Feature, Transport

LEDs bring dimmable, long-life signage to Lyon Airport

The brightness of the signs changes in response to ambient light

Signs and display panels incorporating LED lighting and dimming technology have improved navigation throughout Lyon St Exupéry airport, the fourth largest in France.

The airport authorities also hoped the new LED signage – which replaced fluorescent tubes that were no longer fit for purpose, according to the airport’s technical director, Christophe Langlet – would increase energy efficiency at all times of the day and night, thanks to LED modules and LNU dimmers supplied by Tridonic.

The signs had to work well, even in areas with plenty of sunlight – a large amount of daylight floods parts of the building because of the amount of glass in its structure.

The brightness of the new light sources is adjusted in response to the amount of ambient light. Tridonic says this cuts energy consumption by about 40 per cent compared with a standard LED system.

The new LED signs are a big step forward, says Christophe Langlet, the airport’s technical director

Thanks to the upgrade, up to 34,000 passengers a day now find it easier to navigate the airport because the information panels are instantly identifiable and easy to read. About 1,000 new flight information display panels and direction signs from SEV Enseignes – a French company that specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of illuminated signs – were installed throughout the building complex. These are backlit by some 62,000 Tridonic LED modules controlled by LNU dimmers.

The dimmers are equipped with light sensors that fade the connected LEDs up or down according to ambient brightness to ensure the signage remains readable. Signs are being used in spots which receive a lot of daylight and dimming can be set to operate automatically or programmed to suit specific customer requirements.

Lionel Cartron, one of two managers who heads SEV Enseignes, points out that there were about 700 lit and 300 unlit ‘faces’. The lights were all LED modules P540 or P550 from Tridonic, he says – chosen to ensure the visibility of the new signage both in bright areas near windows and in less well illuminated areas of the airport. ‘We installed about 80 light controllers to adapt the brightness of signage in areas open to the public and to ameliorate the visibility and the reading of the information on the signage,’ he says.

Key challenges
According to Cartron, the key challenge was swapping the old signage for the new with minimal disruption during the installation. ‘We used adhesive films to mask the new signage. We took off these adhesives during a single night so the next day the passengers discovered the new signage,’ he points out.

Tridonic has stated that it is now focusing its attention on LEDs as the technology of the future, with an emphasis on LED systems comprising light sources and converters. For this project, Classic and Select versions of its TalexxChain Crystal LED modules were chosen. The ‘Select’ version has good contrast in areas flooded by light and with high luminous fluxes, the company says. Tridonic adds that its modules provide uniform illumination for the display panels and signs.

In preparing their feasibility study, the decision-makers at Lyon airport took a number of factors into consideration. ‘For us, a good price/performance ratio also includes technical support,’ says Langlet, who adds that feedback has been very positive. Many tests were carried out with the new products, he adds, to see the impact of illuminating the signage at various times of day.

Testament to the success of the application, perhaps, is the fact that SEV Enseignes, based in Nantes, is now working at other airports in France.

Precise figures for energy consumption are not yet available, in part because the install was quite recent, and also because the new LED sources are totally different from the old fluorescent tubes. An exact comparison with the old arrangement, in terms of energy consumption, is not really possible given that the signs were not illuminated in this way previously.

‘Visibility was the key aim – not cost reduction,’ says Axel Kerep, area sales manager for Tridonic Signage. ‘It was about helping the airport improve orientation. In an airport, energy reduction is not the main criterion. People need to read the signs. Also this airport is very bright, with big windows letting in a lot of sunlight.’ Kerep says that he expects that no maintenance will be required for at least six or seven years, adding that this is a key advantage over fluorescent tubes.

The whole project took one year for the studies and tests and a further year for the installation. And the cost was not insignificant, about €2.5 million ($2.8 million). It was the successful results of the tests, says Langlet, which led to the airport management accepting the cost. The price of the LED system, however, was not the greatest part of the overall outlay, he adds, given the need to change panels, screens and furniture in the building. Yet the result, he says, has certainly been worth the effort.

Bon voyage!