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Complexity in LEDs doesn't come from the technology

Dec. 16, 2013
Kevin Willmorth of design consultants Luminique and boutique manufacturer Tasca Lighting, offers his thoughts on building lighting equipment using LED technology

Here's an interesting read on complexity and LED lighting. The author, Kevin Willmorth of design consultants Luminique and boutique manufacturer Tasca Lighting, offers his thoughts on building lighting equipment using LED technology, and how once he started working with it he never went back to the halogens that had long been his preference. From a technological standpoint, he concludes, LED lighting is no more complicated to work with than legacy technologies and its advantages in color range, low heat output and long functional life make it an obvious choice. From a certification and manufacturer-policy standpoint, however, he sees a mess of complexity that is seriously inhibiting the development of good lighting.

So, there is nothing complex about LED technology and its use at all. Any confusion, lack of comfort, perceptions of complexity are simply founded on a lack of familiarity? Well, if only life were so simple. In fact, designing products around LED technology can be a huge pain in the seat. First, there is the painful insistence of manufacturers to make up their own voltage/current characteristics for operating their LEDs. Adding to this is the further lack of agreement on a common footprint. Add to this the irritating propensity of each provider issuing data in whatever form they feel fit, confounding simple selection and comparison. Round this out with the driver market being so confused and fragmented, that it is often the case that only one manufacturer can meet a specification for the desired drive current and voltage range necessary to support a given end product design. Now, we layer on top of this the thermal profiles of small packages, COB arrays, low and mid power packages and arrays, and the effect of thermal interfaces, dimming controls, and wiring issues… This is where the technology not just falls on its face, it smashes its nose into the curbing and comes up a screaming bloody mess of complexity – for no other reason than to support the whim of marketing to hold a proprietary high ground.

That's a taste of this enjoyable, unedited rant, and he's just getting started. Willmorth goes on to spell out the problems created by manufacturers discontinuing products and changing parameters on a whim, with no apparent thought to the impact on lighting fixture designers using their technology to build product lines, then addresses the added complexity of testing and verification protocols most customers demand but few understand. It's a valuable inside look at a lighting technology in some analog of a teenage growth spurt. Willmorth does expect the complexity to shake out, but over a very long time frame. 

Complexity is the Nature of Technology Growth – Part Two: The SSL Perspectiveby Kevin L. Willmorth on his blog Luminique – Inside Solid-State Lighting