Acting smart with industrial lighting

Published:  23 September, 2020

The big news over the past few years in lighting circles has been the move to LED lighting for energy reasons. But LEDs offer much more than mere lighting, as Andy Pye explains.

Energy bills have steadily climbed over the past few years, with lighting a significant contributor. Running costs may be reduced by as much as 45% by switching to LEDs, even though changing from older fluorescent & HID fittings is a large financial outlay. High-quality LED fittings offer much faster payback times and require virtually no maintenance outlay, and retrofit options are often available to act as a drop-in placement.

LEDs are well suited for modern working places as the light output form the latest models exceeds that from fluorescent & HID fittings. They turn on instantly, rather than taking minutes to warm up to full brightness.

Moving to LEDs

When it comes to commercial and warehouse lighting, choosing the correct light fittings for the right location is key to ensuring an even spread of light. Variables include mounting heights, spacing, beam angles and light output, which combine to create the required level of light in accordance with CIBSE guidelines. Reflectors and shades on the fittings are used to reduce glare, which can cause accidents, for example with forklift drivers.

Fittings include high bays and battens and can be designed to withstand corrosive atmospheres and for emergency use. The diecast aluminium bodies often found in anti-corrosive designs also act as heatsinks to ensure that the LEDs are cooled efficiently. Emergency lighting in warehouses and industrial environments is a legal requirement and important for use in hazardous areas, which are often located on sites with unstable power sources.

Lighting energy costs in the warehouse were reduced by 40% by replacing the fluorescent tubes at the 3400m² European hub of aerospace and defence supply chain specialist Paperline in Derby with long life, energy efficient Goodlight G5 LED Battens. “New LED lights have made a very positive impact, particularly within the warehouse," says Warehouse and Logistics Manager Martin Peters. "The light is evenly spread and illuminates all the areas that were previously enshrouded in shadow. The reflective glare from the palletised stock in the racking has also improved.”

Fluorescent lighting is a concern in food processing; made from glass and containing mercury vapour, they can have a detrimental effect on health and present a possible contamination risk. Fluorescent banks of tubes are renowned for their frequent flicker and another hazard is stroboscopic effects: when using lighting over moving machinery in a workshop or warehouse, flicker-free lighting is essential, otherwise moving parts may appear to be static.

In a further acknowledgement of environmental issues, Whitecroft Lighting has realigned its business model towards the circular economy with the launch of one of the world's first Cradle to Cradle Certified, recessed luminaires. The aim is to keep products at their highest utility through life and then refurbish, re-purpose, re-distribute, re-sell and, in the end, recover luminaires.

"This is the beginning of a new, more sustainable, business model," says Matt Paskin, Design Director at Whitecroft Lighting. "The move towards circular solutions will have a direct impact on how the UK professional lighting industry will develop in the coming years."

Smart lighting

Lighting controls are already a regular feature for warehouse lighting schemes, especially in rarely accessed areas. If there is no one in an aisle/area, then the lighting will automatically drop to a lower level or turn off completely. Presence sensors and daylight harvesting can cut down on overall costs by reducing the amount of light being wasted.

The Goodyear Light Boss wireless lighting control allows an energy manager to monitor and control lighting from an App and reports on energy usage. Energy savings of up to 90% can be achieved and the system allows monitoring across multiple sites.

But this is just the start. Demand for smart lighting is booming, with the global market estimated (pre-CoVID) to be EUR 7.7 billion in 2020, when the similar figure in 2011 was EUR 1.8 billion.

According to the Finnish VTT Technical Research Centre, different kinds of smart lighting are expected to become increasingly popular in homes, industrial premises, public buildings and offices. In the future, lighting will not just allow us to see and save as much as 80% of energy compared to traditional lighting, but it could also be used to survey surroundings and transmit information.

Colour temperature makes a huge impact on visibility and productivity. Colour temperatures between 4000K and 5000K are the best choice for warehouses, giving a comfortable white colour, a good option for spaces where staff are working for long periods of time under artificial light.

"Smart lighting technology will enable the direction, power and colour of lighting to be adjusted automatically," says VTT Research Professor Heikki Ailisto. "Lights positioned near windows will change colour according to outdoor temperature. In office buildings, smart lighting technology could even help shift-workers adapt to changes in their circadian rhythms!”

Visible light communication

Driverless transportation systems and a wide array of machines and equipment all communicate with each other and exchange data in the production environment. They are often installed and operated in different locations, making a wireless connection indispensable.

But the wireless spectrum is overloaded. While 5G technology will alleviate this problem, WLAN and Bluetooth have limited bandwidth, making conventional wireless communication problematic. Now, a team of researchers at Fraunhofer IOSB-INA is working on enabling factory machines to communicate using light pulses, a system known as visible light communication (VLC).

“The light spectrum ranges from 380 to 800nm. about 4000 times wider than the entire available wireless spectrum,” says IOSB researcher Daniel Schneider. "VLC is already used in offices, homes and laboratories and is now being used to implement indoor navigation systems in shopping centres. Factory buildings, however, where there are far more sources of interference, present significant challenges for communications technology which haven’t yet been studied in sufficient depth."

With the use of energy-efficient LEDs for visible light communications in industrial premises, the challenge is now to overcome problems due to walls, metallic objects, machines and other interfering signals. Tests with five industrial companies are on-going.

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Information supplied by Saxby Lighting, Raytec, Whitecroft Lighting, VTT and Frwaunhofer was used in the compilation of this article.

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