“Our goal is to set up the entire LED lighting ecosystem in India"

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Bridgelux is a leading developer and manufacturer of LED lighting technologies and solutions. It is also a pioneer in solid state lighting (SSL). Its headquarters in Livermore, CA, USA, is where its design and development is done. Sunil Kaul, country head, India, Bridgelux, speaks to Dilin Anand of Electronics Bazaar about the company’s forthcoming plans in India.

EB: How important is the Indian market to Bridgelux?

Bridgelux came to India in the summer of 2011, and we are very happy to see the growing market opportunities here. Our primary focus will initially be on market development and providing strong application engineering support. There are several lighting companies in India that deal with traditional lighting. Now, as they move forward to SSL, there are a number of finer details regarding how LED based products are built. Our aim, therefore, is to bring value to our customers in India by helping them with application engineering, and ensuring that robust LED lighting products are built for local conditions in India.

EB: Is there any particular section of the market that you are focusing on?

One very interesting product that Bridgelux has built is designed for street lighting. In Bengaluru, for instance, we have about 400,000 streetlights. Imagine the energy saved when these 400,000 250W lights are replaced by LEDs that reduce power consumption by 50 per cent or even by two-thirds.

EB: What are your future plans in India?

We are exploring the possibility of setting up a manufacturing unit in India. This will be done in two phases. The first phase will focus on LED packaging, wherein we will bring in the LED chips and carry out the component assembly in India. Depending on the economics, we might transit to the second phase, which would include LED chip manufacturing itself.

EB: Do you plan to do any R&D in India?

Not in the immediate future but in the longer term, we will explore that option.

EB: Could you elaborate on your product line?

Our product line is designed keeping in mind a vast number of applications.

At the lower power end, we offer LED arrays that can be used to build and replace a traditional 40-60 watt incandescent bulb. Similarly, if you consider CFL-based products, one can replace an 18 W CFL with a 5 W LED. This translates to impressive power savings in homes. These products are aimed at the general consumer market.

In the mid-power range (11 W-50 W), we have LED array solutions for the retail and hospitality industry where the requirement is for high quality lighting.

When the requirement is for a high lumen output, we have products for industrial applications such as high bays. This lighting is typically used in factories, warehouses, etc, and can be placed as high as 13 m. These applications, therefore, require significantly more power for the light source, for which we have developed LED arrays that can deliver as much as 8000 lumens using only 90 W in one single array, replacing 250-400 W HID lights. Needless to say, besides the excellent quality of light, customers also get the benefit of tremendous energy savings—a reduction in consumption by nearly 50 per cent or more.

EB: Could you elaborate on the LED array?

If you look at our products, you will see that they are basically made up of an individual LED dye. Leveraging patented light source technology, we integrate these SSL sources to form an LED array. It is these products that enable high performance and energy efficient products for the general lighting market. The LED chips are essentially the building blocks from which the LED arrays are built.

EB: Is there any particular LED technology that has had a great impact on the industry?

The biggest challenge for LED manufacturers has been the cost, so everybody is working towards reducing this. One of the high cost elements is the use of a substrate upon which the LED is built. This material is a significant factor that adds to the manufacturing cost.

Several LED players from the industry have tried to use silicon as the substrate since this material has been around for decades and is inexpensive. In addition, the extensive experience of manufacturing with silicon based substrates means that there is a huge capacity and depreciated capex that can be leveraged for cost reduction. The tremendous amount of automation implemented when working with silicon can also help to reduce costs significantly.

There are significant technical problems involved in building an LED chip on silicon due to the mismatch in the thermal coefficient of expansion. Through its technical innovation, Bridgelux has been able to solve this problem and has demonstrated crack-free gallium nitride on silicon. We believe this will reduce the manufacturing cost of LEDs. We expect to deploy products based on this innovation in the market in 18 months.

EB: What challenges do you expect to face in India?

If I look at the analogy of how India went through the transition to CFL, it all started with a flood of products coming in from outside with no product standards in place. With inferior products coming in, consumers had poor experiences and consequently blamed the technology for this. Fortunately, the government stepped in and played a strong role in introducing standards which, over time, led to maturity in adoption and brought down the prices.

LEDs are no different. While standards are being developed, it is essential for companies such as Bridgelux to work closely with lighting companies to ensure that the entire design and integration of the product, including the selection of drivers and thermal management systems, is carried out properly to meet the lighting product’s requirements. Our ecosystem partnerships were put in place to ensure that high quality products were being used to build the lighting fixture. We are constantly evaluating new drivers, heat sinks and optics, and making sure the benefits of our inhouse analysis is passed on to the customer base here in India.

In addition, Bridgelux is also looking at creating innovative business models to help speed up market adoption.

EB: How do you aim to transform the energy landscape in India?

We aim to transform the energy landscape by bringing in SSL technology and deploying the right LED solutions in India. We also have a long term vision of manufacturing in the country. Our goal is to train local talent and set up the entire ecosystem in the country. As we build application labs in India, engineers who come out of Indian colleges will start to learn about LED technology so that, ultimately, we will be able to eliminate our dependency on imports. As a nation, we have to become self-reliant—with access to the right technology for manufacturing. That’s the journey we are on.

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