Effect Of Led Technology On Lighting Industry

B S Praveen, CEO & MD, BAG ElectronicsLocated in Pune, BAG Electronics is subsidiary of OEM Electronics which focuses on creating economic, sustainable and smart electrical products and solutions using advanced technology and highly skilled manpower.

ED lights, although first invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak Jr. of GE in the U.S., really became popular, just around 5-6 years ago, globally. Prior to that for almost 55-60 years, the Fluorescent (FL) technology ruled the roost. The old Incandescent bulb (in its present form with a tungsten filament) which became commercially available at the beginning of the 20th century, still is around and in huge numbers, mainly owing to it is very low initial cost of buying. The FL and the Incandescent lights had one thing in common they needed certain parts which were specific to them, and these parts needed expensive large scale equipment for mass production. The glass tube of the FL and the glass bulb for the In can descent, both needed expensive equipment, and these could only make those specific products. The tungsten filament also needed specific equipment. Then the phosphor coating and inert gas filling all these are not tasks that can be done by any backyard company. Due to this, only companies with high investment capabilities got into the lighting business, and they dominated the lighting industry landscape for all these decades.

The LED technology, however, changed this scenario drastically. The LED technology basically turned the whole lighting business into an electronic business. The need for having a glass tube or bulb, filled with inert gas, having some kind of coating disappeared. The LED chip, although needs far more expensive equipment than the FL or Incandescent related ones, is something that can be made by a few in the world and distributed cheaply throughout at a very low piece price, and in bulk. The control gear part, meaning the LED Driver, or the FL ballast, was anyway an electronic part for many years now. LED lights do need other mechanical parts like the diffuser, the reflector and other similar to the FL lights but these items can come out of general production equipment used for many other nonlighting equipment. As such, there is no need for a LED lighting manufacturer to invest in a very expensive and specific production equipment.
To set up a luminaire manufacturing company, you need to have some electronic PCB populating equipment, like the SMD machine, paste/glue printer, a wave solder, and some other assembly tables. With this, you can make both the lamp part and the control gear part of the LED light. Rest of the items like the diffuser, and reflector can be easily bought from the general mechanical industry (not specific to lighting). All this is quite well affordable even by a small to medium sized company, and doesn't have a very long payback too. This fundamental change the lack of necessity of investing in specific expensive production equipment to set up a luminaire manufacturing business changed the lighting industry drastically in the last few years, since the LED technology became popular. The market share of earlier globally dominant players, dwindled very rapidly. Their massive investments became suddenly redundant.

The earlier dominant players are either restructuring their businesses, or exiting from the lighting businesses, or selling off their lighting businesses to new and quite often smaller entrants.

The reason being sudden entrance of numerous small, or many other new players into the lighting industry.

Many MSME companies, along with many other nonlighting big companies got into lighting. Today you see, the erstwhile makers of plumbing equipment, kitchen equipment, homewares, white goods, and even companies purely in the finance sector are now getting into lighting. There are numerous small companies coming up with LED lighting and capturing a good part of the market. The earlier dominant players are either restructuring their businesses, or exiting from the lighting businesses, or selling off their lighting businesses to new and quite often smaller entrants. There's lot of innovation in lighting with the advent of low cost LED technology.

You now find lights in many more variety of shapes and sizes, colours and functionalities. In LED, there's almost no standardization. Imagination of the designer and the commercial constraints are the only limits for variety.

Façade lighting is undergoing a big transformation. You see examples of huge buildings now illuminated with various messages and moving pictures all this is enabled by LED technology. Advent of Human Centric Lighting is another enablement of LED technology. Human Centric Lighting is where the whiteness (colour temperature) of the indoor lighting changes, or can be changed. Usually, this ability is used to change the light indoor to match the whiteness of the light outdoor throughout the day. There are lot of companies getting into Human Centric Lighting now. LED technology has enabled Connected Lighting. Now, lights can be connected to other lights, or to other equipment in the building and others to Wifi systems, and Building Management systems. This is generally referred to as Connected Lighting, or a part of IoT. This has become easy to do since the popularity of LED technology in lighting. LED lighting technology is one of the key enablers in the current Smart Cities projects. There are a number of things like Connected lighting and IoT, Energy saving through efficient lighting, using lighting systems more effectively for safety, and using lighting for comfort and decoration have become feasible due to the advent of LED technology. LED technology has not only transformed the lighting industry, but has made lighting a much bigger part of everyday life compared to other technologies, and has influenced many other aspects of life. As such, it can be called as one of the key technological innovations of this century.