The PCB Magazine dedicated to Universal Science, through the words of CEO Vincenzo Reda and journalist Dario Gozzi, an in-depth analysis in the July/August 2020 issue. From the design to the production of the components, with a look at the past and the immediate future, the article offers a complete overview of the world of LED technology for lighting (LED lighting).
by Dario Gozzi
The widespread diffusion of LED lighting in recent years has almost relegated the complexity of the subject to the background. LED lighting requires an in-depth knowledge of components, design and production phases. No less important, then, is the inclination to the aesthetic and functional design of the luminaires.
Index of contents
Like almost all sectors on the rise, LED lighting now has a very high level of competitiveness and is no exception to the rule. Price undoubtedly remains one of the most binding variables in the global market, but it is not the only one. The refinement of all components that will be used in the final product becomes decisive and must be technically very correct and precise. Experience and precision in analysis, calculations and choice of materials is therefore essential to compete in this particular market.
Specifically, a very important aspect is linked to the binningi.e. the selection of the type and quality of LEDs that are used in the finished product and that make the difference in terms of price (higher luminous fluxes have higher costs).
Consequently, the type, number and material (polycarbonate, PMMA, silicone, etc.) of the LEDs used in the finished product also make a difference in terms of price. Optics associated with LEDs is a choice that must be weighted according to the price-performance-reliability ratio over time and in relation to the sector in which it will operate (road, indoor, domestic, retail, etc.).
Power supply and thermal management
Another essential parameter, although limited to a few applications to date, is thermal management, which in recent years has assumed less weight than in the beginning since LED technology has raised the margins of robustness of the components. It happens, however, that there are special needs related to applications for places with high temperatures. In cases such as this it is important to define whether to use anthermal interface and what type, although the most practical and most commonly used, as well as economic, is the silicone mat. The use of thermal interfaces is the element that guarantees both the performance and the repeatability and reliability of the product in the long term.
The power supply systemFinally, it remains a very important element that should not be overlooked at all. Huge progress has been made in recent years, leading to a wide range of products at very competitive prices. Here too the choice is as wide as the price range, which is why experience is essential to understand which power supply unit to use depending on the application. Power is not currently as much a decisive criterion for evaluation as performance in terms of reliability and temperature tolerance, which need to be evaluated in relation to the application. Once you have focused on the application, reliability and performance target, you can start working on all the elements that make up the lamp or the luminaire in general.
LED technology from design to production
In lighting, we often follow already known applications, whose history is revised and adapted to the latest LED technology. In a LED lighting project, taking into account the different performances and needs (optics, efficiency, dimensions and characteristics of the luminaire), we start from the need to cover a market segment, therefore the performances are usually predefined: flux, photometry and mechanical and aesthetic characteristics of the object. Then the product is elaborated, and in particular the aesthetic element with its performances, in terms of flux and in terms of photometry necessary for example for a special application, a special height, the particular width of the spaces, to then carry out an analysis to go and realize a specific luminaire.
In order to successfully complete a project, Universal Science can count on a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, as well as on a technically competent team with decades of experience in the field. The site in Pregnana Milanese (MI) covers 2,000 square meters with large spaces that house modular offices, adjacent to which is the production area, connected to a fully automated warehouse.
"Our core business - says Vincenzo Reda, CEO and owner of the company - is represented by the high-capacity production of LED modules from 9 mm to 1200 mm in length, developed according to the criteria of maximum efficiency, repeatability and reliability for the specific application".
The production area has two state-of-the-art SMT lines, with an assembly capacity of over 100 million LEDs per year. The investment is continuous and does not only concern the production spaces, but also the adoption of innovative machinery and instrumentation (including two automatic screen printers, two integrating spheres with spectroradiometer and a multichannel temperature datalogger), which are added to the specialist equipment (including a resin machine and a die-cutter for thermal interfaces). This is where 100% testing is carried out on output products, as well as coating and resin coating as an additional service on request for specific applications.
The capillary presence that makes all the difference
Since 2007 the Universal Science brand in Italy has been synonymous with collaboration and cooperation in the development of quality LED systems, thanks to the know-how rooted in the ten-year experience of its staff in electronic assemblies, thermal analysis and system design.
"Our company - continues Vincenzo Reda - is able to take care of every technical aspect related to the correct use of LEDs: from electronics to thermal management, from optics to mechanics. The Universal Science team can therefore guarantee design support from the aesthetic proposal to the functional definition of the finished product. In addition to these activities we also develop and distribute components for LED lighting including modules, optics, thermal interfaces and power supply systems. The design and production of LED modules for various applications in the lighting sector is our specialisation. Our contribution becomes fundamental in determining the final result in terms of efficiency, product life and quality".
In 2018 Universal Science created a new brand: RED - Integrating Lighting Technologies. The goal is to better meet the needs of the customer, adapting to new market needs. RED identifies both the production of innovative LED modules and the standard lighting solutions that we propose to customers and was born with the aim of being as recognizable as possible, in particular in the generation of major points of contact with foreign sales networks.
In the design and production of innovative solutions for LED systems, the group can be considered one of the top players at national level for experience, size and completeness of services. However, the activity does not remain confined to Italy; by vocation, contact with the rest of the world is an essential part.
"Thanks to the historical partnerships established over time with globally recognized companies - continues Vincenzo Reda - we have direct and continuous access to news and technical updates that allow us to guarantee our customers a thorough knowledge of the evolution of the market".
The importance of quality control
Within the Universal Science production line, the LED module is 100% tested at the end of the line through both visual and functional testing. The quality control and colour matching of the LEDs is carried out with extreme precision at the entry into production, through the traceability of the material: incoming inspection and cataloguing of the components at the entrance of the production area, labelling and management through automatic cabinets. This makes it possible to limit errors to the physiological, but above all to avoid them completely, thus having a product that corresponds in every way to the specifications established with the customer.
An important inspection tool is the X-ray station. Having technicians with a long experience in electronic production, it is sufficient a sample inspection in the preliminary stage of setting up the production to have a repetitive and homogeneous process.
Together with temperature profiling systems, high quality soldering joints with a limited number of voids are achieved, with a presence of less than 25%. In addition to the normal electronic laboratory equipment (oscilloscope, multimeters, wattmeters, etc.), a fundamental instrument for the company is the spectrometer, which makes it possible to measure the emission spectrum of the LED, specifically coloured LEDs, as well as the colour temperature and colour gradations for white LEDs. The other important parameter provided by a spectrometer is the amount of light emitted (lumens).
This allows, together with voltage and current measurement, to correctly calibrate Lumen and Watt output from the LED module, which is the data provided to the end customer to enable him to make the correct considerations regarding the luminaire in which the LED technology is housed.
With this information and with the help of a photogoniometer, an instrument used in LED lighting that allows to measure the light emitted according to the different angles, the customer can complete the correct design of his luminaire. All this information is then used by the lighting designers involved in the lighting design of the spaces where the lamps are inserted, to define their number and position.
New applications and new opportunities (UV LEDs)
"Our work has been and still is an operation of continuous adjustment and consolidation of the structure - specifies Vincenzo Reda - of research into new applications and new areas of use. In this regard, we are increasingly entering into the field of theUV lighting”.
Universal Science's first work on UV lighting dates back more than four years. Various modules for special machines using LEDs at 275 nm (UVC) have been developed, other applications have used LEDs at 340 nm (UVB) and others UVA at 365÷430 nm, with powers from 100 W up to 2500 W. Systems using UV LED modules must of course be equipped with specific safety systems, which may differ depending on the application and wavelength.
The company's strategy is to focus primarily on OEM customers, then to develop and implement the solutions together with them.
As we do not manufacture finished products under the Universal Science brand, certifications, efficiency validation tests and related application protocols are carried out on the final lighting systems and are therefore the responsibility of the customer.
The emergency and urgency caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has generated an unprecedented increase in demand, particularly for the UVC LED applications specifically intended for rapid disinfection in the health care sector, sterilisation of rooms and surfaces.
"In this context, we are increasingly convinced that relying on professionals is the key to a correct approach to an extremely delicate sector like this - concludes Vincenzo Reda - in the UV sector the part of a project that most competes us is obviously the development of the LED module according to the criteria of maximum efficiency, repeatability and reliability for the specific application, choosing appropriate materials, components and solutions".
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