Archive for December, 2009

12/30/09 – This is the first of 52 designs for the year. I thought about posting a drawing or rendering of the complete design at the start, but what is the fun in that? Instead, I’m including a few sneek preview details that will be included in the final design. To see what the finished product, both in-process and completed, you’ll just have to follow along, or wait a week. Design One is a fixed head architecturally styled task lamp for a desk or side table. It’s going to be around 20″ tall and extend 28″ horizontally. It will use a Lynklabs 12″ SnapBrite LED strip with 12 Tesla LEDs, powered by the companies BriteDriver 12VAC power supply, provided as samples to me by the company. This will deliver roughly 200fc onto the task surface. The finish will be black textured and matte white high reflectance powder coat (my own formulation), with satin and polished aluminum accents. I plan to get most of the rough cut parts machined this weekend, so stay tuned!

01/04/10 – All design, machining, and mock up of rough components completed. Ran into a little snag finding a proper switch, so made my own from a proximity control and Delrin block. Had to remake the block at the top of the main column three times due to the length of the drilling horizontally for the support rod which went in straight and came out off center. Also fussed with the length of the arm –  cut hree inches off it to balance the appearance of the assembly. Man, is it cold in the garage where my machining equipment is. Had to take a couple days off due to temps in the single digits, which makes the oil so stiff the machines struggle. The rest of the process can be done in the sheet metal and assembly area, which is heated. Going to have to get a better heater in the machining area.

Starting the January 1, 2010, I will develop 52 new products at a pace of one per week. One new design, conceived, developed, built, finished and lighted, each week.

Self-imposed rules:

  • Each product will use parts purchased from readily available off-the-shelf sources for LEDs (most will be mounted on star-boards or packaged strips and arrays)
  • Drivers and/or power supplies and optics will be production products available off-the-shelf or made from scratch (optics).
  • Products will include white or color, or a mixture of both
  • Components will be made by me, in my own shop facility, including machining, metal fab, welding, polishing, powder coating, or other necessary operations
  • Each product will be as unique as possible, no iterations of a theme to stretch one design over several weeks
  • Each end product will be offered for sale through the Lumenique Product Center
  • While the primary focus is on portable products, this does not limit the development of products that are wall or ceiling hung, if the mood strikes
  • The primary focus is on indoor lighting, although this does not preclude the occasional outdoor concept from being explored
  • No cove lights, strips, recessed downlights, or retrofit lamps will be considered or included

Beginning on Friday, January 1, 2010:

  • I will post updates as to activities underway
  • Each design will be developed and rendered in RhinoCAD 3D as a “starting point”
  • Follow up photos of progress will be included in postings periodically through the week as parts are made
  • The finished product is to be completed and posted on Thursday of each week

Dose of reality: There will likely be occasions when scheduling of work and/or travel will preclude the completion of a product in a given week. These disruptions will not disrupt to deployment of products. To maintain pace, in the week(s) prior to and/or following the disruption, additional products will be created simultaneously to catch up and maintain a total rate of one per week by year’s end.

So, for anyone who thinks that LEDs are not “ready yet” – this is where I hope to demonstrate 52 uses, in hopefully interesting and unique forms, without no custom electronics, hard tooling, or expensive development processes. In other words, making LED products like we once made halogen low voltage toys – the simplest and most straightforward path to cool.

So, let’s get ready to rumble in the SSL jungle!

Oh and to make this a little more interesting – Anyone interested can suggest or offer an idea they would like to see included by submitting in response to daily postings. These may even be pre-purchased (at the option of the requester, with my acceptance) through the Lumenique Products Center as part of the request. Manufacturers may also offer samples of product to be included into the designs (with proper acknowledgement of course) as long as the products provided can be readily acquired.

For the cynics – this could be perceived as a blatant self promotion effort, where I draw attention to myself by taking on such a scheme. So what? In the storm of SSL as we live it today, at least this will be more fun than another announcement of legislative hurdles hurdled, grand trillion dollar projects completed, or world record performance attained in some dank lab somewhere. I also have a bit at stake here, as it requires I can actually spawn 52 interesting designs that I can actually build in the time allotted at my own expense. You could also look at this for what it  really is – an enthusiast exploring the technology at a moment in time when such exploration is the most exciting. There is not likely to be another confluence of conditions in the lighting market like we have in hand going into 2010, so now is the time to take the deep dive and just see what happens. I can warrant that I do not have a library of ideas from which I will tap. This will be a real-time process of ideation, development and realization in its raw unrehersed form. Call it what you wish, its going be hard work no matter which way its sliced.

A little History…

Stay tuned...

I am personally exhausted with the constant barrage of PR hype clowns that have invaded the entire SSL market space, it’s like a bad virus that feeds on active brain cells like some zombie brain eating monster that insists on howling at the top of its lungs whenever it thinks its done something interesting. The lighting market has always had a little bit of a stomach pit inducing illness, with claims made that are silly and obviously not founded on the reality normal humans are forced to exist within. However, what has been happening over the last 5 years coming from the SSL universe is an all new illness, it’s far more aggressive, and more painful.

Part of this is due to a change in paradigm regarding marketing. In the past, lighting companies employed in-house marketing people, who used local marketing agencies to place ads, or do some graphic work on catalogs. I know, as this is the function I performed for three leading product manufacturers for almost 20 years. We communicated to our target audience through reps, catalog sheets, web sites, trade shows, and an occasional letter campaign. Few actually used big PR agencies with broad marketing campaigns aimed into the wind. Know why? Simple, they are really expensive, so were never even considered as affordable, let alone useful. Most have zero knowledge of the market, think that that lack of knowledge is not an issue, and cost more for a few press releases than most total marketing budgets for an entire year. It takes the funding of venture capital to back a company with the funds needed to spend what they do on PR, while at the same time producing the need to broadcast their message to the world at large to support investors who are outside this market. The result, we now have a pile of non-lighting PR agencies with bullhorns, blaring whatever their customer companies (also non-lighting people) tell them is news to our once relatively quiet lighting world. The resulting din is akin to a neighbor who can’t seem to listen to music without cranking the dial up on an expensive amp to “11”. To make matters worse, the music selection is like bump-bump rap, the same noise, over and over and over, drumming and pounding messages of efficacy world records and earth shattering performance that will save the planet from certain destruction by incandescence, and fluorescence.

To make all of this even more painful, is that this virus is unpredictable. One day I get pounded with three releases that when exposed to the light of day squirm off the screen and hide under a table.  You’ve seen them, the claims of a 12W LED product with a CBCP of 4,000, and 800 lumens beating a 70W Ceramic Metal Halide producing 22,000 CBCP and 2,100 lumens – or the claims that the LEDs used will last a lifetime, or that if everyone used the product, our teeth would become whiter, and our skin smoother. Anything goes here, from claims of efficacies of 180 lumens per watt (at some stupid CCT), to performance comparisons that are simply fiction no matter how you look at it. Then, the next day, you get an interesting release about a color control system that, well, oddly enough… actually provides something useful and interesting. Unfortunately the ratio of garbage to inspiration is heavily weighted toward the landfill side of the formula.

The cultural shift that surrounds solid-state is not founded on anything the electronics gurus believe. Contrary to the impression that we are slow-witted laggards, we lighting people will absorb and put SSL, to use,  just as we have every other useful technology that has come before it. When the SSL providers actually produce lighting product (not just the LEDs, not just an electronic gadget, but a real live luminaire product) we will find uses for it, IF it works, produces a benefit beyond just using LEDs, and if the price makes sense in balance to the benefits realized. By this, I mean benefits in lighting terms, as we define it, not in terms of PR baloney, engineer pipe dreams, or marketing department trickery – I mean in real terms, using real data, real photometric tests, etc… The electronics gurus give us too little credit here, and don’t see where the real culture clash is founded – a huge difference in the perception of money.

The difference between an SSL start up and a lighting industry start up is spectacular. The vast majority of lighting industry startups began from the personal checkbooks and savings accounts of individuals, who worked their way into a market one step at a time, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, and rarely with much fanfare from expensive marketing entities from New York or Chicago executive towers. We are talking about real world, grass roots, dirty hands startups. Solid-state startups, at least by the time we see them, have a lot more money at hand… a lot. Most have more cash from venture capitalists than most lighting company startups realize in total sales after 20 years of effort. Having a starting fund of $20M is not unusual in an SSL startup, while I personally know of dozens of lighting manufacturers who started with less than a few thousand, scraped out of personal savings.

The result of all of this, like the invasion of South America by the Spaniards, is the spread of SSL Hype Clown Virus. A lyric from a recent Pink! album (Funhouse) illustrates this well… “This museum’s full of ash, once a tickle, now a rash… this used to be a fun house, now its filled with evil clowns….” Unfortunately, behind all this overly aggressive and ridiculous press is a population of really creative technicians, who are making strides and inventing new things we will all come to put to work. It’s kind of like having a best friend married to a loud and obnoxious partner – in the end you avoid them both to maintain sanity. There is a part of this happening in the adoption cycle of SSL. There are more than a few potential customers who are so sickened by SSL HCV they can’t see the great technology behind it.

There needs to be some effort to vaccinate this market from the most aggressive forms of the PR sickness. This can only come from the solid-state providers themselves, reigning in what has become a real evil-clown parade, leaving behind horse apples and associated stench. We lighting people are not going to respond to this positively. We have heard so much trash talk, been promised the impossible, and seen so many ridiculous claims, that we’re becoming deaf to the noise, reducing the effectiveness of any releases going forward anyway. Might as well try a new angle – clarity, realistic statements, backed by independent test results and data we can all put to use. Fire the high power marketing agencies, spend the money on more product, and communicate to us all like the professionals we are.