Industrial LED lights: Let your choice be based on technology, rather than price

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For a future to be run by light emitting diodes (LEDs), manufacturers are focusing on its present, exploring the various applications of this technology. As a result, today, LEDs have touched our lives in several ways—from home applications and mobile phones, to various commercial uses and industrial applications.

By Richa Chakravarty

Monday, February 21, 2011: The fact that these bud like lights consume less power, emit little heat and have a long life, has made them very popular. The current size of the LED lighting market in India stands at US$ 42 million with its key application areas being streetlights, and architectural and monumental lighting. Outdoor application represents its biggest user base, accounting for more than 70 per cent of the revenue. Also, the projected market for this technology is huge as it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 41.5 per cent, achieving revenue of US$ 399.2 million by 2015.

Although LED technology is overtaking even the advances made in conventional lighting, and despite its numerous benefits and positive growth, this technology is yet to penetrate the industrial segment in India in a large scale. “The segment of industrial lights is new to the LED industry, with it constituting just 1/10th of the LED market. However, the growth witnessed by this segment is about 15-25 per cent,” informs Ravi AV, general manager, LED division, Nichia Chemical (India) Pvt Ltd.

“Currently, the sheer volumes are being generated in the streetlights and lantern sectors. This is because it is mostly being propagated by the government through tenders. the individual consumer is not yet fully aware of the cost saving and energy efficient factors of this technology. There has to be greater awareness so that the technology can be present in all segments,” explains Ravinder Gulati, deputy general manager, LED division, Continental Device India Ltd (CDIL). With state of the art manufacturing facility, CDIL ventured in LED segment in 2009.

However, Dr MV Ramana Rao, chairman and managing director, MIC Electronics Ltd, is hopeful that it will soon be adopted in the industrial sector. “Most manufacturing companies in the Indian corporate sector are conducting energy audits of their lighting usage and are implementing pilot projects replacing conventional lighting with LEDs. Many companies have realised that enormous power savings can be achieved with LED technology,” says MV Ramana Rao. MIC has 25 years of experience in designing and manufacturing high end LED products.

Latest products in Indian Market

Despite its low usage in the Indian industrial sector, industrial LED lighting fixtures are available in different sizes, shapes and configurations—from local made brands to imported versions. LED industrial lights include bay lights, area lights, down lights, tower lights and spot lights. There is also a big market for retrofitting existing fixtures with bulbs and tubelights.

Here’s a quick look at the new products that are gaining popularity in the Indian market.

Streetlights:

LEDs are superior to fluorescent tubelights and bulbs in terms of longevity, colour temperature and with the known fact that they are highly efficient when it comes to saving energy and costs thereby. LED streetlights are replacing the sodium lights due to better luminous efficiency, colour rendering index (CRI) and better contrast.

Well established companies are manufacturing these lights and thanks to innovative luminaire designs, today these lights offer various features such as illumination of the street and the pavement with no scattered light, availability in compact or standardised module dimensions, one time integration of the lamp socket in luminaires by means of M4 screws, and the list goes on.

Under a working voltage between 90 to 270V, and power factor more than 0.9 and greater than 100 lumen, Olive LED Lights Pvt Ltd offers a wide range of streetlights suiting various client requirements. Due to technological upgradation, companies including Olive have been bringing out new designs and fixtures according to user specific requirements.

“One of our products is the LEDMO24, with a 24 LED streetlight module that uses our exclusive PolyWa oval LEDs with optics designed for ‘homogen lighting’ and with on-board constant current control for every individual LED. We are trying to transfer the benefit of these advanced designs by offering factory assembled LED modules with special electrical and optical features,” says K Vijay Kumar Gupta, CEO, Kwality Photonics P Ltd. The company is one among the pioneers in manufacturing of packaged LEDs. CDIL also offers a wide range of streetlights with standard AC 220V streetlights with 40-120W power, besides DC streetlights for solar panel usage. CDLR-5060 streetlights with its unique sink design stands different from the range available in the market,” adds

Bay lights:

These lights are generally used in warehouses, factories and industrial sheds without scattering and illuminating a particular area. High bay lighting is used where the ceiling height ranges from 6-9 m with wattages ranging from 90 W to 250 W.

Low bay lights are used in applications where the ceiling heights range from 3-5 m. Typical low bay LED lights carry wattages from 18-90 W. MIC offers an entire range of industrial lights with products approved by labs in India and institutes like MNRE, RDSO and defence labs. Its high and low bay lights range from 18 W to 250 W. Olive LED Lights also offers a wide range of LED bay lights of different wattage, along with complete solution to the customers. With satisfied customers like railways, NDMC, Delhi government, the company equips lights with different degree lenses.

Spotlights and tunnel lights:

Mostly used in factories, gymnasiums, yards, advertising boards, parking lots, stadiums and parks, spotlights can be used for lighting vast areas. GlacialLight’s GL-SP100 Procyon Series LED spotlights offer a life span of more than 20,000 hours. With energy savings of up to 75 per cent over mercury lamps, users such as car dealers can easily reduce their monthly lighting bills by replacing the mercury lamps with LED lights. LED tunnel lights are also used to illuminate dark areas with the added benefit of emitting low heat and consuming less energy—a feature that adds up to significant savings since lighting in tunnels is required all through the day. CDIL has a wide range of tunnel lights that have a beam angle of 120° and more than 70 lumen, with colour temperatures in the 3000-7000K range.

Highway lights:

The visibility factor is extremely important in the design of highway lighting. The optimal design of highway lighting systems incorporates photometric properties of light sources, lighting geometry, targets, road conditions, road surfaces and surroundings. These are the physical properties of a lighting system, which are important to define the visual stimulus. LEDs available in multiple hues, various luminaire designs and reflector systems with higher viewing angles, are popular choice.

Tower and traffic lights:

LEDs are perfect for a job that requires long operating hours. Tower lights like the ones being installed on cell towers and traffic lights require strong lights that last long. Thus, LED lights are best suited for the purpose as optimum lighting levels can be reached as per the requirement of customers, including varying Lux levels and the axis.

Latest features: 

Since the advent of LEDs, the whole science of lighting is going through a sea change. The technology is being used with a lot of additional features to reap the maximum benefits, especially in electronics, which is moving towards automation. LED lighting systems are being customised and hence designed to accurately control voltage and current for precise LED light intensity and colour mixing, for temperature monitoring to prevent thermal runaway, intelligent and adaptive dimming of the LED, and for fault detection.

“The latest changes are evolving in electronics, resulting in user friendly and power efficient products that can be configured as per the requirement for lights, on/off automatic control, dimming options and so many other parameters,” says Shyam Jindal, managing director, Olive LED Lights Pvt Ltd. The company manufactures complete LED lighting products along with accessories like heat sinks, housing/casing/enclosures, etc.

Echoing the same view, MV Ramana Rao shares, “Today, the focus is on various possibilities like sensors, network or microprocessor based automatic control systems to monitor the brightness levels based on ambient light, occupancy, task areas, etc. Earlier, lighting levels were designed uniformly for the entire area based on the maximum lux level required, but today it is possible to design lighting customised to work areas. thanks to the small footprint of LEDs, lights are now available with selectable axes, colour temperatures, long life and low heat emission. Basic lighting controls, such as timers and occupancy sensors, have enabled people to automatically turn lights on and off based on anticipated or actual use of the space.”

These features come as a great relief to the end user as one can save significant amounts of energy. The use of lighting controls can also have a direct impact on the life of the lighting equipment and influence the types of lighting technology used. According to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, using automatic controls that will turn lights off when no one is using the space and that can dim the lights when daylight levels increase, can save at least 20 per cent of the total lighting energy used. LEDs, with this additional feature, obviously score better.

The optimum switching and dimming behaviour of LEDs makes them ideal for integration in electronic lighting systems. They can be continuously dimmed down to 0 per cent without any of the negative effects associated with other lamps, such as the effect on lighting colour, colour rendition or functional life. All these features come together to combine scenographic lighting with efficient visual comfort.

The desktop mushroom lights introduced by MIC have generated a tremendous market response with their designer looks, high efficiencies using 1W power and modern features like the tap switch. They can be very effectively used in the electronic and other desktop assembly units that need cool white light that does not cause glare and illuminates only the task area without straining the eye.

Apart from this, most companies are continuously working towards optimising lighting levels using high lumen LED. “Today, LEDs are not only replacing conventional lights but they are also moving towards using higher lumen of up to 2100 lm,” adds Gurinder Singh Lali, founder, Nano Power. The company has been manufacturing LED lights.

Technological Innovations

There have been several improvements within the last few years that have given LED technology a real drive, such as ceramic packages for better thermal management, increased efficiency because of the use of chip technologies, organic LEDs (OLEDs), long life, high brightness white LEDs with longer maintenance intervals and better total cost of ownership. These improvements will support fast and extensive adoption of LEDs for different applications in industries, and products incorporating these high tech changes have also penetrated the Indian market.

“As far as packaged LED is concerned, the scenario is rapidly changing. The traditional package with the copper slug base, gull wing leads and spherical lens is giving way to smaller footprint ceramic spot moulded LEDs with a wrap around heat pad. These are very difficult to handle and solder manually, but they address the needs of mechanised assembly units for high density lighting with a small footprint,” adds Vijay Kumar Gupta.

“Chip on board technology (COB) is one such emerging technology, which allows for virtually limitless freedom in the use of PCBs and, thus, serves as the basis for totally unique LED solutions,” informs Ravi AV.

According to Shyam Jindal, there are many products that incorporate very high end electronics and are operated with microcontroller based electronics. “Some of these products can be controlled and monitored with computerised systems, though they are still not available in the Indian market, as these products are yet to be developed as per Indian standards and requirements,” he says.

Says Vijay Kumar Gupta, “Soon Indian industry will have silicon based spot moulded LEDs, with thermal conductivity of a higher order. The silicon substrate will help leverage mass production techniques of the IC industry, and bring along with it the cost reduction benefits as witnessed in the silicon semiconductor industry.”

Companies like MIC have started using advanced Zigbee networking technology to control each independent light through wired or wireless networking, apart from PIR sensors, which are microcontrollers at the luminaire level that help in energy saving. Owing to technological developments, selected variants in MIC’s product line are equipped with sensors that sense the ambient light and turn them on and off based on the lighting levels. Added to this, MIC has equipped these lights with microcontrollers that can be controlled online.

Thriving on customization

LED lighting products have huge scope for customisation, starting from manufacturing and designing new casing/housing/enclosures to designing luminaires as per customer specifications. Manufacturers have been designing and making products that suit their customers well, by not just optimising lighting levels that can be achieved through customisation of colour temperatures, CRI, lux levels and the axis, but also providing optimum light distribution by using specialised optical lenses.

Olive LED Light has developed replacements for some street lighting products where the energy saving is more than 65 to 70 per cent, replacing a 70W HPSV with a 25 W streetlight. “The products being designed and the lighting equipment being installed consumes high/low electricity as per customer requirements. But while customising products, the manufacturer should always keep quality as the priority, as in this competitive market, manufacturers end up using inferior quality components that not only hamper the product but also the expected life of LEDs,” says Shyam Jindal.

Sharing the same view, Ravinder Gulati says, “Lamp selection is based on efficacy (lumens per watt), colour temperature, CRI, life and lumen maintenance, availability, switching, dimming capability and cost, and customisation is taking place on all these features. Such customised industrial lights are available in the Indian market and CDIL’s inhouse R&D works closely with customers to provide custom design solutions.”

According to Gurinder Singh Lali “Electronic ballasts are also responsible for better lamp performance, extending life and improving colour characteristics. Luminaires are selected for their lighting effectiveness, and these products are manufactured and customised as per specifications provided by the buyers, which can be covered by many factors, i.e., input power supply (AC/DC), lumens output (high/low), total wattage, angles of light output, specs of size and shape, etc.” However, he aspires India to be a major player in this sector. “Manufacturing a chip costs $0.2 only. while selling it in India, manufacturers make profit as the costs falls to nearly $1/chip. Domestic manufacturing will therefore, not only reduce our dependence on other countries but also curb the money outflow,” suggests Gurinder Singh Lali.

Challenges faced by buyers – A local market survey

With a gamut of products available in the market, offered by local manufacturers and importers, buyers end up in a dilemma while making a purchase decision. Electronics Bazaar team visited the local markets and talked to traders, to help buyers in their selection

Price difference

One of the major drawbacks of the LED lighting industry is the price and cost of the products. LED lights are well beyond the budget of an average buyer. “The current price of LED lights in the Indian market is on the higher side in comparison to the Chinese products, which is why customers are switching over to the latter. Where Chinese products range between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000, Indian products fall in the range of Rs 35,000 with a three year warranty,” says a trader.

“Indian customers, being price centric, look for products that fall within their price range, not realising the fact that when we compare the energy saved and the low maintenance, Indian products with a warranty stand out. So we sell only locally made and imported products,” says Gurinder Singh Lali. “However, quality wise, the local products are slightly inferior to the branded ones,” says the local trader.

However, the domestic products available in the local market are much below the prices of the branded ones. “Cost wise, these are ten times lower than the branded products. The market offers a varied range of products in terms of quality and price, catering to the buying capacity of the buyer,” explains Lalit Sharma, partner, Nath Trading Corporation. Being a stockist of lights and fittings at Bhagirath Palace, this shop offers a variety of locally made products.

Choosing between imported, unbranded and branded LEDs

Consumers often get confused about whether they should opt for imported products or go for the domestic models. The confusion does not end here. another issue is whether to opt for the local, unbranded products or to go in for the branded LEDs. Most buyers go in for the imported products, since these have flooded the markets and come in different varieties. Also, there is an absence of standards and a lack of awareness. “But the crux of the matter is that the Indian products are better in quality, and more importantly, they come with a warranty; also, companies offer good installation and after sales services,” says Kewal Bajaj, proprietor, Anand Electric Co.

But how does a buyer decide between local, unbranded products, and the branded products? “This entirely depends on the consumers. Branded companies cash in on their goodwill and there is no denying that these products are slightly superior in quality. However, one cannot rule out the local products, as they are equally good in quality and are definitely growing in popularity. Products made by domestic manufacturers also suit different pockets, and now they are also competing with the brands where technology is concerned. More importantly, these manufacturers can customise products as per the customers’ needs and offer good after sales services,” says Lalit Sharma.

No standards

The current scenario is not too good for buyers, as there is no unified standard for these products. “Buyers are, therefore, going in for products that are cheaper in price, not realising the loss they will face, sooner or later,” comments Kamal Kumar, partner, Electro Expo Systems.

“In the LED business, manufacturers are coming up with their own light sources within their own range, which are mostly incompatible with other manufacturers’ light sources. So, for the first time in the history of lighting, so to speak, we are facing a situation in which the light source itself is not standardised. There are a whole lot of other technical differences that are emerging,” explains Ranjan Gupta, managing director, Sainoor. The company is in partnership with leading national and international LED majors providing architectural consultancy.

However, the good news is that much effort is being put into this area by the LED products Manufacturers Association (LEDMA). “Consensus is building up amongst quality manufacturers and consumers alike that it is imperative for the government to come up with standards that make different products available in the market easily that are comparable for the end users, and they have a benchmark to follow. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is active in this regard and we may see BIS standards for LED based products very soon,” informs Rishabh Sood, director, Regnant.

Lack of awareness

Awareness is required not only at the buyers’ end but also for the manufacturers. “Due to lack of awareness, buyers ask for any product, laying stress on the low price. Many are still opting for conventional lights. At the buyers’ end, awareness can be generated by propagating the long term benefits of the technology and quantifying its cost-effectiveness. Only then can the technology have a mass appeal. A lot of companies are mushrooming in this field but without indepth knowledge about it. Manufacturers will also have to understand the technology well before delving into the business, as it is capital intensive,” says Atul Malik, partner, Upper India Electric Co.

Ranjan Gupta supports this statement, when he says, “Many companies are mushrooming in India but very few have the required skill sets. Lighting companies venturing into this field have a good knowledge of optics but not of electronics, so there is a mismatch. To know the technology well, one needs to have the required skill sets, a complete knowledge about optics (as an LED is very different from a bulb; it is a single light with an angle to it), power electronics, thermal engineering (to know how to draw heat out of it), and finally, the mechanical and hardware aspect of engineering.

What a buyer should consider

  • Check the credentials of the supplier
  • Verify the claims made about performance, since system efficacies at the fixture level are very different from those at the chip level
  • Replacement costs, since the complete product will most likely have to be repaired in case of a failure, resulting in high capital expenditure for replacements
  • Verifiable calculations on RoI
  • Thermal management of higher wattage LEDs is a big issue and must be properly taken care of by the manufacturers; otherwise, it can drastically reduce the life of the LED
  • Go for Indian products with after sales service
  • Have a demo of the product at the same area where it is to be installed before taking any final decision
  • Finally, look for a product that suits your purpose well, for instance, there are many products available for which the orientation of the optics and the focus of the light is on a specific area only, while the spread requirement is not addressed. These products are not very useful for general lighting
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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