LED lighting systems are beholden to high-quality standards, which present a number of challenges to designers. While not always a requirement for every solid state lighting (SSL) solution, many commercial and residential applications require strict color consistency, especially in multi-fixture applications where it is easy to see even minor variations in fixture-to-fixture color.
In the past, supply chain challenges associated with maintaining color consistency from fixture to fixture were addressed through a complex and costly process of selective bin sorting of LEDs. LED bin sorting is the process of measuring specific outputs of any given LED for color, brightness, and forward voltage and then sorting each into a "bin" of similar components. While this process does offer the distinct advantages of tightly controlling light output and color, as well as for allowing customized differentiation of products, it is not without offsetting supply chain challenges.
The LED binning process can often leave the supply chain at the mercy of unpredictable yields, as well as the additional challenges of special inventory requirements -- all of which can add up to increased component cost, as well as total cost of ownership.
As SSL technology has continued to evolve, manufacturers have moved toward creating modules, or multi-chip components, where the color mixing has already been completed. These module and multi-chip solutions offer compelling advantages to the supply chain, including:
- Color and output "guaranteed" without the need for specialized binning
- Fewer components to manage on bill of materials
- Lower total cost of ownership
- Time-to-market advantages from a design and manufacturing perspective
The challenges of selecting the right SSL platform can be complex, and seldom will a one-size-fits-all approach work across multiple applications. It can be helpful to engage a partner (Arrow Electronics Inc. (NYSE: ARW), for instance, has highly trained and dedicated SSL experts) to assist in the creation of designs that minimize specialized binning requirements and reduce component count, cost, and lead-time.
It is only after careful consideration of these benefits and associated tradeoffs that the right selection of a light source will deliver both winning performance and reduction of overall supply chain complexity.