For the most part, LED work lights on the market today are useless, low grade junk. While there are one or two (literally) fair performing products, none actually replace halogen or CFL lights at all. In fact, the good old incandescent/metal cage shop light can kick the latest tecnologies tails any time. The drawbacks of a scalding hot lamp and metal shroud, lamps that pop at the slightest banging about, and the lack of any directional control are big liabilities for that old incandescent. The fluorescent lamps are not that durable either, with any rough handling resulting in a popped lamp, while start up in cold temps is sloooooooow, or not at all. Color is also pretty sad, making identification of color coded wires under a dash a bit challenging. Optically, the fluorescent stuff just blows light everywhere, often right in your eyes when your working too near one of them, with no way to control it. The LED crap on the market is poor in light output and harsh with their multiple light sources, also of really poor color. They are essentially bad copies of cheap CFL twin tube junk. The only thing to say good about them is they are pretty cheap, and won’t burn your face when lying next to one under a car or in a foot-well.
Design 51 is a work in process effort intending to create a real LED based shop light that can kick the incandescent and fluorescent products out of the tool box, and put the LED stuff from the catalogs to shame. I started with the LED, in this example using a 1200lm Bridgelux LED. I applied a Lidel 50 degree optic to this. In all, at full operating temp, the light head produces over 911 lumens, with a CBCP of 1300. That’s enough power to put 134 footcandles at the center of a worksurface 36″ away, over an area of 72″ in diameter. It also delivers over 1400Fc at 12″, so there is a hi-lo setting to the power switch, to trim light on close up tasks.
Next, since the LED operates at roughly 20 Watts, thermal management was an issue without making the head the size too large to be useful. Not only that, but shop lights tend to be used in a wide range of positions, and in various ambient temeratures. To address all of this, I used a Nuventix Synjet active cooling system. This little gadget generates moving air over a small heat sink to significantly reduce package size and thermal controllability. In this case, after operating for over 4 hours steady in the high mode, the LED never saw more than 70C, and the outer surface of the light head remains cool to the touch.
With a head in hand, I incorporated the LED driver and the Synjet power supply in the main body. Ideally this will be a single electronic assembly, but for this version, its a combination of parts. I also used a remote 24VDC power supply so the cord presents not potential shock hazard, and can be made from very flexible, fire retardant materials. The mounting attachments snap onto the main body, and provide a hook, a magnet base, a floor stand/stabilizer, and a 5/8″ tripod mount for mounting to any lightweight tripod stand. The head itself tilts a fill 270 degrees, so aiming can be made as precise as one might need. I’m going to fool with mounting gadgets as I put this to use in my own shop.
While this is by no means perfect, or economical, it is infinitely more powerful and useful as a professional tool. Something I cannot say for the rest of the LED stuff I have tested and have on hand. I need light more than I need to save a few dollars. I think D51 delivers not only usable light, but new value not available in other work lights of any source.