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TMCNet:  A Look Inside Lightfair

[July 09, 2012]

A Look Inside Lightfair

(Electrical Wholesaling Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) LightFair International 2012, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from May 9 to May 11, drew over 23,000 lighting industry professionals and exhibitors who showed the newest light sources, fixtures, control systems and support products that make up this $19 billion industry. Sponsored by Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), this annual gathering also offered the insight of more than 100 industry experts who taught 72 breakout sessions on subjects such as lighting controls, plasma lighting technology, daylighting techniques and electrical specifications of lighting equipment for designers.

Linear fluorescents account for about 80% of the all lamps used in the commercial sector, and the market has shifted to T8 and T5 lamps over the last decade. For that reason, the low-mercury content, extended-life T8 and T5 lamps and their more efficient and controllable electronic ballasts were important products to see at the show. They continue to offer many of the same features as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), at a greatly reduced cost for both new construction and remodeling. The same is true for HID lamps, especially metal-halide in the outdoor-sector base, which increased to 32% in 2010. Nevertheless, some observers at the show called the event “LEDfair.” The rapid emergence of LED lighting has brought with it a number of challenges. Since an LED chip has a more complex construction than the traditional light sources, many factors, such as the type of emitter, the substrate upon which the emitter is mounted, the optical system and the driver electronics all contribute to performance gains. One company, Soraa, Goleta, Calif., bet that a gallium nitride (GaN) on a GaN substrate would be better than having GaN crystals grown on a dissimilar base, usually sapphire or silicon carbide. This fundamentally different crystal structure of the company's GaN on GaN technology allows the LED to operate at much higher output levels and generate more light per unit of chip material than other LEDs. The first product is a replacement for a 50W MR16 incandescent lamp, matching the MR16 form factor (the same overall length and weight), while using a single LED chip, rather than a chip array. The output has no pronounced blue peak or violet and cyan dips generally found in other LED lamps. Other companies are developing GaN-based blue LED chips (1.1×1 mm) fabricated on 8-in. diameter silicon wafers, which will reduce manufacturing costs due to the larger wafer size.

Along with developments in the chip itself, there have been some important innovations in drivers, too. Osram Sylvania, Danvers, Mass., promoted its PRO-Flex family of constant current drivers, designed to adapt LED fixtures for use in EmergeAlliance-compliant low-voltage ceiling grids supplying 24V DC power. The EmergeAlliance is an industry association promoting the adoption of direct current (DC) power distribution for commercial buildings. The drivers feature the flexibility of programmable current levels (from 300mA through 1500mA), and three different user interfaces EnOcean Wireless, 1-10V wired and DALI wired ensuring the best solution for nearly any LED luminaire.

Several manufacturers at LightFair were displaying LED modules that integrate a driver, LED chips, lens and thermal management in a compact disk, and comply with the developing lighting industry standards for interchangeability of LED modules. At the forefront of this development of standards is the Zhaga Consortium, which was formed in 2010 to create standardized interfaces for LED lighting components and now has more than 150 members. Two standards approved so far are a socketable light engine with integrated control gear and a 50mm diameter spotlight with the control gear in a separate housing. Standards are underway for an indoor linear fixture and a non-socketed streetlighting engine. One manufacturer has 4-in. and 6-in. recessed downlights featuring standardized sockets that acceptsa 20W LED twistable lamp (and driver) module from any manufacturer.

GE's Infusion modules are available in 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 and 3000 lumens, in color temperatures of 2,700K, 3000K and 4,000K, and with CRI options of 80 and 90. Philips Lighting, Somerset, N.J., Osram Sylvania and others have similar products.

Another challenge is dimmability and interoperability of LED products. While efforts are underway to address the dimming issue with standards and test procedures, two companies introduced LED lamps capable of incandescent-like dimming. Osram Sylvania showed the Ultra PAR38 lamp with CCT dimming from 3,000K to 2,000K by a combination of blue phosphor-converted LEDs and amber LEDs. Juno Lighting, in its Generation 3 Downlights Series, offers a “WarmDim” feature that uses a microprocessor-controlled LED light engine to add amber chips, replicating the warm color of incandescent dimming as lumen output decreases.

Make Room for Oleds Organic LEDs (OLED) are also edging toward market readiness. Somewhat similar to the LED, the typical OLED is composed of very thin layers of organic materials sandwiched between an anode and a cathode (See Electrical Wholesaling's April 2012 cover story, “Why OLEDs Might Wow the Lighting World.” However, OLEDs are extremely flat panels that produce even, glareless, heat-free illumination over the complete surface, rather than creating concentrated beams of light, the way LEDs work. With a CRI of 85, the output is about 40 lumens-per-watt (LPW) at present, but 100LPW is expected in the near future.

Verbatim, Charlotte, N.C., a recognized brand in the consumer electronics market, showed a market-ready OLED panel at LightFair called VELVE, which has the RGB layers arranged in a parallel strip formation. Because each layer operates independently, a range of colors, including white lighting are achieved. The back of the 146-mm by 133-mm panel has a tonal controller, which provides a wide range of color temperatures from 2,700K to 6,500K. Brightness can be set from 0 to 100%. Universal Display Corp., Ewing, N.J., is working with Acuity Brands Lighting, Conyers, Ga., which currently offers its Kindred OLED pendant, to create a phosphorescent OLED luminaire with efficiencies greater than 70 LPW. It's also color tunable between 2,700 and 4,000K.

Control This Many lighting manufacturers displayed new lighting control systems, but in general, proprietary schemes dominate the field as users await a viable standard. A growing emphasis on controls exists because with each subsequent generation of the ASHRAE/IESNA 90.0 standard the list of mandatory control requirements grows.

With an eye on this standard, the major lighting companies are putting control capabilities (both wired and wireless) into their luminaires (especially LED sources), to allow changes in lumen output based on input from occupancy sensors, switches and dimmers or some other input, such as scheduling software. The ZigBee wireless technology is taking hold among many manufacturers, and the ZigBee Alliance has moved ahead by completing the ZigBee Building Automation standard last year, and more recently, with the completion of the LED LightLink standard. However, some missing pieces exist, since a dedicated ZigBee controller has to be mated with an LED luminaire to create a viable system.

Philips Lighting introduced its standards-based integrated lighting control system called OccuSwitch, which in addition to using ZigBee standards-based sensors, wall switches and area controllers that communicate with each other, also supports BACnet and TCP/IP protocols. This allows the control system to be easily scaleable as needs change in a facility.

Some firms are selecting a building's existing WiFi system as a corollary communications medium. Acuity Brand's nLight (digital) control scheme is primarily a wired network using Cat 5 UTP cabling to create a network integrating daylight, occupancy and manual dimming control, and it's used in a family of Lithonia indoor ambient recessed troffers. However, the nWiFi wireless solution for the nLight control system integrates directly with a building's existing WiFi network, eliminating the need for nLight Bridge devices and the longest and most costly runs of Cat 5 network control cabling, making it ideal for lighting in a warehouse, gym, convention hall or parking garage.

Osram Sylvania's Encellium Energy Management System, a software-based solution for new construction and retrofit projects, has added a number of features, such as sensor and luminaire control modules, wall stations and updated Polaris 3D software.

Enlarging its portfolio of centralized lighting and energy management systems, Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa., showed an app for its Quantum Total Light Management System that controls and monitors the lighting and shade systems of a facility (area-by-area) from an iPad. The Quantum system also has packages for Building System Integration and Central Control to handle all energy management needs. A new sensor sends outdoor light levels to the Quantum system, communicating wirelessly via the firm's proprietary Clear Connect radio frequency technology. Clear Connect, which uses a 400-MHz frequency band, is defined as a fixed network, meaning that a predetermined path through the network is created between any sensor and receiver. Honeywell Lighting Controls also used the Clear Connect RF technology in its systems. Cree Inc., Durham, N.C., recently announced an agreement to embed the Lutron EcoSystem technology on a chip in Cree CR troffers, with other products to follow. This collaborative effort can increase luminaire lifetime 50% and significantly raise lumen maintenance factors.

Leviton Manufacturing Co., Melville, N.Y., continues to expand its communications/controls, energy monitoring and LED illumination products. Using wireless products from EnOcean, the firm offers a lineup of self-powered occupancy sensors, wall switches and integrated wireless receivers that automatically turn lights on or off in the space depending on occupancy, and that require no new wiring in a retrofit application. Wall dimmers can control incandescent, CFL and LED sources, eliminating the need to upgrade as technology changes.

Lumenpulse, Montreal, has a bidirectional powerline communications control system, called Lumentalk, which turns existing electrical wiring into a stable, noise-free, high-speed communications link for data. Each dimmer or control panel uses a device that translates the input signal (0-10V, Triac, DALI or DMX) reshaping it into a digital signal. This technology allows a lighting manufacturer to offer integrated functions such as daylighting harvesting, scheduling, dimming, color control, occupancy sensing, demand response and remote control functions.

Indoor Fixtures More lighting firms now offer LED luminaires that make use of the source's unique characteristics. For example, GE showed an expanded line of flat-panel, edge-lit LED fixtures, available as recessed ceiling troffers, suspended fixtures and wall washer fixtures. The Lumination luminaires distribute light evenly over the flat surface of the panel using True Edge light distribution technology from Rambus Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., a technology licensing company. Cooper Lighting, Peachtree City, Ga., also is licensing the Rambus patent with a line of edge-lit fixtures coming out later this year.

Cree, Ledalite, Osram, Lithonia and others have innovative 2x2, 2x4 and pendant commercial office luminaires with optical systems that offer excellent uniformity, visual comfort and energy savings. Osram Sylvania's RLC22 LED ambient luminaire delivers 85LPW from a round aperture that fits within a 2x2 grid ceiling, and offering three color temperatures and 0-10V dimming down to 10%.

Cooper Lighting's IRIS P3LED recessed downlight, directional and lens wall washer series features a diffused optical system for tight lighting control. The field-replaceable LED array is Zhaga-compliant. The IO LILI 2x2 recessed LED indirect fixture offers three different heat sink designs and features glare-free illumination.

Outdoor Market Numerous manufacturers are adding communications networks to their outdoor lighting fixtures, making it easier to monitor, control and maintain not just roadway lighting but also call boxes, dynamic message signs, cameras, inductive loops and other services. Amerlux's Smartsite Controls integrates pole-mounted LED lighting with a wireless mesh network control systems that manages the light output, audio messaging, music, video graphics and energy usage for street lights and other featured outdoor areas. Several of Acuity Brands' outdoor luminaire product lines offer adaptable control systems using the Roam brand for monitoring and controlling the lumen output of individual street lights in a town or city.

GE Lighting's redesigned Evolve LED Roadway Scalable Cobrahead street lighting fixtures, available in a variety of chip layouts, can serve the requirements of many outdoor applications since the optical system offers hundreds of photometric options. The fixture works with the company's Monitor Stand-Alone Controller, which turns on at dusk, dims at a predetermined time to a preset amount, returns to full brightness at 5 a.m. and turns off at dawn.

Philips Lighting's RoadView LED luminaire can be specified with 32 to 160 LEDs providing the precise light level for any application. Optional dimming, programmable drivers and outdoor control systems add its versatility.

Lighting Science Group (LSG), Satellite Beach, Fla., had a broad array of new products at this year's LightFair. LSG introduced its Forefront LED luminaires, available in area, flood, high-bay, pedestrian and wall-mount versions, which can be controlled by an on-board camera-based occupancy sensor and video processor. Motion detection can be confined to any part of the camera's field of view for operation.

Two other companies with new streetlighting fixtures at the show included Acuity and Cree. Several of Acuity Brands' luminaire product lines offer adaptable control systems that are responsive to the environment. For example, the Roam brand uses a wireless communications network for monitoring and controlling the lumen output of individual street lights in a town or city. Cree showed off an outdoor fixture designed around the LED's specific characteristics, the Beta/Cree Aeroblade street lighting fixture, which has vertically positioned blades that add an aesthetic value; its thermal mass helps dissipate heat.

It's an exciting time in the lighting market, and you can expect to see continued advancement in many of the technologies discussed in this article at next year's LightFair in Philadelphia, to be held April 23-April 25, 2013.

The author has been covering changes in lighting technology for more than 40 years as a writer and editor for Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) and Electrical Wholesaling magazines and is respected as one of the most knowledgeable technical lighting writers in North America.

© 2012 Penton Media

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