LEDs top of the bill at Light+Building (MAGAZINE)

April 30, 2010
LEDs were everywhere at Light+Building, and many lighting companies have moved past the discussion phase with LEDs, and are building very high quality fixtures for illumination, writes TIM WHITAKER.
[This COMMENTARY piece appeared in the April 2010 issue of LEDs Magazine.]

Volcanic ash affected the return journeys of many visitors to Light+Building in Frankfurt, but at the show itself the talk was all about the seismic changes happening in the lighting industry. OK, enough geology. No-one was really surprised to see LEDs everywhere at Light+Building, prompting several people to suggest the show should be renamed "LED+Building." Apart from this being an awful name, it's also inappropriate considering that, on many stands, other technologies still sit quite happily alongside LED versions of fixtures.

GE was a good example of a company spreading its investment across the board, while Philips was keen to demonstrate its all-out dedication to the LED cause. Opinions vary on the merits of these two strategies. Somewhere in the middle was Osram, with its theme of "sustainable products – choice for customers" that allowed the company to showcase halogen and CFL technologies alongside its focus on LEDs and OLEDs.

In the past several iterations of Light+Building, which is held every two years, the status of LED technology has increased significantly. RGB color-changing LED fixtures were fairly common six years ago, with much variation in quality, while white-light LED illumination was hard to find. Exhibition stands lit with prototype LED fixtures were a novelty, while now they're fairly commonplace, and often use real products rather than something knocked together the week before.

Often it's difficult to know that you are in an LED-lit booth; partly because the quality of the LED light is much improved, and partly because many designs don't simply use an LED array, so it's not obvious that LEDs are the light source.

Many lighting companies have moved past the discussion phase with LEDs, and are building very high quality fixtures for illumination that demonstrate a fundamental understanding of crucial factors such as optical and thermal design. Of course, there is still quite a bit of knocked-together rubbish around as well, but hopefully these companies will get their acts together soon.

Given the recent spate of announcements, it was no surprise to see lots of focus on LED modules and light engines as essential building blocks for luminaires moving forward. And of course many people showed LED replacements lamps in a huge range of styles. Some of the different approaches are discussed in our article beginning on page 53. More surprising was the number of companies demonstrating OLEDs, although this technology clearly has a long way to go as it attempts to stake a claim within the lighting industry.

And then of course there was the presence of consumer-electronics companies. Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, Verbatim and LG are all high-profile consumer brands that are trying to position themselves to benefit from the switch to LEDs and the projected growth in the replacement-lamp market (see page 9). Samsung was a notable absentee, but is likely to have an influential role going forward, given its vast consumption of LEDs for TV backlights. This doesn't guarantee success, but it can't hurt to have that kind of experience, backed by a major brand. It will be very interesting to see the size of everyone's tradeshow booths at the next Light+Building, in two years' time.