires widespread active interest, which is founded on a general consensus of perceived need. In a market that just barely accepts that there is a need (mostly to comply with the law) to change from T12 lamps to higher efficiency bulbs, who see LEDs only in the vein of Edison socket replacement lamps, who are not absorbing other much simpler, easy to apply controls products today… it is hard to believe there is any ground swell of unsatisfied demand pointing customers to the doors of those offering PoE as the next big thing in light.

For new construction, on projects that involve Net Zero (another hot button!) concepts, or LEED, or publicity related something or another, there will be opportunities for PoE to show its stuff and demonstrate its coolness. How much this inspires the rest of the market to get in line, vs. eliciting a blank stare and a yawn, will have to be seen. I can see it going either way. I personally like the concept from a design vantage point, but am skeptical it will ever really catch fire and make a big difference overall. In the end, I am afraid it will just become one more controls system in an overly messy, over-populated universe of controls approaches. Soon enough, there will be another hot button concept proposed to get excited about, putting us all further and further away from the solutions we really need… and the cycle will start once again.

I truly hope I am wrong.

 

Lumenique started life as an artistic outlet for me as a lighting design consultant back in the late 1980’s. It has evolved and been transformed several times, with small offerings of products from stress bars for BMW cars, to lighting TCO calculator spreadsheets. In 2006, Lumenique become my full time business and home focusing exclusively on solid-state lighting. When I mean home, I mean that literally. Since then, it has grown to absorb so much space, the line between business and living spaces have become muddled. Further, we’ve run out of space for works in process. This has created a significant bottleneck in operations, where we have been limited to just one project at a time, simply because there was no room to accommodate more. This is a bit ridiculous, as that means not only have we extended the time to complete projects, equipment we have accumulated to serve customers often sits idle, while other projects are cleared to make room. Further, space limitations kept us from pursuing projects that were of any scale larger than a few units at a time, or of small scale, as we had no space to assemble, pack and complete the work beyond that scale.

To resolve these issues, Lumenique and Tasca (solid-state work lighting) are moving into a new facility that will very shortly become the base for all of our business activities. The new space includes proper offices, conference/training, and production spaces. And, most of all, we will have ample working space to allow us to engage in numerous projects in parallel, to reduce production cycle time and increase capacity to serve new customer demand. There is even a secure customer storage room to conceal sensitive projects, and storage space to hold inventories of raw materials to allow us to reduce delays in project initiation waiting for raw materials to arrive. This will also allow us to increase the scale of projects we can engage in, in both quantity as well as physical scale. The new facility is also located in an area surrounded by electrical and electronics suppliers and vendors, and material processing vendors (water jet, laser, plastics forming, etc), expanding capabilities beyond our in-house capabilities.

In the next few weeks, I will post more on the new facilities. We’re completing detailing and the myriad of tasks involved, from making electrical connections to moving equipment, now. There are also going to be several interesting projects for converting the shops existing conventional lighting to solid-state, where we are going to exercise our creative muscles in creating and adapting products to make the space a showcase of ideas for bringing lighting product and application forward with solid-state technologies, from light sources to controls.

Stay tuned for more details to follow on this exciting move!

Sneak Preview - We are located in the first unit (left end) end unit shown here. More to come!

Sneak Preview – We now occupy the first unit shown here (end unit with all the windows). More to come!