The changes that are taking place in the lighting industry have resulted in new light sources being developed. So what is a light source? Good question, if you see it in the line of lighting products that have been developed in the past you could see a LED module as an actual light source. I agree that the LED itself is the light source in essence but consider that for the incandescent bulb we never denoted the tungsten wire as a light source. This is of course the actual light emitter or light source for incandescent or halogen lamps.
So if we are looking at the light source we have gained endless possibilities with LED to develop modules in any shape, size and with specifications as we see fit. This is having its effect on the market. There are so many new form factors available that you can barely speak of any exchangeable light sources. The luminaire manufactures are developing a lot of their own new light sources and use them in their newly designed luminaires. Is there anything wrong with that? No of course not. We have gained new possibilities so lets use them.
The result is also that research and development costs are rising and the percentage of these costs per luminaire is increasing. That does have its effect on price level as well as on the profitability for the luminaire manufacturer.
Another problem that is occurring is the increasing stock that is needed to provide continuity for the luminaire manufacturer. He needs to make sure that he can produce luminaires when there is demand but he already learned that the LED changes so if you do not have enough stock you might end up with a problem of running out of modules and having to buy next generation LED’s that have a different characteristic. The next step would be a redesign of the modules to conform to the original design. Again cost increasing.
So issues that can be identified as being issues that need to be addressed or at least taken into consideration are R&D costs and increasing stock costs. Both issues that nobody is really waiting for.
Zhaga modules are exchangeable. So a module from manufacturer A and B can be used in the luminaire without having to redesign it. There are a few things to consider however. The specifications between manufacturers can differ, meaning not the exchangeability parameters but for example the quality of the light or the life expectancy. This means that it is still a mater of selecting the right module but that is no different than as it was done in the past when the luminaire manufacturer was deciding on the brand of for example a MR16 light source.
The advantages are that the luminaire manufacturer does no longer have to spend R&D resources in developing and upgrading the LED modules. He is able to work on the development of the luminaires. Another advantage is that the module manufacturer will keep upgrading the modules with more efficient LED’s and therefore the modules that are used will be the latest technology. No longer a need for a large stock because modules can be supplied on demand. All pro’s but are there no con’s?
There are limited number of form factors. This is being addressed and more form factors are being developed but it is true that if you design your own modules there are virtually no limits. Also the electrical interface is somewhat a difficulty. So what is happening there?
Zhaga has defined a LLE, LED Light Engine. This consists of the LED module and the driver. You can have them in two different executions, separate driver and module or integrated driver with module. The last one is easy. It is simply a product where everything is combined in one product and there is no need for defining a connection between the 2. In the case where they are separate it is different. Zhaga decided not to specify the connector, or the actual contact points. The reason being not to limit the innovation and that is a valid reason however it makes the exchangeability somewhat more complex. Practically it means that when changing modules you also must exchange the driver.
Is this really a problem? No not really when you buy the LLE and not modules and drivers separately. Anyway this is one of the issues that need consideration. Another issue is more a design issue but still important to consider when designing a luminaire. This is that the safety and quality issues are not covered by Zhaga specifications, making this something to evaluate during the design or update of your luminaires and choice in module manufacturer.