What can lighting learn from laptop design?

Apple's super-thin MacBook Air. What can lighting manufacturers learn from this kind of design?

With the emergence of LED lighting, the number of options for lighting designers and architects has greatly increased. Luminaires can be designed in many different form factors.

One thing that has not changed however, is the way in which the power needed to drive the LED luminaires is distributed. Designers are continually having to work around the bulky power ‘block’ that hinders luminaire design.

It’s possible to create a light fitting that no longer needs a bulky external power supply”

A low-voltage direct current (LVDC) infrastructure, or distributed power, could be the key to eliminating the final stumbling block to more widespread LED adoption.

Distributed power is widely used in other industries. For example, the heavy laptop computers of just a few years ago have been replaced by notebooks less than an inch thick thanks to distributed power and an intermediate LVDC step in the power convertor inside the laptop’s power adapter.

If we apply this same idea to lighting, it’s possible to create a light fitting that no longer needs a bulky external power supply, but instead can use one central power supply for multiple light sources and a small DC/DC converter inside the luminaire. This enables manufacturers to design luminaires around the required functionality or interior design ideas, not around technological constraints.

The benefits of distributed power are not just in design, but in installation. Lighting becomes ‘plug and play’. For example, a shop owner could change their lighting at a fraction of the cost of changing mains-powered lighting. In commercial applications, the need to use cable conduits disappears as well, even in a ceiling structure or inside walls.

For manufactures and lighting designers, using a distributed power approach and LVDC pluggable lighting will not only bring the benefits of more widespread adoption of LED lighting, but also unlock the potential to design beautiful spaces with LED lighting.


Mark Vermeulen is global product manager for lighting at TE Connectivity