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Getting to know more about HBLEDs (Part 1)

Posted: 14 Jul 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:HBLED  illumination  indication  LED 

Part 1: A Brief History of Light

The introduction of useful white-light High Brightness Light Emitting Diodes (HBLEDs) has captured the fancy of not only the engineering community but also the financial community over the past seven to eight years.

Press releases have described how these new devices will render obsolete the 140-year-old invention of Thomas Edison and that the future is now. In fact, there is a recently published book, by Jane Brox, on the history of artificial light. The book was summarised in an 8/1/10 Boston Globe article as The Incandescent Lamp: An Obituary.

The Internet today is packed with hundreds of companies offering HBLED products of one kind or another. Furthermore, many component makers and design consultants—for LEDs, lenses, power supplies, heat sinks, control circuits—have an agenda—nothing wrong with that—but they are unlikely to be an expert in all the companion elements and they certainly are not going to tell you things which might be limitations of their own products.

There is evidence that, because LED technology has evolved so rapidly, there are actually very few people who really understand all the technical interactions beyond a superficial level. Unfortunately, customers are also confused, whipsawed, and otherwise befuddled by the various claims being made by the many firms now hoping to cash in on this increasingly evident technology.

There is extraordinary potential here for energy savings, new functionality, longer product life, and greater reliability. However, in order to separate the steak from the sizzle, we need to look at some of the lesser-known physical principles and manufacturing technologies that make HBLED lighting possible and at some of the irksome issues not talked about.

Hopefully, the following commentary will put a few developments in perspective and provide an understanding for some of the aspects of the market that are not usually evident.

The lighting market: A two-part equation

In a discussion of the lighting market and the potential for HBLEDs, it is important to make some fundamental distinctions. They will not apply to all market categories but can safely apply to over 95 per cent of the areas of opportunity. First of all, we can divide the market into its two principle areas: Illumination and Indication. Even the hearty souls involved with the alpha-tests of fire as a light source made the made this distinction.

Illumination is that kind of light, which helps us view our surroundings or perform tasks better. Indication is that kind of light, which informs or alerts us relative to the status of something or otherwise provides us with information. They are as different as night and day and it is critically important to appreciate the difference.

Applications involving illumination fall into three subcategories: a) general area lighting, b) directed lighting, and c) backlighting. The applications where light is used for indication include a) panel indicators and b) messaging.

Table 1 provides a way of looking at the HBLED market in a little more detail. The items marked with an asterisk (*) show where HBLEDs have enjoyed their principal successes. It's interesting to note that until 2011 there was not much change in this makeup over the last seven to eight years, but there has been accelerated movement since.

TABLE 1: The Lighting Market Broken Down by Application

General Lighting

Incandescent room lighting

Ceiling fluorescents for offices, factories, stores

HID lamps for factories, warehouses, streetlights, ballparks

Portable Lanterns

High Bay Lighting for warehouses/big box stores/factories

Directed Lighting

Track lights





Studio Lighting


*Commercial signs

*Cell phone, camera, automotive, and other large LCD displays

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