Second annual Sapphire Award winners exemplify advances in SSL technology - WITH VIDEO (MAGAZINE)

At the LEDs Magazine Sapphire Awards Gala Dinner, held during the co-located Strategies in Light and The LED Show events, true gems of LED-centric innovation were rewarded with a trove of sparkling trophies.

Second annual Sapphire Award winners exemplify advances in SSL technology (MAGAZINE)
Second annual Sapphire Award winners exemplify advances in SSL technology (MAGAZINE)

At the LEDs Magazine Sapphire Awards Gala Dinner in Santa Clara, CA, held during the co-located Strategies in Light and The LED Show events, true gems of LED-centric innovation were rewarded with a trove of sparkling trophies. MAURY WRIGHT and CARRIE MEADOWS report on how the winners stood out in this year’s excellent lineup of LED technology leaders.

Second annual Sapphire Award winners exemplify advances in SSL technology (MAGAZINE)Second annual Sapphire Award winners exemplify advances in SSL technology (MAGAZINE)LEDs Magazine hosted the second annual Sapphire Awards Gala on Mar. 2, 2016, recognizing the top innovations over the course of 2015 in the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sectors. The Gala was held coincident with the Strategies in Light and The LED Show conferences in Santa Clara, CA. The evening celebration included poignant moments such as a video that reflected on the advances in lighting such as connectivity, and that pointed out the disconnect that remains in making advanced LED-based lighting easy to commission and use. The Sapphire winners later proudly hoisted their trophies and were interviewed for a video that has been posted below and on our Sapphire web page. Still, everyone in the packed house of industry luminaries enjoyed a festive night with top entertainment, great food and drink, and a chance to network with their peers.

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The Sapphire Awards remain unique in the industry as we bestow recognition across a broad technology space. Our categories include both enabling technologies that are building blocks of general lighting and other SSL products, and end products including lamps and luminaires in a number of categories. Moreover, we recognize test and service offerings, and LED-enabled products in specialty areas in industrial and scientific applications.

Companies working across the LED and SSL sectors nominated well over 100 products to the Sapphire program, along with individuals or small development teams for the top ‘Illumineer of the Year’ award. Our Sapphire judges ultimately considered products across 15 categories ranging from packaged LEDs and OLEDs to other enabling technologies to SSL lamps and luminaires. We published a short list of the finalists in each category in our February issue and on the website in a slideshow. On Gala night, the best-of-the-best took home the Sapphire trophies after a spirited late-night celebration.

The Sapphire judging panel faced a formidable task with far more outstanding products to consider than could receive finalist or winner recognition. Moreover, the products entered are not easily compared directly even within the 15 separate categories that we identified. We challenged the panel to consider each entry on its own merits, and to judge the entries essentially relative to what might be a perfect SSL product in the intended application.

Again this year, we used a scoring system of 0–5 Sapphires. For a product to achieve a score of 3 Sapphires, the judges were tasked with determining if the lighting product or enabling technology would be suitable for deployment in a commercial application. To achieve higher scores, products were scrutinized for how the engineering and innovation leveraged the benefits of SSL to perform beyond the scope of what has been possible with legacy light sources.

To protect the integrity of the program and to ensure the judging panel is never pressured by entrants in the Sapphire Awards, we will not reveal which judges worked on evaluating which entries. We did take steps to make sure that no judge worked in a category where there was any potential conflict of interest.

As we did last year, we will shortly publish a longer list of the entries on our website including all entries that received a score of 3.5 Sapphires or better. Moreover, we will provide a score privately for every entry, along with some of the judges’ anonymous comments. We encourage all entrants to publicly post their scores in their own collateral and on their websites.

Illumineer of the Year

We will start this description of the Sapphire winners where the Gala ended, with the naming of the ‘Illumineer of the Year.’ This award recognizes a team or individual who has developed an especially noteworthy LED-centric innovation that has the potential to enable higher-quality lighting products with lower product and/or operational costs. The judging process took into account both a quantitative evaluation of the technology for which the entrants were nominated and a qualitative judgment of the contribution that the Illumineer finalists have made in furthering the SSL revolution.

This year’s Illumineer, Brian Chemel, co-founded Digital Lumens with an eye toward the future of SSL being based upon advances in networks and controls that would enable smart buildings. Digital Lumens’ LightRules software-based lighting management system and its accompanying lineup of digital lighting products is an example of the power of intelligent illumination that enables automated systems across commercial and industrial buildings. Digital Lumens arrived on the scene several years ago as a pure-play startup focused on networked lighting and Chemel has led that company to success in what is now considered a mainstream market, but was a nascent market when the company hit the scene boldly promising 90% energy savings.


'Illumineer of the Year' Brian Chemel of Digital Lumens.

The Digital Lumens product and software lineup includes LED high-bay and linear fixtures; both mobile and standard software control platforms, as well as control for emergency lighting; sensor modules; and professional services for lighting projects. Energy-efficient light fixtures illuminate spaces, integrated sensors collect data, and analytics software scrutinizes that operational information, so LightRules and the intelligent lighting portfolio allow facilities to achieve efficient operations and space usage across an entire building. Indeed, Chemel has led the company to enable benefits far beyond reducing lighting power consumption. Chemel’s vision of integrating controls based on wireless network connectivity has led the company to install its intelligent LED lighting system for 1000 customers across the globe.

Indoor Ambient, Track, and Accent SSL Luminaire Design

This indoor luminaire category featured outstanding design characteristics as well as true aesthetic qualities in all of the finalists and even other entries. Acuity Brands Lighting took home the award for the Gotham Incito 2" Family, which includes 2-in.-aperture fixtures for use as downlights, wallwashers, and other lighting applications. The narrow aperture enables precise beam control that is critical to many accent lighting applications, and the relatively small products can fit in tight areas. There are adjustable fixtures, a model with adjustable lenses, and cylinder models. Although the external appearance of the luminaires may seem simple, the robust internal design and quality components deliver excellent illumination in layered-lighting applications. One example might be spotlighting works of art. Lighting is customized to each application with field-interchangeable optics that tailor light levels and beam angles to precision. Some models are capable of delivering up to 1500 lm.


Acuity Brands Lighting Gotham Incito 2" Family.

Connected Residential SSL Lamp Design

The connected residential lamp category was notable in that all of the finalists have products that take advantage of Bluetooth connectivity. That wireless interconnect is becoming a bigger player with emerging mesh extensions, and can enable the addition of other features to a lamp. Indeed, connected indoor LED lamps have progressed beyond simply employing apps as a smart remote to turn lights off and on. Sengled was awarded the connected lamp honor for its Pulse family of lamps, dual-capability smart LED lamps with a powerful hook — the combination of a BR30 downlight with a JBL-based audio system. The original Pulse product enables streaming audio over Bluetooth and playback that is superior to many of the dedicated Bluetooth speakers on the market. The newer Pulse Flex works both indoors and out due its wet-location rating and relies on Wi-Fi technology. The Wi-Fi smart speaker-lamp supports AirPlay and DLNA networking standards, and once connected to the home network also can stream directly from popular Internet and app-based audio streaming services. The Sengled Pulse app enables home users to control the lighting and music by zones with user-specified lighting schemes and audio playback settings for an integrated home audio and lighting experience.


Sengled Pulse Flex Lamp.

LED Drivers

At their foundation, LED drivers provide power to LEDs and the systems in which they are integrated. But the driver is equally important to the LEDs in terms of quality, flicker-free light output and provides the natural spot for integration of advanced feature sets. Indeed, now drivers are imbued with much more dynamic functions, as in the case of the wireless driver developed by Daintree Networks with LG Innotek, which won this year’s LED Drivers Sapphire Award. The integrated driver is engineered to eliminate the need for a separate wireless controller in addition to delivering the constant current required for LEDs. An out-of-the-box wireless control product enables fixture manufacturers to achieve a faster time to market with new LED troffers and retrofit kits, while focusing on simplifying fixture design and eliminating extra wiring. Using the ZigBee open-standard protocol means that any ZigBee-compatible network and software platform will allow machine-to-machine communications based around the lighting system in commercial buildings. Daintree supports the wireless LED driver with the company’s ControlScope networked lighting control and building automation platform. The company says the duo can help lighting manufacturers reduce bill-of-materials (BOM) costs by up to 85% and post-installation energy consumption by up to 90%.


Daintree Networks/LG Innotek Wireless LED Driver.

SSL Enabling Technologies

The supplementary components in LED systems can sometimes be overlooked when it comes to industry recognition. But engineers and product developers know that the optics, lenses, materials, and thermal management components can truly make an SSL product that shines above the rest, which is why Fraen Corporation received the Sapphire Award for its Fraen Nested Lens. The low-profile, multi-TIR (total internal reflection) nested lens is engineered to produce narrow-beam light when employed with chip-on-board (COB) and domeless packaged LEDs. The nested lens format reduces the height of the optics due to its dual TIR elements that create multiple surfaces with air gaps in between to lessen the etendue effect. The reduced height of the TIR lens helps to diminish the space needed in a luminaire to accommodate COB LEDs and provide more room for thermal management and power devices. The lens is designed to improve control of the center beam and reduce off-axis glare. Fraen touts its multi-TIR product for use in PAR20 and 38 LED lamps; downlights, tasklights, and tracklights; and in applications such as hospitality, retail, commercial, and general lighting.


Fraen Corporation’s Nested Lens.

ICs and Electronic Components for SSL

Power and task management of LED systems that are implemented in LED drivers are generally features attributable to integrated circuits (ICs) and other electronic components that provide support for diverse applications. Examples include niche product developments such as steerable-beam automotive headlamps. Texas Instruments’ (TI) TPS92661-Q1 LED Matrix Manager, recognized with the Sapphire Award in this electronics category, is such a device. The scalable controller IC meets AEC-Q100 Grade 1 specification for automotive applications, and can even be designed into transportation and outdoor/commercial lighting and automation systems beyond the intelligent auto headlamp. Twelve individually-controlled MOSFET switches steer current through or around connected LEDs, which enables the controller to drill down to light adjustment at the pixel level — appropriate for the aforementioned steerable-beam designs, as well as various beam patterns and intensity levels. The TPS92661-Q1 IC can control up to 96 LEDs from one serial port and provides separate pulsewidth-modulation (PWM) control for each LED. What’s truly innovative about these features is that the IC can report headlamp failure or damage alerts to the driver via the master controller using open/short fault diagnostics. TI claims a 73% reduction in board space, with the compact device mounting directly to a metal-core printed-circuit board (MCPCB) where the LED array is mounted.


Texas Instruments TPS92661-Q1 LED Matrix Manager.

Industrial SSL Luminaire Design

Industrial luminaires operate under some of the harshest conditions and must meet stringent requirements in order to maintain their integrity and performance. The Sapphire winner for the industrial category, Dual-Lite’s NEMA 4X Dynamo Emergency Light, is an emergency egress LED luminaire designed with dual sealed, heat-dissipating lamp heads fabricated from aluminum to withstand use in harsh environmental conditions. It can also be equipped with an impact-resistant shield for washdown scenarios such as in food and beverage processing areas. The Dynamo meets upcoming changes to California Title 24 energy consumption requirements and includes an industry-first lifetime LED warranty. The environmentally-friendly, long-life battery with a microcontroller-based charger enables the luminaire to deliver a minimum of 90 minutes of illumination after primary power loss. High output means the LED emergency light can be broadly spaced on lamp posts, trusses, or walls.


Dual-Lite NEMA 4X Dynamo Emergency Light.

Modular LED Light Engines

When the intent behind using a modular light engine is to simplify system design with fewer components and reduce development costs, a product needs more special features to make it stand out among the rest. Sapphire Award winner Xicato developed its 90-lm/W XIM (Xicato Intelligent Module) with an integrated driver that achieves smooth dimming down to 0.1% with DALI control and 1% with 0–10V dimming technology while meeting the IEEE 1789-2015 standard on light flicker. In addition to dimming, Xicato has focused its efforts on color rendering and consistency features, using its own Corrected Cold Phosphor (a remote-phosphor technology) to maintain color consistency of 1×2 MacAdam ellipses; the LED modules are reported to stay within 3 MacAdam ellipses after 50,000 hours of operation. (Read more about remote phosphor technology in our feature from October 2013.) The availability of a range of CRIs and lumen outputs and 19-mm and 9-mm beam packages allows fixture designers more flexibility in size and form factor in their SSL end products. What’s more, the XIM products are compatible with connected lighting capabilities including programmable flux settings and wireless communication — for example, Bluetooth Smart, the latest Bluetooth wireless platform that will be available this year (see our feature on page 35 for more information on Bluetooth Smart and its use in networked lighting systems).


Xicato Intelligent Module (XIM).

Outdoor SSL Luminaire Design

Outdoor lighting poses particular challenges when designing for both form and function. But the devil is in the technical details, such as components that minimize glare and enable proper visibility for drivers and pedestrians. This year, Cree’s IG Series LED Parking Garage Luminaire achieves Sapphire honors for its edge-lit optical waveguide design that achieves the low-glare goal. Cree first announced its WaveMax technology for edge lighting and its use in the IG LED luminaire last April. Leveraging the TIR principle in the optical waveguide platform, the microscopic DiamondFacet optical elements release and control light with smooth distribution and provide uplighting that prevents a cave-like effect. To satisfy safety and security requirements in the application, the IG Series luminaire meets IESNA RP20-14 basic and IESNA Security Zone G-1-03 requirements. The impact-resistant polycarbonate and acrylic body weighs less than 10 lb, and the luminaire is available with a programmable occupancy sensor and handheld unit to simplify installation, maintenance, and control.


Cree’s IG Series LED Parking Garage Luminaire.

Packaged LEDs and OLED Panels

Packaged LEDs are indeed a bright spot in the LED market. A rainbow of LEDs, such as the Sapphire-winning Lumileds Luxeon C Color Line, designed for maximum light extraction and the right color mixes can make any color lighting application possible. The 2×2-mm color and white packaged LEDs use a low-domed design for a minimally magnified light source with high luminance. Mixing traditional color LEDs to achieve various color combinations can prove challenging due to varied focal lengths as a result of different die and epitaxy architectures. Customers would typically resort to one type of optic to use with the varied-color LEDs, which resulted in rings of unmixed colors or halos. But Lumileds addressed this problem by offering color LEDs with one consistent focal length, producing its current lineup with red, red-orange, PC amber, green, cyan, blue, royal blue, and white offerings. Additional colors will also be available this year. The low-profile design, Lumileds says, also improves the light extraction to emit a narrow beam with a consistent pattern to support product development for applications such as color stage and entertainment lighting, and even architectural lighting.


Lumileds Luxeon C Color Line of packaged LEDs.

Specialty SSL Design

Specialized applications outside of general illumination may cover industrial or scientific tasks, medical or health-related functions, and more. UV LEDs have been used in sanitizing and disinfection applications, but the Sapphire Award winner — the Indigo-Clean Continuous Disinfection 405-nm visible-light system by Kenall Manufacturing — kills microorganisms to disinfect air and surfaces in clinical environments, helping to reduce cross-contamination from various facilities, rooms, and procedural areas. The disinfection technology has exhibited 86% disinfection beyond current cleaning protocols in studies. Three configurations cover various uses and cost levels: Blended White for overhead light and continuous disinfection; Indigo-Only for disinfection only; and Switchable White/Indigo for changing from overhead ambient light to 405-nm disinfecting light as needed. The LED luminaires can eliminate the need to shut down clinical spaces for disinfection, and work on both hard surfaces and in the air safely and continuously to maintain usability of areas from waiting rooms to patient rooms to operating theaters and beyond.


Kenall Manufacturing Indigo-Clean Continuous Disinfection light system.

SSL Lamp Design

Within the past few years, the SSL industry has determined that in order to please customers and see a greater uptake, an LED lamp needs to be more than a replacement for the incandescent bulb. SSL lamps like the Sapphire Award-winning Soraa VIVID BR30 LED Lamp are now designed to provide illumination comparable in quality and color temperature to that of conventional halogen lamps, delivering precise beams of light that can enhance retail merchandising, for example, or properly highlight the exquisite colors and details of museum collections. Available in 2700K and 3000K CCT, the lamps are compatible with various dimmers and can be used indoors and out. The omnidirectional output is rendered with both CRI and R9 greater than 90. The 730-lm BR30 lamp uses 13W and is suitable for replacing 65W halogen lamps with its efficacy reaching above 60 lm/W. And Violet-Emission 3-Phosphor (VP3) LED technology for brilliant white rendering and accurate warm tones helps end users see the world in a whole new light.


Soraa VIVID BR30 LED Lamp.

SSL Network and Control Technologies

Software applications and digital controls can do more now than manage light levels. Kenall Manufacturing’s Sapphire-winning TekLink Parking Controls provide integrated lighting and controls when combined with TekDek and TopDek LED luminaires for parking garage and lot lighting. The system is available in multiple configurations including non-networked, wired, and cloud-based controls. Control options for various application requirements and budgets range from simple sensor-based occupancy detection to daylight sensing for automated modification of light output. Daylight harvesting is even possible with specific fixture and controls combinations. More robust features such as reporting, scheduling and programming of lighting schemes, and a secure cloud-based, 3-D parking garage GUI offer facilities managers a user-friendly way to optimize energy efficiency and determine appropriate lighting conditions based on data.


Kenall Manufacturing TekLink Parking Controls.

Tools and Tests in SSL Design

No SSL product can be truly ready for market without appropriate testing and quality assurance, and tools and services can help SSL manufacturers speed time to market. Light sources are measured using specialized equipment for photometric and colorimetric parameters that the designer is expected to achieve. Instrument Systems offers the Burning Position Correction for Gonio, the Sapphire winner in the tools and tests category, as an option for its LGS 1000 goniophotometer system. The “Burning Position Correction” option allows the turning luminaire goniometer to be fully compliant to the international SSL measurement standard CIE S025 (released in 2015) and the European equivalent EN 13032-4. The add-on can correct measurements that do not fall within the intended burning position parameters of the device under test (DUT). The innovation lies in the fact that the company designed the method for adding on to existing turning luminaire goniometers, helping luminaire product developers to increase the capability of their testing equipment without the extra cost of new equipment while also improving the accuracy of SSL product metrics.


Instrument Systems Burning Position Correction for Gonio.

Indoor Troffer, Linear, and Recessed SSL Luminaire Design

Indoor ceiling area and linear lighting is especially abundant in commercial spaces, retail, and educational and municipal buildings. The volume of installed lighting presents an enormous opportunity for indoor SSL manufacturers. As previously mentioned, Cree’s edge-lit Wavemax technology produces uniform illumination with high efficacy, but it also streamlines the design of the winning LN4 Suspended Ambient LED Luminaire, available with up to 3400 lm and choice of 3500K and 4000K CCT. The luminaire delivers up to 110-lm/W output in efficacy and achieves CRI greater than 90 using Cree’s TrueWhite technology, which LED product development leader Paul Scheidt explained in an interview at LightFair International last year. Modularity of the LN Series is supported with a standard 48-in. LED light engine and optional integrated SmartCast lighting controls. The luminaire is equipped with standard 0–10V dimming.


Cree LN4 Suspended Ambient LED Luminaire.

Tunable SSL Technology

Finally, we make our way to tunable SSL technology as it stands in its own spotlight, with the ability to manipulate light output for various experiences. Winner Finelite’s CEO Terry Clark addressed the complexities and research in tunable lighting as it may be used in a human-centric lighting (HCL) capacity, such as enhancing productivity, improving healing in medical settings, or creating a welcoming hospitality or retail environment, in a 2014 interview by putting the company’s development of tunable SSL into context. The FineTune White Color Tuning System by Finelite gives users the ability to tune light from warm to cool CCTs as well as changing the intensity with dimming from 100% down to 0.01%. The dynamic tunable SSL system is compatible with many of the company’s LED luminaires; it includes the necessary cables for plug-and-play installation. The system supports DMX, DALI, and Power over Ethernet architectures, and may be managed via wall-mounted controls and a free smartphone app. Finelite white color-tuning luminaires connected to the Finetune system are reported to attain 90% lumen maintenance at 100,000 hours. The Finelite system is yet another example of the SSL industry moving to bridge the disconnect between more-capable, multi-channel LED-based products and easy-to-use control platforms. As we look forward to our third-year Sapphire program that will launch in a few months, we expect to see even more intelligence embedded in products linked to intuitive control platforms.


Finelite FineTune White Color Tuning System.

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