LED lighting offers new opportunities
September 15, 2013 | 7:00 pm CDT

Let there be light. That Biblical pronouncement gives a pretty good pedigree to everything else that has come after in the world of illumination. This includes LED lighting, which some consider “the next revolution in cabinetry.”

Chris Johnston, national sales manager for the Commercial Division at Nora Lighting in Commerce, Calif., says, “Once a fad, LED is now an acceptable and viable means to illuminating a home or business. Just in the past year the technology has advanced tenfold, improving the light output while reducing the cost to the end user.”
Joey Shimm, director of marketing for Outwater Plastics Industries, in Bogota, N.J., agrees that LED lighting “is on the fast track today to replacing all other light sources.” This is in spite of what he calls “initial growing pains, which encompassed its new-to-market high cost and less than desired early performance.”

The future of LED lighting is so assured in the mind of Art Kubach, a principal at TC Millwork in Bensalem, Pa., that he says the ability to seamlessly integrate LED solutions into finished products means professional woodworkers will have to “really think differently about how they engineer and build things.”

As virtually all readers of this article know, LED stands for light-emitting diode, which is defined as a semiconductor device that emits visible light when an electric current passes through it.


Features and benefits


The reasons that LEDs are attractive to cabinetmakers and their clients include all of the following, according to Jenna Kaba, marketing coordinator for Norcross, Ga.-based Hera Lighting:
-LEDs are low profile and sleek fixtures that can easily be incorporated into furniture and cabinets
-Low energy consumption
-No heat or UV
-Add value to kitchens with ambient and task lighting
-Long lifetime of 50,000 hours, which means never having to change a light bulb
-High color rendering, good quality of light
-Low voltage so there is no fire or shock risk
-HVAC/energy savings
-Plug and play systems that can connect to one driver
-UL-listed as a complete system

In this long list, one that must stand out for wood professionals is the added-value opportunity.
Kaba says, “Lighting adds value to any kitchen and automatically makes it appear high end.” Because the lighting now comes as part of a “complete package with cabinetry,” increased profits should result, she states.
Emphasizing the small size of many LED products, Johnston notes that they can be incorporated rather easily into tape lighting, edge-lit panels and other formerly hard-to-access applications.

Paraphrasing the Star Trek prologue, he says, these thin, flexible light sources are “going places where no light has gone before. Under furniture, behind pictures and mirrors, around outdoor seating areas and planters, along bar tops and shelves, in home theaters, and of course, coves, niches, and under, in and on top of cabinets. Offered in standard, high-output and color-changing tape light versions, the technology allows for endless possibilities.”


Who has what


Shimm says Outwater’s Tri-Mod LED backlighting panels are only 1/16th inch thick, making them “a great way to uniformly backlight graphics, posters and promotional messages without any hot spots or uneven light dispersion.” He sees stores, restaurants, museums and exhibit booths, as well as commercial and residential buildings as good settings for these uses. In addition, he says, the panels can also be readily used to illuminate all types of translucent surfaces, including onyx or Corian countertops and backsplashes.

“With this in mind,” Shimm continues, “It is no surprise that LED lighting has realized broad acceptance by numerous industries that had initially shunned its use. It has rapidly evolved into an obvious choice.” Based on steadily increasing sales figures for LED lighting over the past few years, the manufacturing community appears to agree.

LED product variations are numerous. Kaba describes Hera’s Stick-LED as miniature linear LED lighting with an integrated connecting system. She says, “These ultra-compact strips of LED lighting are perfect for furniture, cabinets, displays and closet interiors.”

Hera also offers a TwinStick-LED, an R55-LED and an AKOD-LED. The R55 is the next generation of LED spotlight, “an improvement for the KB12-LED,” says Kaba, but able to use the same mounting hole. Luminous efficacy is 55 lm/W, she reports.

“The brand new AKOD-LED (full name Affordable Kitchen, Office and Display Lighting) is a complete LED lighting solution which offers a very low profile and integrated on/off switch,” says Kaba. Although it is “specifically designed with office applications in mind,” she says it also works well in residential cabinets and retail displays.” The product comes in three sizes and offers dimming capabilities.

At Nora Lighting, the LED line includes: tape lights; edge-lit panels; puck lights; retrofit downlights for home and office; track and rail fixtures for home and retail sites; pendants; step and brick lights; and emergency/exit signs.

“The new versatility and choice of LED fixtures have made them a practical solution for all installations from home and office to commercial, retail and institutional lighting,” says Johnston.

He is particularly high on the Standard, Hy-Brite, High Output and RGB color changing tape lights, as well as the Nora LED Lightbar Plus linear lightbar, which may be installed under cabinets and features powerful 400-plus lumen output per foot while only consuming an energy-saving 8W per foot.

And how about those compact (2 ¾ inch wide and ½ inch deep) slim-line pucks that are designed for display shelves, furniture cabinets, jewelry cases and other accent niches? Johnston says they install with a single screw bracket, can be “daisy-chained,” and are dimmable, with a dimming power supply.

“At TC Millwork,” says Kubach, “Our latest offering is a three-watt puck that is very low profile. It produces almost 1,000 lux at 16 inches with color rendition at 93.5 right on the black body curve. This is basically considered museum-quality lighting using very little energy.”

He adds, “We will be launching and incorporating the first OLED (organic LED) strip light into our Smartwall shelving in the third quarter of this year. We feel that this will be where indoor lighting goes in the near future. What makes OLEDs special is the fact that they are self-emissive, as thin as your credit card, will soon be producing 80 lumens per watt (135 lumens per watt within a year). And they are not single-point lights, which is a big detraction with LED from a visual perspective.”

TC Millwork’s Smartwall deserves a fuller description. As reported by Karl Forth in 2012, “LED technology is at the heart of TCM’s Smartwall. Using the company’s Leggero lightweight shelves, proprietary wiring harnesses are built into a shelf core and wired to embedded LED puck lights. The shelf then makes its connection to the powered standards. The lit shelves can be placed anywhere on the wall and it lights up and connects automatically. ‘You bring the light directly to the product. It’s totally seamless and wireless for the customer,’ Kubach says.”

Forth said TC Millwork makes a wide variety of display products for use on their Smartwall, to include straight and slanted shelves, shadow boxes, step shelves and a lit clear shelf with a proprietary design strip LED light with a groove that it fits into. There are no wires, only two magnets that are used with the contact points inside the shelf.

At Interzum this past May, Gera Leuchten of Sankt Gangloff in Thuringia, Germany, presented its modular Gera Lighting Systems 4 and 6, as well as the LED-based Avion standard lamp, which was unveiled along with an optimized, electronic control for lighting colors.

The company said its ScanAndLight technology, which measures and controls the light of each lamp in the surrounding room, can now be adapted “even more effectively” for the well-being of particular users. In a press release, Gera stated, “Targeted microelectronic control of the LED color components permits the creation of a constantly adapting light mood throughout the entire room, which is perceived as being completely natural by the human eye.”

The new version of the Gera ScanAndLight solution is even more flexible and mobile than in the past, according to the company. The control data now are simply transmitted to the light sources wirelessly, whereas they needed to be sent to a computer for further processing in the original version—with each individual light source connected by means of cables.

Now, the data can be controlled either by means of a simple wall switch, a remote control device or—irrespective of location—using mobile terminal devices such as smart¬phones, PC tablets and laptops.
In addition to creating various room ambiences, the revised version offers the benefit that the lighting systems can be controlled and monitored as part of an overall building automation system. This permits, for instance, timer-controlled lighting as a form of burglary protection.

Turning its attention to color, Gera Leuchten introduced a simple light control for adjusting white color components by means of a sensor switch. “We have once again dramatically increased the range of white and color gradations. With the new electronic control, adding white can result in lower color saturation and hence generate gentle pastel hues,” explained Thomas Ritt, the firm’s designer and product manager.


Getting in on the act

Where are the customers most likely to purchase LED lighting? Kubach responds, “I think retail, museums, and office furniture are going to be your easiest sales and deliver the biggest ROI.”

The Pennsylvania millworker, who also offers his own line of lighting products, says every retail store fixture is a potential site for LED lighting. “Your aim should be to bring the light to the product, and LED technology enables you to do that,” he explains.

Kubach goes on to warn cabinetmakers and furniture manufacturers that lighting is not the place to stint on quality. “The quality of the light is everything,” he says. “There are many inexpensive LED knockoffs in the marketplace. And when you plug them in, that’s just what they look like—inexpensive knockoffs.”

What’s the point of creating a very high quality fixture or piece of furniture if you then introduce a poor light? You would only defeat your own purpose, he points out.

With fine quality LED lighting in place, you minimize customer service callbacks, says Kubach. “Don’t cheat on the light engine, The key is to select a unit with the highest color rendition, best lumens-per-watts performance, properly heat sunk, and integrated into a good looking housing with great optics—for as little glare and best light spread as possible,” he says.

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About the author
Alan Richman

Alan Richman, former editor of Wood Digest and Cabinet Manufacturing & Fabricating, is a New Jersey-based freelance writer specializing in the woodworking industry. He has been a contributor to CabinetMaker and CabinetMakerFDM since 2007. Contact him at [email protected].