Smart Connectivity Brings LED Lighting to Industrial Environments
Intelligent and efficient LED lighting makes smart buildings, warehouses, and other industrial settings safer and more comfortable, energy efficient, and cost-effective.
As bulb pricing and light quality has reached parity with other modes, LED lighting technology is now widely used in homes, where it is valued for its energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It is also increasingly being integrated into smart home systems, where automated lighting can provide convenience and security. The same goes for lighting systems in offices and warehouses.
In industrial settings, LEDs are fast replacing metal-halide lamps and fluorescent strip lighting, both older technologies that consume a lot of power. “Saving energy is the top advantage for smart lighting,” said Bill Benito, WAGO’s lighting industry manager, North America. In addition to reducing energy costs, LEDs facilitate smart building environments. With sensors, controls, and communication protocols, these lights create more flexible and responsive connected lighting systems.
LEDs are a highly energy-efficient technology. They use 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. They can also be dimmed and consume even less energy when running at less than full power. The addition of sensors enables adaptive lighting systems that change according to conditions and staff patterns. Fitted with sensors, LED lighting systems can sense occupancy, air quality, humidity, and daylight to optimize the environment for productivity. These systems can also detect vibration and other variables, and alert building management to faults or hazards. In industrial settings, LEDs can deliver energy efficiencies and data intelligence to warehouses and manufacturing lines, said Benito.
Another benefit is heat dissipation. This is key to industrial environments, said Martin Keenan, director of technical development at Avnet Abacus. “Efficiency is reducing the need for dedicated cooling in some areas, but in high-power LED deployments, there is still a need for innovative cooling solutions,” he said. An example is the MechaTronix CoolStar, which fits directly over a chip-on-board (COB) holder connector, such as TE Connectivity’s LUMAWISE.
Keenan said LEDs provide other benefits that are highly valued in building management, including their flexible design options, their utility in smart lighting systems, and the ability to coordinate these lights with communication systems to optimize energy use and longevity.
Integrating Sensors into LED Lighting Systems
Keenan said that Murata’s passive infrared (PIR) sensors have greater immunity from interference than others widely used in industrial environments. In settings where automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are used, these sensors enable lighting to be deployed only when needed as the vehicle progresses around the warehouse. This can save energy costs, as lighting is not required when there are no operatives in the area.
Amphenol and TE Connectivity also have sensor products that are sealed to resist the ingress of moisture from humidity and chemicals, as well as subsequent corrosion, and designed for easy installation, he said. Simple installation is an especially key benefit, because these networks are used in a wide variety of environments and may not be installed by experts.
Benito said that today’s LED systems allow users to tailor lighting to optimize productivity. For example, in infrequently used warehouse bays, occupancy sensors can be used to turn on or off lighting as required, saving energy. The LED and sensor combination can also be used to benefit the wellbeing of staff. Light can be adapted to personal tastes or needs, such as more subdued brightness levels for employees who want less bright lighting. The color temperature of overhead lighting can also be adjusted for workers who may prefer a warmer yellow hue or to adjust throughout the day to synchronize with staff’s circadian rhythms. One example of this is to remove blue tones to keep workers alert during night shifts.
Blue light has a short wavelength, which affects the body’s levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Bernard Vicens, director of Lightspeed at EBV Elektronik, an Avnet company, advised using LEDs with 480nm wavelength, which encourages the body to produce less melatonin, aiding concentration at work.
Vicens said that one device used in adjustable lighting systems is the AMS Lighting Director, which can control the color temperature in LEDs. It can also be used for daylight harvesting, a technology in which sensors are used to detect light levels. In smart lighting systems, this tool can control the lumen levels needed for the workplace, making sure enough light is generated to top off available natural daylight to achieve preset levels.
In Europe, said Benito, programmable logic controls (PLCs) are another device that is widely used to control industrial light settings. Lights can dim at certain times, according to occupancy or shift patterns, and can be adjusted and controlled by an app.
Connectors are a vital part of intelligent LED lighting systems. Wire-to-wire connectors are used in the fixtures and a wide selection of PCB connectors and surface mount connectors are used to connect circuit boards, Bluetooth modules, and LED drivers that power the system. The driver may also run to different circuit boards, depending on the system design.
“We are working on how to make the driver in the light engine and the brains of the lighting system fit together using modules,” said Benito. This research is focused on surface mount connectors and on increasing lighting design flexibility to meet specific application requirements. “Not everyone wants a Bluetooth sensor or front end.”
The focus is on creating a design that can ensure connectivity and reliability. For example, one potential concern is threading corrosion, said Benito. One solution is to coat the connecting pins with two layers of silver, as exemplified by WAGO’s 2060 and 2065 connectors.
“The pin connects two circuit boards, which are held down, but if you use a connecting link that is tin-plated copper and a connector that is tin-plated copper, when the metal expands and contracts, the slight movement creates friction, and that can erode the tin.” WAGO plates the connecting links in silver so that the harder metal will push the tin but not work through it.
There is a great deal of interest in the use of ultraviolet lighting to ensure germ-free surfaces and work areas. Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a wavelength of 405nm, which can kill bacteria on surfaces. There is also research that suggests the shorter wavelength ultraviolet C (UVC) light can destroy microorganisms. UV lighting, combined with data gathering, temperature controls, and a connector design that is effective in resisting bacteria, can contribute to efforts to battle COVID-19.
In these circumstance, housing-free connectors, like WAGO’s 2065 Series SMD Terminals, are creating a lot of interest, reported Benito.
Future LED Lighting Technologies
Other technologies used in commercial building automation are also finding their way into industrial environments. The first of these is Power over Ethernet (PoE), which combines power and connectivity in a single Ethernet cable, replacing an armored cable. Used today in building automation to control LED drivers, PoE has great potential for industrial settings, said Vicens.
Cloud management for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is at the proof of concept stage in street lighting today, said Vicens, who sees this technology migrating to industrial settings where it could be used to process data from cameras, amongst other applications. However, this is still some way off, said Vicens, as the KNX open standard for automation is still in use.
The migration of LED lighting technologies from home and commercial to industrial environments will continue. Their lower operating costs and energy savings offer immediate benefits, and their integration into smart building systems will bring great potential for data gathering, automated control, and smarter lighting for workers and workplaces.