The Tasca test mule turned 2 years in continual illuminated state this May. That’s 8,760 continuous operating hours in the cold, hot, and messy environment of the shop in which it lives. It gets abused as well, from tossing greasy rags over it to see what happens when airflow over the heat sink is cut off, to blowing coolant on it until it freezes. There have been several lessons learned in this time. For example, lumen depreciation, captured by measuring the fixture’s output, has been negligable. Losses have been less than 1.2% so far, which means the White Optics reflector and anti-reflective glass are doing their job, as is the Bridgelux ES Array LED. Temperature readings taken over this time have not changed anywhere, which indicates the internal construction attaching the thermal slug to the heat sink is durable and reliable.
While the Mule will remain in service without changes, the product line itself has been updated using lessons learned and incorporating the latest LEDs. The original product consumed just over 15W, delivering 620 lumens, for an efficacy of 41 lm/W when it won the PIA award in 2012. This has improved significantly in 2013, with the latest Bridgelux array, adjustments to the reflector design and updated driver from Recom. The current version now delivers 801 lumens using only 12.3W, for an efficacy of 65 lm/W. This is an increase in light output of 29%, while reducing energy consumption by 17%. In addition to these improvements, a new driver circuit board incorporates screw terminals, making it an easy to replace module should their be a need for maintenance. In fact, the entire product is modular. The head is easily removed from its arm for replacement or repair. The driver is now fully modular and field replaceable. The LED is pre-wired and now uses a GrafTech thermal interface pad, which improves thermal performance, and allows the LED to be serviced (replaced) without messy greases. The power supply – the most likely component to fail in any LED system, is a separate wall plug device connected with in-line DC connector, making replacement simple and fast.
Based on the test results and ongoing experience with the product, Tasca now comes with a 7 year warranty. This is not just for the normal “materials and workmanship” most offer. I am warranting that under normal operating conditions, the product will maintain 70% of its initial light output for a period of 36,000 hours, or 7 years (whichever occurs first). Between this warranty, tough construction, and the modular components, the Tasca work light is perhaps the first and only true long life LED product on the market. There is no reason this product cannot remain in service for decades.
I am an enthusiast for old machine shop equipment built in an era when durability and maintained longevity pre-dated today’s throw-away planned obsolescence. My specific goal with Tasca was to follow the traditional approach to engineering – built in toughness and long useful service life. I don’t follow or support the idea that a product should be discarded when the light inside becomes unusable. I believe in products built to last, testing to verify assumptions are correct, and backing what I make with a warranty that reflects the intended use of the product. Tasca Uno, the work light represented by the mule, is Tasca’s flagship, reflecting three years of continuous improvement and over two years testing.
Anyone interested in having one of these lights in their work space can find them on-line at Tasca where more detail can be found and links are provided for on-line purchasing.
The problem with revisiting something one created many years ago, is that the underlying inspiration or idea has been lost in the winds of change we all go through as we experience ife, the universe, and everything. In my case, I even have a hard time relating to how the original “thing” was even made, having forgot what tools I was using and how I made things before I surrounded myself with tools and doo-daddery.
In the case of this weeks rebuild project, I had thought that a quick trip into the garage, slam through a few pounds of metal and viola! Finished update. Yeah… right. To really get a handle on this thing took drawing the whole thing up in 3D, so I could work through the ideas and concepts without making a mess of things. In other words, this little remodel job has taken more effort than a virgin design – in that it has involved starting with a reverse engineering of the original, then design of new component within the limits of its design vocabulary.
After several days of design and iterative thinking, I think I finally have a plan to proceed. The rendering is where I ended up. I like the almost alien quality of this lamp, and its odd semi-architectural structure, so wanted to make sure that was not buried in some over-thought, overly clean addition. I think this pulls that off. I’m going to fall back on use of (2) Bridgelux 400lm LEDs, as these will produce good light, and are easy to live with in color and soft edged pattern. I’m also employing a couple of finned heat sinks, that will be left black, augmented by some machined glare/reflector cups.1/8″ stgailess rods will replace the old saggy cables.
No, I am not sure about the clips at the glass, but that can be worked out as I get the rest of the parts made up.
Time to get to work now…
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.
Business has been good, and I’m now heading the development of SSL Interactive at Architectural SSL magazine’s web site. This has become a more regular outlet for information on SSL products and the market in general. I hope you’ll take some time to look it over. The link is in the right hand links listing.
Luminus just announced the offering of a configuration that pushes over 4,000 lumens in a single packaged device. The company claims include the use of a Photonic Lattice technology to increase surface brightness and uniformity of the device. The result is a 6mm x 6mm area LED with exceptionally high output.
This all sounds great on the surface (no pun intended), and may be for a few special applications. Here is my own view of products like this:
First: 6,000K is not “cool white” it is beyond daylight white at best and has very limited usefulness for interior illumination.
70CRI is not good enough, period, no matter how much light is being cranked out.
The combination of 6,000K and 70CRI puts the application space for this product in factories, garages, outdoor areas, and warehouse locations, where cost will be a huge issue. The potential for long life may be its biggest asset here, in operational expense over higher maintenance HID products. However, this puts it squarely against 250W and 400W Metal Halide, and 50,000hr T5 lamp technologies – systems all producing well over 20,000 lumens, at very low initial cost.
+/- 32 lumens per watt efficacy is simply not good enough (assuming a raw 34 l/w at a power factor of 75% with a driver/power supply efficiency of 88% and ambient operating temp of 45C). This compounds the thermal design issues raised by its small size . (more…)