Product Reviews

Value Proposition: Osram – Ultraflat System

The new set of ultra-slim drivers from Osram, which the company hopes will challenge old assumptions. 

A good value proposition challenges the way that we see the world. It asks questions and suggests that there may be a different way of doing things. New ways of working often derive from implementing a new piece of technology combined with an attractive price structure, but it is rare for a value proposition to go to the heart of product design and suggest that the shape of the light fixtures that we make could look different; that the form factor itself may be available for a change.

The LED has provided the product designer with a revolutionary light source, wholly unlike anything that we’ve seen before. But, even LED technology comes with the familiar clutter that is needed to make it work. The hardware that the LED depends on, the drivers, the modules and, more recently, the sensors that are now being incorporated into luminaires to enable the Internet of Things, all take up physical space and, without exception, have an impact on the final product shape.

But what happens if we challenge the assumption that a driver has a certain shape and size? If we imagine that the spatial criteria for the in-fixture electronics could be different, then the shapes of things can change. Osram has introduced a new family of ultra-slim drivers and sensors that directly challenge these old assumptions by reducing the height of the driver by almost 50 percent (from 21mm to 11mm). That kind of spatial reduction means that the product designer has a new freedom to create slimline luminaires that begin to match the promise of the LED source.

Freedom to Design

Putting the actual size of the new Osram Ulatraflat System into a handy perspective. 

The major influence on lighting fixtures has always been the size and shape of lamp and control gear. Despite the claims of the Modernists, function has always been forced to follow form, and luminaire design has always been compromised by the presence of the light source. The LED is the first source to remove, almost entirely, the notion that a light fixture needs depth. There is no hot bulb to be contained and no cylindrical glass tube to be fitted with a reflector. LED arrays are being designed with minimal depth and this has changed the relationship between the luminaire and its mounting surface; the luminaire and the spatial volume; the luminaire and the space behind the mounting plane (in the ceiling – wall – floor).

But without the associated electronics following suit, the LED has not been able to fulfil its promise; space still has to be given over to the driver, until now. The Osram Ultraflat driver series changes that and makes a slimline luminaire with integral driver design a real possibility.

 The other members of the Osram Ultraflat family:

Osram PrevaLED Linear Slim

With a narrow module width of 20mm, the PrevaLED supports the minimal styling of the Ultraflat drivers and sensors. The spacing between the LED chips (the ‘pitch’) provides a high level of light homogeneity, a vital aspect in terms of quality of light of LED luminaires. High efficiency and long lifetime make the Ultraflat module an excellent option for luminaire designers.

Osram Ultraflat Dali LS/PD UF sensor

As lighting manufacturers embrace the world of ‘connected lighting’ there is another piece of technology that will need to be accommodated in luminaires to make them really intelligent: a sensor.

Because there is no room, no interior space, that does not have some kind of electric lighting, it makes the luminaire the first choice for housing the sensors that will act as the essential data-harvesters of any connected lighting system.

And if the driver technology has been reduced in its physical size then it’s also essential for the Ultraflat TouchDIM/DALI sensor.

And Finally

It’s not enough that a new family of drivers challenges the shape of light fixtures. Ultimately, the success of the Ultraflat family will be decided by its performance abilities and how well it will connect with future technologies. Most importantly, how ready is it for the Internet of Things?

In terms of its lighting control capacity, the Ultraflat drivers provides 1 – 100 percent dimming capability, using DALI Edition2 protocols, which ensure smooth dimming down to 1.5mA.  Drivers can also be programmed wirelessly using an in-built NFC (Near Field Communication) facility. NFC is the same technology that we’re already experiencing with contactless payment systems. Control instructions are cued onto a mobile programming device and are then transferred to the appropriate driver by holding the device close to it. This is a system that radically simplifies the traditional programming sequence.

All of this means that luminaires using the Osram Ultraflat system will be ‘IoT-ready’ when these connected systems begin to take their place as standard features of lighting installations in the very near future.