An Engineer Talks About Designing With LEDs

Craig Curtis: I am an engineer. So, that’s how my work begins. I look at everything functionally, especially when designing with LEDs. There are so many critical issues to make sure the LEDs function properly. I get details on what I need to get the best performance and consistency. A main thing is to find a solution to an application. So, there are certain “deliverables” that we start with. If we can’t do it functionally, then the project doesn’t have a good end in sight.

We start by looking at all the chips out there. We compare chip manufacturers looking at raw data. We may want a chip that gives a total luminous output in the smallest package and for the best price. But we try to remember, at least with LEDs, that technology is changing quickly. So, you have to pick a point, the best LED application for a given window. Then, you decide on a reflector, an array and a pattern. The way you set up your circuitry plays a huge role in what the LEDs can do.

Both Stile Styk and Stile Tryg [both pictured here] essentially are visible heat sinks. They basically have straight-line fins with a little walking of the line between function and form. We “undercut” the fins, so that you don’t seem them well. We also staggered them. The fins are functional. The ones closest to the LED sources are bigger and work harder, but as you get farther away from the sources you have a gradual fin “vanishing effect.” They seem to disappear.

We wanted to make Tryg as small as possible. In the space, you just see a light source. When the light is off, you see some nice finished edges — a low profile like an airplane wing. It’s not totally like a wing, but it’s the same thought process of something so simple and thin, but so critical and important to its function.

Motivation. Where do I get it? I look at everything — from kid’s toys to door brackets. I like to study moving parts and look at spaces. With lighting, I try to see how it will integrate in a space, so I’m always checking out public spaces. Plus, my curiosity gets me going: “Here’s a new material. They used it on the space shuttle. Look what it can do.” I worked as a mechanical engineer for 15 years. All my past work was about function: Here it is; here’s what it does. I came into lighting nine years ago, and I have to say it’s intriguing. It’s exciting what you can do with light.

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