We get many questions here at RCI about lighting assemblies, mostly from Product Development Engineers looking for guidance that’ll help them deliver a successful project. We’ve outlined some of the most common questions we receive; hopefully you will be able to use the answers to help your next lighting project get off on the right foot!
1. What material should I use?
There are 3 primary factors that will influence your choice of material:
- Optical Performance
- Mechanical Performance
- Cost & Availability
Your project needs are key to selecting the right materials, but usually what drives that decision is the total reflectance (TR) and optical performance of a material. The reflective properties of a material go beyond just reflecting the light; it’s also about how a material reflects that light. Some reflective materials feature high image clarity (the kind of clarity you get in a bathroom mirror) while others offer a very soft, diffused image (like the reflection you get in a stainless steel appliance). Both materials reflect the same amount of light, but reflect it differently. Ultimately, it all depends on what you’re looking for.
Left to Right: diffuse, semi diffuse, and high clarity reflective materials.
When it comes to mechanical performance, you’ll want to choose a material that adequately supports the reflecting and maintains its shape; if the reflector also has to hold other components – like a socket or LED board – that will also influence your choice of materials. Another consideration is heat. Materials can react very differently to temperatures. Once again, it all depends on what you’re looking for.
Finally, the cost of the material you choose is in large part based on its thickness, the finish put on it, and whether that material is readily available. Thicker materials tend to be more expensive, while very thin materials tend to damage easily. Premium finishes with very high TR tend to be more expensive, as well as some of the specialty asymmetric materials. Materials that are not commonly available may require a volume purchase – another cause of increased cost and extended timelines – while others are typically in stock with most suppliers. Allow us to work with you on the overall goals of the project to help you choose the right material for your project.
2. What factors determine whether or not my project will require tooling?
The bottom line is that different suppliers will have different manufacturing processes, and those processes will determine any tooling needs. Generally speaking, most assembles won’t require custom tooling, though some shapes will require tooling to make any production parts at all. Custom tooling is more expensive, but if you need a large volume produced, customization might just pay for itself.
3. How do we design the assembly so that it can be easily manufactured?
The best answer is this: involve your supplier early on in the process; their expertise is what will keep you from spinning your wheels on designs that can’t easily be produced. If you have concerns about the details, like component fastening and how the reflector will be held together, it’s best to get input from experts, as these considerations all affect the reflector’s long-term performance, appearance, and cost.
4. Will my design work?
This is really the ultimate question for any lighting project. You’ll have confidence only after you work with your supplier to get a prototype made on production equipment (it’s important that it’s made using the actual equipment that would produce it), then have it thoroughly tested. Testing can be done formally through a lab, or it can simply be lighting up the assembly to see if it works as expected.The success of any lighting project depends in large part on the expertise of your supplier, and on their experience with a variety of challenges.
We’d be happy to demonstrate our knowledge – give us a call at 262-605-0500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to help in any way we can!