I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeannine Fisher Wang, PE, LC – Director Business Development, Acuity Brands. The topic: OLED lighting–where it is now, where it’s going. I’m happy to share her responses with you here. The interview informed an article I wrote for the November issue of tED.
DiLouie: How would you characterize current demand for OLED luminaires? What is the current trend pointing to future demand?
Fisher Wang: The demand for OLED lighting is on the rise. We see the growing demand in a number of ways:
– Designers are gaining experience in using OLED in their projects. This experience and first-hand knowledge of seeing their clients’ reactions to the unique benefits OLED offers has prompted ongoing consideration, design and incorporation of OLED lighting into future projects.
– Cost of OLED lighting has come down 40% or more over the past year, often bringing the cost of OLED lighting on par with certain premium LED systems.
– Performance of OLED lighting systems can meet strict energy standards in demanding general lighting applications.
– Designers are also looking for specialized ways to incorporate OLED into their projects where OLED offers unique solutions in terms of both form factor and quality of light, such as in retail shelf lighting, biophilic designs, signage, and wayfinding for hospitality and healthcare. A great example of this is the recent introduction of Nomi™, which is offered to the market as an architectural sconce with options for integrated ADA-compliant signage including Braille.
– The recent availability of very affordable OLED lighting for the consumer market in major homecenters and online retailers (http://www.acuitybrands.com/oled/consumer-products) has broadened awareness of the viability of OLED lighting for not simply niche but mainstream architectural specification lighting available through electrical distribution.
DiLouie: What types of OLED luminaires are currently available?
Fisher Wang: Acuity Brands is focused on offering a broad portfolio of products to the market. The types of luminaires we see encompass a comprehensive range of products to support primarily corporate, hospitality, healthcare residential interiors and statement spaces in a wide breadth of application areas and architectural lighting segments. Luminaire families encompass expansive types of lighting systems, including ceiling surface-mount, ceiling grid-mount, wall-mount, pendant, sconce, in an extensive range of scales. Products are offered for both commercial and consumer market segments. These luminaire families each find ways of celebrating the qualities of OLED that make OLED lighting unique, whether that be pure expression of light, thinness, innate evocativeness, organic and flowing patterns, softness, flowing forms, iconic shapes, or awe-inspiring simplicity.
We also see an evolving class of luminaires that transform lighting design with the development of Duet SSL™ Technology, an interplay of OLED and LED light sources in the same luminaire, optimizing both to produce refined aesthetics, photometric performance, superior lighting quality and cost effectiveness. Duet SSL blends the use of OLED – celebrated for its soft uniform glow, thin forms and diffused light – and LED – trusted as a strong, focused point source. With Duet SSL Technology, light becomes more personal, architecturally sensitive and engaging, while breaking boundaries in efficient and holistic design. Two new concept families – Imoni™ and Olessence™ – illustrate the category-defining benefits of Duet SSL Technology, showcasing several stylistic embodiments and various applications of this revolutionary new approach in lighting design.
Image courtesy of Acuity Brands.
DiLouie: What are the most popular applications for today’s OLED luminaires?
Fisher Wang: Like the breadth of luminaire families available, virtually any interior lighting application is ripe with opportunity to use OLED lighting: open office, private office, lobbies & seating areas, conference rooms, auditoriums, lecture halls, galleries, retail transaction counters, retail shelf & display lighting, corridors, transition spaces, dining areas, and living spaces. OLED can either be the primary light source in any of these spaces or used a special design feature.
DiLouie: What are the basic capabilities of today’s OLED area light sources?
Fisher Wang: Typical form factor, including size: Square rigid ranging from 2”x2” to 12”x12”, bar rigid ranging from 1”x4” to 4”x12”, round rigid ranging from 2” to 4” diameter, square flexible up to 12’x12”, bar flexible in 2”x8”, with additional form factors emerging in the market.
Driver: Most drivers are dimmable using 0-10V dimming; some offer dual technology 0-10V and phase cut dimming. Often dimmers are multi-channel with advancements occurring to enable single panels to be driven efficiently and individually, thereby increasing levels of control and interactive functionality.
Lumens: Lumens vary by size and brightness.
Brightness/m2: Generally a nominal 3000 cd/m2 luminance is optimal for interior lighting, although we are seeing some OLED technology capable of up to 10,000 cd/m2. The higher luminance capability is interesting for certain applications where direct view of the OLED light source is not of primary concern, but with today’s technology, the higher luminance comes with a sacrifice in lifetime.
Color temperature: Primarily 3000K, 3500K, and 4000K with some availability in the range of 2700K to 5000K.
Lifetime: L70 up to 40,000 hrs.
Cost/kL: est $200-500/kL at the panel level.
DiLouie: Where do you believe the technology be within the next five years?
Fisher Wang: Typical form factor, including size: Same form factors as above with more choices becoming available and a shift to flexible substrates.
Driver: We expect a dramatic increase in availability of drivers with electrical characteristics.
Lumens: Same as above.
Brightness/m2: Same as above with less sacrifice of lifetime at the higher luminances.
Color temperature: Full availability in the range of 2700K to 5000K.
CRI: >90 and R9 >50.
Lifetime: L85 up to 50,000 hrs.
Cost/kL: est $20-50/kL at the panel level.
DiLouie: How would you characterize the progress OLED has made in the last 3-5 years?
Fisher Wang: In the last 3-5 years, OLED lighting has progressed significantly in advancing lifetime, reliability, color quality, and decreasing cost. While we expect these advancements to continue in the very near future, we anticipate a renewed focus on increased efficacy and reliability to keep OLED competitive with alternative technologies.
The path of progress in OLED technology is not unlike the path of progress for LED technology. In fact, OLED is relatively much newer than LED and has advanced more rapidly.
DiLouie: What are the benefits of using OLED luminaires compared to other sources?
Fisher Wang: OLED and LED are complementary light sources. OLED is intrinsically a diffused, large area light source, which lends itself to providing soft, glare-free illumination without the need for louvers, reflectors, lenses and other methods of optical control. In comparison, the LED is a point source well suited to directional applications such as downlights and accent lighting. OLED is well suited to area lighting applications such as general ambient office and classroom lighting. OLED is also inherently an approachable light source, which also makes it possible to place the light source closer to the user, enabling new ways of thinking about where the light source can be placed in designs as well as designs based on the concept of application efficiency. People who have experienced OLED lighting in application are literally so attracted to the light source that they are drawn to reach out and touch it. This character is truly unique to OLED and is a major driving force as to why the industry is so excited about what OLED lighting can do today – and in the future.
OLED sources, unlike LED chips, do not get hot during operation, which means they do not require heat sinking. For this reason, OLED can be used in direct contact with materials not necessarily associated with lighting fixtures, such as fabric, wood, plastics and even paper. These possibilities allow OLED to be used in non-traditional luminaires as well as new methods of integration into architectural materials. The future availability of flexible sheets of OLED manufactured in a roll-to-roll processes will further advance these capabilities.
As OLED advances in performance, continues to decline in cost, and takes shape in flexible forms, this technology will continue to advance lighting design and what it can do enhance the spaces where people live, work, and play.
DiLouie: Where does the technology need to be to transcend OLED’s current status as a niche source and reach new applications? What are the odds of this happening, and when might it occur?
Fisher Wang: The biggest challenge for OLED is to become widely available at significantly reduced cost. While OLED is today more affordable than many think, landslide cost reductions are certainly on the horizon as the technology transfers to production using flexible substrates. At present, OLED can be easily be considered for projects with more generous budgets or limit the use of OLED to portions of projects designated as specialty areas. For certain types of luminaires, such as sconces, OLED lighting is already cost competitive with comparable LED solutions. As the cost of OLED continues to come precipitously down, OLED will become cost competitive with the more commodity-type lighting solutions such as recessed LED troffers and linear pendants. The industry is making big investments toward achieving this goal and driving a timeline as short as 3 years from now.
DiLouie: What are good potential applications for OLED that are just developing or otherwise haven’t been explored yet?
Fisher Wang: Many explorations of how OLED can be used in lighting are underway, such as the Duet SSL as previously mentioned; embedding OLED in other materials such as glass; and incorporating OLED lighting into wall, ceiling, flooring, and furnishing materials. Other exciting areas of exploration include understanding how OLED can be used as part of a 24-hour lighting scheme aimed at optimizing circadian entrainment and developing ways OLED can provide enhanced levels of interactivity aimed at creating new uses for light.
While these explorations of what OLED can do will continue to advance not only the technology but also the practice of lighting itself, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that OLED lighting is still new, and the OLED lighting products offered today are unique and compelling. The more the industry experiences OLED today, the more rapidly OLED lighting will advance for the future.
DiLouie: What are the best selling opportunities for OLED luminaires for electrical distributors?
Fisher Wang: OLED adds a special flair to any project, and electrical distributors should consider stocking some of the discreet-type OLED luminaires such as wall sconces and individual ceiling-mounted modules to offer their clients immediately available solutions that are truly unique. For larger-scale installations, complete OLED lighting systems, and even custom OLED lighting solutions, electrical distributors should expect a straightforward ordering process and service levels on par with any other high-quality non-stock LED luminaire.
DiLouie: What do electrical distributors need to know about OLED luminaires to make the best recommendation to their customers?
Fisher Wang: Standard OLED lighting products are readily available in the market with all of the same design & specification tools as their LED counterparts – including IES files, BIM models, specification sheets, installations instructions & videos. Likewise, installation and integration with controls systems is straightforward. Reputable manufacturers of OLED lighting products can also provide recommendations on appropriate application of OLED lighting to ensure that lighting performance and energy standard compliance requirements are met. Finally, for many applications, an OLED lighting solution can offer the special qualities of OLED while still being cost competitive with LED.
DiLouie: Distributors are just now getting used to LED technology. Why should they care about OLED? What does OLED bring to the table that particularly will interest them and their customers?
Fisher Wang: The industry cares about OLED lighting because it brings unique design and character of light to projects of all sorts. Any customer interested in making an impact with their lighting would want to consider OLED, and electrical distributors who can differentiate themselves with their ability to offer OLED will leave a lasting impression with their customers. As industry leaders transform from a pipe & wire & hardware business to technology companies, OLED will be at the forefront of progressive solutions that are more than simply technology but a platform that makes lighting so far beyond simply providing the ability to see.
DiLouie: If you could tell all electrical distributors just one thing about selling opportunities with today’s OLED luminaires, what would it be?
Fisher Wang: While OLED is newer than LED, it need not be intimidating! Afterall, OLED is a form of an SSL technology, and industry education has already taught us a great deal.
DiLouie: Is there anything else you’d like to add about this topic?
Fisher Wang: OLED luminaires offer amazing design (aesthetics and lighting quality), easy installation, good performance, and reasonable cost. OLED is here and NOW.