I have an ongoing project in creating various lighted magnifiers to see small items, inspect surfaces, check tool edges, or just read the micro labels printed on electronic parts or other components. In 2010 I presented one of these gadgets, specifically a device for reading drill bits, using LEDs and a 9V battery. This time around I wanted to create something with more flexibility, more light, greater magnification and a larger aperture. The concept is pretty straightforward, using a light gathering lens with an integrated ring light component. It delivers over 1,740 Fc on the target, which makes seeing the tiniest details readily visible.
Welding creates a serious challenge to visual acuity. The light emitted from gas and arc welding is intense, and contains high levels of both UV and IR light in wavelengths harmful to the human eye. For this reason, welders (myself included) wear helmets and goggles that utilize filters to reduce brightness, strip away the harmful wavelengths, and protect us physically from welding splatter, which is very nasty. Unfortunately this seriously compromises visibility of the welding task and its surrounding. While the arc itself illuminates the surrounding, the contrast between the arc itself and the area around it is so great that this affords little clarity. When smoke and splatter are included, most welding is done within a very poor visual field. In some case, it is done almost completely blind.
Most welding glass passes light in a narrow green centered bandwidth, which is why the view through them is green, to the point of being monochromatic. That means most of the light from any task light used that generates white light will be filtered out along with the welding arc emission. That seems inefficient and reduces the effectiveness of the lighting system to the point of being essentially useless.
To address this, over the last three years, I have been working on a task light that delivers a narrow spectrum green light, centered on the emission of the welding filter glass itself. This means that 100% of the light from the task light will come through the glass – a much more efficient approach. You can download a white paper WIP of my findings and concept at: http://www.lumenique.com/New_Lumenique/Files/Narrow Spectrum Welding Light KLW.pdf
This is a work in process. However, so far, with the same energy applied to an identical white light source, vs. a green light source, the amount of brightness visible through the welding glass is doubled.
There have been a few interesting discoveries in this process:
- The early test mule (shown in the image above), utilized optical reflectors to intensify the beam pattern. I was hoping to amplify the effect of the focused task light into the visual welding field. This actually proved to be less useful than it might look, due to the creation of harsh shadows from the welding gun or torch, so later models have reverted to a more diffused, softer beam pattern, which reduces these effects.
- LEDs act like low efficiency photo-voltaic sources when exposed to high intensity light. This creates voltage back into the driver during welding work. For the most part, this is not an issue. However, with a few drivers I have employed, this effect causes internal failures (not fully explained). I isolated the voltage from the welding area, electromagnetic effects, and all other factors, before testing the theory that some drivers cannot deal with this by applying a small external voltage to them in operation, which duplicated the failure mode. Now I test all drivers under a welding arc, on aluminum and steel substrate (each emit a different spectral power state), to insure this does not create undesirable results.
- When gas welding under the green light, I find the appearance of the flame kernel (main heat source) more pronounced, which appears to be from the increased intensity of the surrounding field. This is a happy development, as it increases visibility of the location of that heat source to the weld zone. There is also an enhancement of the colors seen in the weld pool to a small degree I am working toward intensifying further.
I will be working on this more as time passes, so will update this entry as new discoveries are found. Ideally, working with a welding glass producer to create an idealized combination of glass filer and light source, coupled with a hood manufacturer to mount the light in the welding hood itself, activated by the arc itself would create an even more interesting result. The next phase for me is to prototype such an animal for my own use. Stay tuned.
While designing cool lighting products is fun and all that, there are other areas of lighting development I am involved with. Whether it is UV curing of resins and plastic parts, inspection lights, or special single spectrum light sources and task lighting, it all comes under the umbrella of lighting for me. In this case, it’s about light measurement, particularly in an easy to use, and simple to set up for gathering data for use during product development, as well as verifying and evaluating design changes in process.
While large scale, accredited LM-79 photometry demands the use of expensive and sophisticated test gear beyond the reach of most organizations smaller than a conglomerate, a great deal of accurate data can be gained from simpler platforms. In the past I created a simple desktop Type C goniometer for customers who were creating small light source scale products.
Since then, I’ve built others with similar purpose for manufacturers setting up in-house test facilities on tight budgets. Having access to a goniometer, where tests and experiments can be carried out as part of in-house design operations can be a very valuable tool. It is also an excellent tool for quality inspections, and establishing variations on test results obtained from accredited labs.
For this specific instance, the requirement was for a system for testing fixtures that might be as large as 24″ in height, and up to 48″ in length, with intensities ranging from small low power sources to high intensity optically focused products. The design is basically the same as for the desktop unit, but scaled up to accommodate the larger scale of the luminaires to be tested.
Note that this is a horizontal Type C, which rotates the fixture around a fixed vertical axis, as well as the horizontal axis. This is a common approach to general lighting products, and can produce Type B results as well. However, since every test fixture is mounted with the light source aimed horizontally, including downlights, the results need to be revolved in creating usable IES files to reflect the actual luminaire orientation in use. Further, with SSL products, care must be taken to avoid including errors in light output that might result from thermal effects of mounting a vertically oriented product in the horizontal position for testing. However, in the 9 years I have been testing fixtures in this type of lab setup, I have not found this to be of significant concern. I have also devised methods for revolving the output data to create the appropriate IES formatted file for end use lighting application studies.
The other aspect of making this type of lab setup affordable, is the use of inexpensive light meters. While those in the business of accredited lab testing will scoff at the idea of using footcandle meters or hand held spectrometers for this type of application, I have found, in back-to-back testing, the results of tests done in house are within a maximum range of between +2% to -10% of those attained by independent lab testing services. Meanwhile, tests accomplished back to back between accredited labs using the same luminiares, has returned variations of +5% to -8%, while the variations in actual installed applications have been far greater due to the variance in surrounding reflective surfaces, condition of fixtures, variations between fixtures manufactured, and other factors outside the confines of the fixture designs themselves. So, while I am not saying this simple lab gear will replace independent test lab results (it won’t), I am saying that, if the operator is careful about setting up the test, diligent in detailing the data, and verifying his/her results, tests completed in-house, during design and between designs, can be reliable and valuable, and a significant cost and time saving advantage. The single largest variable that independent and accredited test labs bring to the table is consistency in process, and independent non-biased reporting for end user application. This is not always necessary for every test completed during and after designs are completed.
I have applied a wide range of meters to these types of test rigs. This includes the $100 Probe Fc meters through the more sophisticated Orb Optronix Spectrometer. The more expensive meters do deliver greater fidelity, the ability to capture multiple reading samples for averaging to eliminate error, etc.. However, I have also found that instruments like those I covered in the meter review, all delivered very similar end results. The use of the UPRTek, or Asensetek meters deliver the layer of reading color over angle in addition to standard footcandle readings, which is very useful in LED fixture evaluation. To create a candela distribution table, I use MS Excel and some simple inverse square law calcs.
For this latest creation, I have includes a rail based meter mount, as well as a rail for the vertical fixture platform. This makes setup much easier, in that moving the meter and the luminaire mount along the rails maintains alignment of the two to one another. Rotation of the luminaire in the vertical and horizontal axis is accomplished using CNC mini-mill rotary tables, actuated by remote control. These can be rotated in increments as small as .006 degrees, with 2.5, 5 and 10 being the most commonly used. The vertical axis rotation table is mounted to a large diameter rotary bearing, which can support 600 pounds.
This latest rig I also includes alignment tools. One is mounted to the center of the fixture horizontal axis (a modified rifle bore sight) aimed at the center of the meter’s receptor window. The other (contractors laser line tool) is located on the rail below – emitting a vertical line for checking the zero position of the vertical axis rotating table. With these two in alignment, the rig is set to go. Mount the fixture using adapter plates to the horizontal axis, set the optical source to the center of the vertical axis, light it up and the temperature to stabilize, and start testing. A typical test for in-house use can take less than 20 minutes after the fixture has reached its operating temperature (2 to 24 hours to taste).
There are other small additional components involved. I personally like to connect the test products to a reliable power source. The easiest way to gain this is using a UPS generally used to connect computers to. They are affordable, and offer much more reliable and consistent voltage output than wall plugs do. I also add temperature measurement (a simple Amp two position meter works for most applications – one for ambient, one for fixture hot spot), and in some case room heaters or coolers to attain a stable ambient temperature where this is not inherent to the lab itself.
So that’s it. An affordable in-house Type C test rig. Not a light source, but related to development of them. I use a similar setup for my own product development, along with a cannon style integrating chamber, a small integrating sphere, and some other cobbled together test rigs that have proven to be accurate for relative comparison of results to a known standard.
The Navy utilizes red task lighting at night to preserve vision of bridge occupants during certain operational conditions. I was asked to provide a version of the Tasca work light to be used on the bridge for map lighting, to replace incandescent products with filters they had available to them through the GSA. They wanted white light for supplemental daytime use, and red for operational conditions where red light was employed. They also wanted dimming for both conditions. To accommodate this, I added (2) Ledengin 625nm Red LEDs to the standard Tasca head, which employs a Bridgelux 4000K ES COB array, with a custom diffuse optic. One driver is all that was required, with a three position toggle switch that selects white-off-red. This allows one dimmer to be used as well for either mode. In addition to these light output modifications, they also needed the arm system to be extended vertically 6″, with a swivel mount to a bolt down base. I added a swivel lock as well as an adjustment for setting swivel resistance while I was at it, for extra measure. This is now used on two ships, with more on the way. Continue reading “YOL 2015 – D13 Navy Bridge Tasca Light”
The use of LEDs in agricultural applications is expanding along side visual light and light cure technologies. The technology is even more compelling here for its reduction in energy consumption and lack of heat in the light pattern. The key element of LEDs in this application is the ability to create a specific spectral power profile, with none of the peripheral light unnecessary to get the job done. The light plants need is not the same as human vision. In fact, it is almost the opposite. While we humans with our juice camera eyeballs respond to light in the yellow-green spectrum to see by, our blind little green friends use light in the red and blue ends of the spectrum to activate various chemical reactions to generate food, build cells, and dispose of waste. Continue reading “YOL 2015 – D12 Growth Starter Light”
As demonstrated in D1 of this series, LEDs and solid-state technology are changing more than general illumination. Other instances of applying near UV LEDs with emission to cure light-cure resin composites. We have applied this to replace Metal Halide light sources that require 20 minutes to start-up, and are skin frying monsters. LED cure lights are also more predictable and focus-able than natural light, and can be applied indoors, and less bulky and more powerful than fragile fluorescent cure systems. LED sourced cure lights are now used in printing, dentistry, and commercial production of resin-based composites. We are also applying this on small and large scale applications from the very small (like D1 SLA curing) to larger scale units for curing large objects, like fiberglass repair of boat hulls, custom automotive body panels, and low odor repair of fiberglass bathtubs and shower floors. The use of LEDs produces instant-on high intense light, with much less power, significantly less heat in the lighted pattern, less exposure to hot surfaces, and contain none of the damaging ultraviolet light that does nothing to enhance curing, but is harmful for operators. The use of UV initiated resins offer the advantage of extended shelf life as there is no catalyzed resin to harden in the container and less odor for use indoors. An update with new images and details will be posted here when available.
I am a task lighting fanatic. I use them everywhere, so am always looking for something new to add to my collection. In this installment, I am addressing the need for a light that is compact, delivers intense light (1,200+ Fc) with no glare or brightness, and high color accuracy. The application is pretty straightforward, from soldering station use where a magnifying glass is used, to fine detail work inside or on the outside of models. For good measure, I also wanted it to aim at the wall as a photo fill light, or straight up as am ambient fill light, and have a dimmer to allow me to set whatever level I want for the application in hand at the moment.
With all the practical specifications set out, I decided to let this design be expressive of the gadgetry involved. Let it all hang out. I also decided to incorporate the new Bridgelux Vero LED with its integrated Molex connector, and a Nuventix cooler, just to amp up the tech factor. This is where things got interesting. The Bridgelux array operates at 33.7V (500mA). The Nuventix cooler at 12V. I am powering the whole thing with a 24VDC wall wart power supply. That meant I needed to employ a boost driver for the LED and a buck (24VDC to 12VDC) power converter for the Nuventix cooler. I used Recom components to attain this, and used a cut up experimenters printed circuit board to connect these two to the power supply, the cooler, the LED and the dimmer control. That’s a lot of wires to find a path for, so I decided to leave them to roam free, let everyone see the components as well.
This is a style of design I personally enjoy, and have been doing since the 1980’s, where we made little 12V lamps with fiber optics, MR16s, halogen burners, or automotive headlamps, often suspended from structures made of building wire. In this case, the stand I found at a Goodwill. It was a table lamp, whose shade was gone, and socket was cracked. I liked the cast iron base and single post stand, so nabbed it for a dollar and tossed it in the pile with my other finds, waiting this moment to be put to service.
If you look at the head, the switch is a sliding action, on the left side of the head. Pull it forward to turn it on, push it back to shut it off. A hole in the side of the housing allows you to see the action inside. No, there is no reason for this, other than it seemed more appropriate than an off-shelf toggle or twist switch.
The light on the task surface is at 1,425 Fc, the LED is 3000K, 97CRI.
In playing with the Philips Hue system, we found wireless controls to be an effective means for solving lighting issues we have around the house. One area is the main stair. While the overhead track lighting system does a fair job lighting the art on the walls, it is a bit much when all we want to do is have a little light to navigate by. I also wanted to have the light turn on and off automatically, to provide a level of ease, and to get rid of the issue of forgetting to turn off the stair lighting on the way to bed.
Applying a wireless light, programmed to turn on-off and dim is a great addition, and an opportunity to create a new fixture while I was at it. The added feature of color changing to suit the lighting mode is a serious bonus and a lot of fun. Since the light from the stair itself is visible through a window facing the street, the effect of color here creates an interesting effect from outside as well. This design explores printing translucent materials for creating the shades, in addition to printing the rest of the fixture from ABS overall. The design itself is a bit freestyle, mixing a little Art Deco with Hi-Tech, influenced a little by American Indian… The light source is the Philips Hue A-style lamp, which has been modified through the addition of a bottom shade closure to hide the light source from below. The challenge with this design was to hide any direct view of the light itself, as at night the brightness was too great. I would like to have eliminated the cord connection, but tearing the stair railing apart to drill a wire channel through it was not on the agenda.
Now, we let the light run its program, and don’t have to remember to turn things off when retiring. We can also use the light to create a visual presence when we are out and away by setting different on-off times, color effects, etc… which from the outside, looks like things are moving and changing inside.
Interesting note about color in this application. The very low blue light level makes seeing things in the stair when no other light is present very easy, so the level can be set low. Yet, this setting is easily ignored, and does not feel like a light on in the hall. I’m not concerned about the blue color interfering with sleep or melatonin suppression in this application, simply because the total energy we are talking about is so low (<.1 Fc).
The Purple Light ‘UV’ Cure Cube
While not particularly visible to everyone in the SSL universe, over the past few years one area of interest in LED product development for me has been in use of 405nm LED light sources to cure various plastics materials. The advantages are lower power requirements and reduced overall heat in the cure zone over conventional fluorescent or HID light sources. This has been of particular interest in curing fiberglass resins manufactured by Sunrez. The typical demand is for between 200 and 1,000 µW/CM² at 400-405nm wavelength. The use of LEDs allows us to generate exactly that without the waste of visible light, and longer wavelength power the resins are not reacting to. In one project, we were able to replace a 1,500W HID light source with a 120W LED light system that produced faster cure times with less than 10% of the total power, and virtually no heat added to the heat generated by the resin’s exothermic reaction to the curing initiator. Since then, we’ve built 405nm light cure fixtures ranging from 1,200W to 25W.
In this case, I needed to cure 3D prints we generate on a Form Labs 1+ 3D SLA printer, and do so in an office environment without exposing other materials and occupants to UVA light output. The material used in the print process is acrylic based, with chemistry that is photo-reactive to 405nm. The actual prints are made using a UV laser source. When the part is removed from the printer it is washed in alcohol (91% IPA), rested for a few hours to dry the alcohol off, then placed in this cure cube for an hour or more, depending on the thickness of the final component. The end result is a hard first surface for finish sanding or painting, if necessary, and a more rigid part as a whole (less flexible).
The cube utilizes a simple aluminum housing, with FDM 3D printed top and bottom covers. The top cover houses a single Recom 500mA driver, slide switch and wiring terminal block on a Tasca LED driver circuit board.
5mm 450nm LEDs with a FWHM distribution of 60º, 25 per side and top (125 total), operating at 20mA each, mounted to custom circuit boards sourced at Express PCB. Each board connects the LEDs in parallel, while the boards are connected in series, resulting in a 500mA, 15.4V circuit, totaling 7.7W. The boards and internal exposed surfaces inside the box were then covered with White Optics 98 matte material to increase total light energy and diffuse The light energy at 405nm is roughly 600 µW/CM².
The bottom surface includes a glass plate where the product sits in order to make any possible stickiness of a part from adhering to the White Optic material below.
The housing was powder coated matte black polyester to make clean up easy and the box look nice. The overall interior dimensions of the box are 1″ larger than the total build volume capacity of the printer itself (5 x 5 x 6.5), as any over-sizing is unnecessary. This produces an optimal match between the location of the LED sources and any part the printer can produce.
The Cube is powered by a remote plug mounted 24VDC power converter.
The operation of the box is simple enough. The box is lifted up, the part is set on the base, the box is set over the part, and the light is turned on by sliding the switch to the on position.
Simple and compact is the order of desktop manufacturing, and this fits that model perfectly.
Testing so far has shown the cube can cure raw resin from liquid to fully hardened in less than an hour, and strengthens prints in that time or less. The heat generated from this arrangement is so small, there is no chance of any part being warped or affected by the process, other than the desired results of becoming stronger.
For parts to be left unfinished, that are desired to be used over extended periods, we coat the finished parts in either acrylic or polyurethane UV inhibiting clear coat, gloss or matte. This stops ambient room light or daylight exposure from making the parts brittle over time. I am building a second copy of this cube for completing extended testing of samples of the materials we are using to verify clear coat effectiveness, behavior of the print material over long exposure periods, and the behavior of these low cost LEDs over time. A commercial version of this cube could be made using more robust LEDs, but the costs would be significantly higher as well. In the current configuration, the LEDs only cost $0.60 each, so should they last a couple of years in use, replacement of the populated boards is a simple task, while the cost of higher power LEDs would have increased the cost of the entire end-product by as much as three times.
There is also an additional version of this same approach in using Red/Blue light sources for use in plant seedling starts. We’ve found tests with common rye and barley grasses, the time from germination to hearty growth ready for planting is accelerated significantly. Using an enclosure like this allows the plants to be exposed to intense light for extended periods of time (18 hours or more) without polluting the surrounding environment with the ugly light, just as the enclosed cube protects room occupants from exposure the the UVA light. In either case, the cube can be used in any room environment comfortably and safely.
So this gets us off the ground and is D1 of 52 in the series. As I’ve noted at the start, this is an exercise in making progress, and putting SSL to work. This is not a particularly exciting product in and of itself, but it is one that will be used regularly, which more than makes up for its lack of marketing sizzle for the masses – at least in my book.
2015 is the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies – a United Nations observance to raise awareness of the achievements of light science and its applications, and its importance to humankind.
The concept of pursuing another round of 52 designs in 52 weeks was the original intent for this series. However, the time involved was not available, nor were we able to rationalize the costs involved. The work of the 52/52 2010 was a significant effort, that never truly delivered an ROI, either directly or indirectly. It was a lot of fun and reflected my exploration of SSL technology on a fast track. I’d hoped to attract others in playing along this time around. This never materialized. Faced with going it solo again, I came to the realization I just couldn’t get it done, so abandoned the project. It is a serious disapointment, but did free me the time to refocus on our business and move us into a larger and more productive state and facility, so not all was lost. The original 52/52 designation for the projects has been re-titled YOL, for the Year of Light. Yes, it is a bit of revisionist history, but its my blog and I have that right.. literally and figuratively.
With that in mind, I am still sharing projects being worked on within Lumenique that are exploratory, experimental, or customer project related (when we are allowed).
I combine work with solid-state light sources with another emerging and revolutionary technology we started working with in 2010 – 3D printing technologies. I now have (3) such printers on hand, including a commercial FDM printer, a desktop FFM printer, and a desktop SLA printer. With these, we can now make translucent and transparent prints, including simple optics, flexible parts, and smaller, highly detailed components and mold patterns for casting in metal and urethane. I’m anxious to put these to work in creating interesting final forms. I’ll also be firing up the glass kiln a few times, and hammering out a few pieces in the blacksmith shop to keep things interesting.
In the next few days, I will be posting my first entry to start the ball rolling with something for my shop, that others in the 3D print business may find useful.
That all said, I hope that 2015 has been a great year for everyone!