It’s an exciting time to be in the lighting industry, as developments are being brought to market at incredible speed. By David Shiller
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he days of residential lighting being only about design are over. Beauty and technology are already combining to create more competitive products, forcing lighting showrooms to compete with technology companies such as Google and Amazon for their share of the residential lighting market.
With the global residential fixture market expected to grow from $27.8 billion in 2017 up to $41.3 billion in 2026 – a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.5 percent, according to a recent report by Persistence Market Research – the stakes are high. This growth is primarily fueled by the projected adoption of smart light fixtures and other technology innovations. If your showroom is carrying some of the latest technology, you’re leaving money on the table.
Fortunately, many residential and decorative lighting manufacturers are adopting these new technologies. Now that LED chips are a relatively mature technology, innovation is occurring in other directions, from dynamic beam control and curved OLED panels to a myriad of new ways that LEDs are packaged and integrated into light engines. Here are six technology trends that will have an impact:
[dropcap]1[/dropcap]Motorized aiming of fixtures:
In applications such as high ceilings, retail display, museums, hospitality, or window displays, frequently changing a directional beam can be difficult or even dangerous ladder work. Several companies have pioneered
the use of remote-controlled motorized beam aiming that makes this task safer, faster, and easier. Two of the leaders are Formalighting in Italy and Nora Lighting in California. Forma Lighting offers motorized beam control on recessed, track, and ground/uplight spots, as part of its MOTOLUX line, and Nora Lighting’s NSpec brand includes its REVO motorized track head and handheld remote control.
According to Kevin Solano, Marketing Manager at Nora Lighting, “Nora’s radio-controlled, handheld REVO remote uses laser technology to automatically position each individual REVO track fixture for precise aiming, up or down, left or right.” He adds, “There are important on-site safety considerations, too. Users no longer need to hire maintenance personnel to adjust fixtures and they don’t need to set up dangerous, high-level ladders – which is a leading cause of workplace injuries – nor hire scissor-lifts to reach the fixtures.”
Curved OLED panels:
Last year, New York-based OLEDWorks launched its curved OLED panels, named LumiCurve Wave. This curved OLED provides even, glare-free illumination from an extremely thin form factor. Ashley Romano, Director of Marketing at OLEDWorks, explains, “The drive behind the LumiCurve Wave was to inspire the industry to think differently about lighting applications. To create a flexible light source that was paper-thin and only grams in weight, our engineers collaborated with the innovative team at Corning to create this panel — and we were both excited with the results.” OLEDs can also be easily incorporated into furniture and other surfaces.
Liquid crystal dynamic beam-shaping lenses:
LensVector has pioneered a liquid crystal lens technology that allows for electrical control of the beam angle. According to the company’s website, “LensVector’s dynamic beam-shaping lenses deliver infinite beam control, allowing designers to design and manage environments and scenes on-demand without mechanical systems, ladders, replacement optics, and replacement lamps.”
Formalighting has combined the dynamic beam control lens with one of its motorized trackheads to permit remote control of the beam angle in addition to beam direction.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is upon us. Lighting is particularly well-suited to host this connected infrastructure because lighting is basically available everywhere and already wired for power — two ideal characteristics for creating smart homes, buildings, and even cities. One of the leading technology providers for residential IoT Lighting is Signify’s Philips Hue. While many are familiar with the Hue smart lamps, Philips Hue also provides smart lighting components to decorative lighting and ceiling fan manufacturers through its Friends of Hue program. Friends of Hue partners include familiar names in the decorative lighting industry such as ELK, ET2, Craftmade, and Access Lighting, all well-established manufacturers serving the lighting showroom channel. (See enLIGHTenment magazine’s March 2019 article entitled, “Eye on IoT” for more information on this leading industry trend.)
Light + Health:
Light + health has become another important and fast-growing category. Most decorative lighting veterans – and even consumers – have already heard about the circadian impacts of light and its effect on disrupting or enhancing sleep, alertness, productivity, and overall health. Less well-known are many areas of active research into non-circadian lighting. For example, a variety of light therapies can be used to treat migraines, chronic depression, chronic ulcers, hair loss, acne, pain relief, PTSD, high blood pressure, and more. (For more information, see enLIGHTenment magazine’s February article, “The Booming Wellness World.”)
Evolving LED integration:
Although LED chips have become a relatively mature technology, the industry continues to evolve different packaging and integration strategies to optimize performance for various applications such as Chip Scale Packaging (CSP). This eliminates ceramic packages and typically applies the phosphor coating prior to dicing the LED wafers. Originally developed for the TV & display markets, CSP is increasingly being used in general lighting due to its smaller size, improved thermals, and lower cost.
Chip on Board (COB) is another area of development. By tiling many LED chips close together in a large ceramic package and applying phosphor to the group, a single high-output light source is created. COB has become the dominant technology for spot and direction LED lighting due to its enhanced optical control.
Driver on board (DOB) engines typically measure a few inches in diameter with both the LED packages and all driver components integrated on a single small circuit board. This design eliminates the need for a separate driver “brick” and is a tremendous space-saver for luminaire makers. The integration of the driver with LEDs also simplifies lighting fixture development and, in some cases, reduces the bill of material (BOM) costs.
A/C LED is a term that generally refers to any LED board, module, or COB that operates on line voltage/alternating current. Many of the driver on boards are referred to as A/C LED because they accept line voltage and no separate driver is required. There is another approach to A/C LED where many LED die are integrated onto a circuit board or COB in a way that adds up their forward voltages to reach 120V. In some cases, special circuitry sends the positive voltage to the chips one way, and reverses (or rectifies) the negative voltage half of the sine wave, without a traditional driver. Regardless of approach, A/C LEDs don’t require a separate driver and can eliminate the driver cost and modes of failure altogether.
With Warm-to-Dim technology, lamps and fixtures automatically become ultra-warm in color temperature when the source is dimmed — and sometimes able to go as low as 1800K CCT. Warm-to-dim is intended to mimic the consumer-pleasing amber shift noticeable when incandescent sources are dimmed. This is especially popular in hospitality and upscale dining as well as most residential environments.
Color-tuning is the technology behind circadian light + health. Typically, it involves combining LED packages of two different CCT (such as 2700K and 6500K) and by varying the light outputs by CCT to allow a controllable CCT range between the warm and cool extremes. In the commercial lighting markets, some fixtures are being sold with this capability and the contractor can select a single CCT at the time of installation, using small dip switches on the luminaire. This approach reduces inventory SKUs for manufacturers, distributors, and contractors. It’s typically referred to as “field-adjustable output,” and it could find its way into commoditized residential lighting such as downlights.
To keep up with the latest new technology trends impacting residential and decorative lighting, look for the technology feature article in each issue of enLIGHTenment magazine.