Blog Post

LED Light as Good as Halogen: the Xicato LED Spot Module

The Xicato LED Spot Module is revolutionizing LED lighting

October 13, 2010

The Xicato LED Spot Module is revolutionizing LED lighting.

Photo: Xicato

While in California two weeks ago, I visited the headquarters of Xicato, one of the most exciting companies in the burgeoning LED (light-emitting diode) lighting industry. CEO Menko DeRoos explained the company's modular approach to LED lighting and demonstrated the exceptional light quality that is achieved with their system.

To date, Xicato has been focusing on replacements for small MR-16 halogen lamps, defining a very specific niche for the company. The company does not itself manufacture light fixtures; it supplies the LED components to those manufacturers. The first products were shipped to fixture manufacturers in January, 2009, and the company is working with about 60 fixture manufacturers worldwide today.

The three-year-old firm has pioneered a number of significant advances in the development of these MR-16 replacements. For starters, the company created the module category in LED lighting--an approach that is now being widely copied by other manufacturers. This approach allows fixture manufacturers to quickly prototype and efficiently produce LED fixtures. Using just three screws, the LED module is secured to a heat sink for carrying away unwanted heat--a key requirement with LED lighting--and interchangeable reflectors with various beam-spreads can be easily secured to that LED module.

LumeLEX 2024 fixture from LSI that uses the Xicato LED Spot Module.

Photo: Lighting Services Inc.

"Literally in a day they [fixture manufacturers] can build a prototype," DeRoos told me. "We try to shrink the time to market." Xicato currently offers LED modules with outputs of 400, 700, and 1,000 lumens, and they will soon be introducing 1,300- and 2,000-lumen modules. All of these modules have the same dimensions, making fixture design very easy.

SUPPORT INDEPENDENT SUSTAINABILITY REPORTING

BuildingGreen relies on our premium members, not on advertisers. Help make our work possible.

See membership options »

The second advance pioneered by Xicato is "remote phosphor" technology in which the phosphors are separated from the actual LED light sources. This approach allows the company to use fairly standard, off-the-shelf LEDs (from quality LED manufacturers Philips, Cree, and Osram), skip the laborious "binning" process in which light output of individual LEDs is color-matched, and generate highly consistent white light through the phosphor design.

The company's standard XSM modules achieve a color rendering index (CRI) of a respectable 81, while their XSM Artist Series achieves a truly remarkable CRI of 98--virtually identical to that of halogen lamps. Perhaps more significant, the variability of light color has been dramatically reduced. DeRoos demonstrated how much color variability is permitted with ANSI and NEMA standards and then the maximum variability permitted by Xicato's XSM specifications (see chart); the differences were remarkable. In technical terms, Xicato maintains color consistency within two MacAdam ellipses, while industry standards for LED binning allow for seven MacAdam ellipses (this will mean something to lighting designers).

This chart shows the range of acceptable color of Xicato's LED modules, vs. the industry standard.

Graphic: Xicato

A key part of Xicato's success has been their driving commitment to quality. Their products are tested at 85°C and 85% relative humidity--significantly more extreme conditions than what most manufacturers submit their products to. Xicato's product efficacy (lumens per watt) specifications are based on operation at 70°C--actual worst-case conditions that fixtures are likely to experience--while efficacies of LED lights from some manufacturers are measured at lower temperatures (resulting in unrealistically high efficacy estimates).

The efficacy of Xicato LED modules today is good, but not exceptional. The highest efficacies of Xicato modules are in the 45-55 lpw range. In the Artist Series, efficacies drop to the range of 33-40 lpw. DeRoos's philosophy is to get the performance and quality up to a high level, then focus attention on improving the efficacy. As higher-efficacy LEDs become available, the energy performance of Xicato modules will continue to improve--while the company maintains the quality they are quickly becoming known for. DeRoos says the efficacy of company's LED modules will improve 10-15% next year.

LSI fixtures using the Xicato LED Spot Module illuminating the Brooker Gallery at the Chicago Field Museum.

Photo: Lighting Services Inc.

In introducing products, Xicato worked first with European fixture manufacturers, because of both the higher cost of electricity there and the willingness of Europeans to spend more for quality products. Among U.S. fixture manufacturers using Xicato LED modules is Lighting Services Inc (LSI), whose LED fixtures have been installed in the Brooker Gallery at the Field Museum in Chicago and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art--applications where the CRI of LED lighting had previously not been considered adequate and the color variability too great. "It's a huge hit in museums," DeRoos said of their products.

 

 

 

For more information:

Xicato

San Jose, California

847-525-5048

www.xicato.com

Lighting Services Inc (LSI)

Stony Point, New York

800-999-9574, 845-942-2800

www.lightingservicesinc.com

Alex Wilson is the  founder of BuildingGreen. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feeds.

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.

Comments

October 13, 2010 - 6:56 pm

Last winter I devoted weeks attempting to purchase suitable LED fixtures. The industry was definitely not ready: I could have bought 50 LED flashlights and lit up the room better and for less money than LED bulbs. Doesn't make any sense.

I was on the verge of going to K-Mart and buying LED Christmas lights (!) when finally purchased LED rope lights - $15 per 10' - 1/4 the price of a single bulb. Love them.

CRI is being used as the definitive standard, when actually it's origin was fairly arbitrary; "ideal" remains largely a subjective and personal choice.

I'm writing this under my lovely halogen track, which I've come to despise. Behind me is the LED rope, made as simply and cheaply as possible - no technology whatsoever - the light from which I absolutely love. The halogens are orange by comparison, and depressingly gloomy.

Like I said, it's really subjective. Believe what you see, not what you read.