One Colorful Step at a Time

Posted: January 29, 2009 in Art and Design
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I miss the simplicity of low voltage halogen lamps. Must be getting old… A lamp, socket, transformer, a few bits of shiny metal, a switch from anywhere, maybe a sliver of glass, a transformer, couple lengths of wire… clean and simple. LED projects are a bit more complex, especially when you want to incorporate color in the mix. I tried a few white only LED designs and found them… well, common and boring. I’ve retrofit most everything to LEDs, from decorative to work lighting using white LEDs, my office is 100% LED now, the house is now 75% LED, 20% CFL, and the remaining halogen lamps, soon to be disappeared in favor of new LED products of my own invention. This has all been fun, but the end result is not that much more than I had, short of the energy saving. This is not what I believe in, it’s just the easy way out.

So, the next step… 

…. has been to bring some color into the formula. This is where things get truly interesting. Dimming a monochromatic light source is easy. Add some color to the mix and the world goes from flat land to three dimensions. Doing the deep dive into this means getting the electronics books out, digging through web sites, reading and learning a lot about controls and electronics. It also means a lot more.

The only solution is to create a controls system that incorporates drivers. While there are a few on the market, most depend on wiring to a DMX controller, or other similar system, or RF radio remote control, which is unnecessary. This is the proverbial wall in the application of color with LED products. While in the entertainment and effects business have no issue with controls systems, the general illumination market, and typical residental application rarely utilize such things. This means a compound cost increase in the application of LEDs, on top of hassles of wiring.

In any change proposal, when the pain of adoption exceeds the perceived value gained, there will be no conversion (other than the obvious color entertainment and effects market). White LEDs suffer only a cost pain, application of color inflicts mortal wounds at this point in time. Until this is resolved, there will be no real adoption of the color/intensity potential of solid-state, and the industry will be left to fight with the energy efficiency weapon alone.

That said, I’m developing my own solution to this problem, so I might put all of the advantages of solid-state technology to work with far less pain. In the space of just 2 1/4″ x 4″ x 1/2″ I have developed a driver and control package for 4 LED channels of 18 watts each, tunable for 350mA to 700mA constant current. This will allow me to control either a matrix of R-G-B-W, or R-G-B-A, or any combination of whites and color I want to put to work. When this is finished, I will make it available to others with similar desires. By using simple software and an EEPROM, control can be set up for automatic effects, scene presets, fades, or manual control of any combination of color and intensity one might desire. If anyone is interested, contact me, and I will keep you up to date on progress and availability.

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