EEweb-Lighting Electronics: September 2016– LED drivers are the natural place to embed intelligence for lighting controls — acting as a backbone for access to Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
The lighting industry is shifting its focus to LEDs as an alternative to traditional lighting sources. This shift brings with it the need to power large-scale LED grids in a small but powerful way. Energy Recovery Products, or ERP, helps to provide the necessary power with their line of professional-grade commercial LED drivers. Michael Archer, co-founder and CEO of ERP, utilized his expertise cultivated from creating power architectures for computers to develop a line of efficient LED drivers for architectural, commercial and industrial applications. EEWeb recently met with Michael to discuss how ERP is working to power the LED lighting industry and what the future of LEDs looks like.
Give us a bit of your background. How were you inspired to start ERP?
I went to school in Germany, came over to the United States in 1982, and have been working my way through the power electronics industry ever since. I’ve been speci cally focused in LED lighting for the past 12 years. Early in my career, I was a scientist developing the rst practical resonant converters that dominate the power electronics market today. I worked in the computer business, designing the power architectures for notebook, desktop and server computing platforms for companies like Apple, Dell, HP, IBM, Texas Instruments and others.
I refer to myself as a serial entrepreneur who enjoys building companies from scratch. I created my rst startup, EOS Corporation, in my garage when I was 30, and grew it to $35 million. My inspiration for starting ERP came when I saw how LEDs were extending beyond networking, computing and storage devices to lighting. Where there are people, there is a need for lighting, and I wanted to power lighting innovation with small, smart and e cient LED drivers for architectural, commercial and industrial applications.
What is ERP’s main focus?
We focus on professional-grade commercial LED lighting applications (rather than consumer/residential) because quality, size, reliability, energy savings, dimmer interoperability, intelligent controls and total cost of ownership matter, and are required by our customers.
If you look at an LED light assembly, it is made up of the LED, a mechanical assembly and a cosmetic housing designed for di erent sizes, shapes, styles and locations. In order for the LED to operate, a constant current LED driver is needed. Most AC power relies on a circuit in the wall as it’s voltage source. The LED power supply has to convert that voltage source into a current source to regulate the light output in the LED. ERP makes a wide variety of these converting devices for LED lights deployed in architectural, area, digital signage, emergency, entertainment, horticulture, hospitality, industrial,
o ce, pathway, retail, recreational and roadway lighting applications.
We design our products in California and manufacture in both California and Asia. Most of the processes we use to manufacture LED drivers are very similar in topology, manufacturing techniques, and logistics to processes used to manufacture power supplies in the computing industry.
What excites you most about the growing LED lighting industry?
The fact that there is still so much ground to cover. We’ve had lighting technology around since Edison in the 1870s that fundamentally didn’t change much until the last 10 years. Now, we nd ourselves in an era where the ability to deliver light (and data) in any shape, form or size is possible. Immersive, interactive experiences are enabled by LED lights. With technologies like Li- Fi (whose roots began with Alexander Graham Bell in the 1880s) you’ll see LED lights deliver high-speed data access for billions of Internet of Things (IOT) devices. There is a huge thrust of creativity going on right now. I believe we’re going to see the way lighting is used change drastically, and it’s exciting to be literally powering that change.
Is ERP currently focusing more on developing new technology or optimizing the manufacturing process?
Optimizing our manufacturing is a continual process, and one that we always have our eye on. On the technology side, a lot is happening. The new products we’re developing and introducing to the market later this year are fully programmable and wireless enabled with intelligent control and mesh communications capabilities. They are able to communicate the status of the LED light itself, tell us how much power is being consumed, if there are power interruptions and if there are thermal faults. With energy e ciency standards like California’s Title 24 and the U.S. government’s Energy Star 2.0—lighting needs to be smart. We live in an information age, and it’s clear that the lighting industry as a whole is following in that vein.
What are the key competitive advantages of ERP’s LED drivers?
We apply our “small, smart and e cient” expertise from computing into the
LED lighting industry. That expertise enables ERP to deliver high e ciency, high density power using advanced resonant LLC converter topologies
that reduce switching losses and boost conversion e ciency. Being small, yet powerful, ERP LED drivers give electro- mechanical engineers more exibility to create unique lighting xture designs without worrying about the size of the power supply. Dimmer interoperability is also a key advantage as ERP drivers work with most of the di erent types of dimming techniques and protocols. Being programmable means one ERP LED driver model can work e ectively in multiple lighting xture designs which lowers costs for our customers. ERP driver intelligence enables wired and wireless remote control and monitoring to optimize energy savings.
Which ERP technology innovations and products provide these
The most successful products we have in the marketplace, even from 5+ years ago, are all resonant LLC power topologies because the result is an extremely e cient and small LED
driver that enables LED designers to e ectively hide the power supply. The power supply tends to get in the way of the aesthetic design aspect of the lighting xture. Our high density products enable that important exibility for the end designer. ERP is fortunate to be powering many of the award-winning lighting xtures in the industry today.
Where, in terms of industries, regions or countries, are you seeing customers deploy intelligent lighting controls?
Certainly Europe and the United States are picking up speed very quickly. I think Europe has been slightly ahead of the United States. When it comes to lighting, the European market has typically been a bit more advanced, but that gap is quickly closing. In the next year or so, the United States will probably be surpassing Europe through the deployment of integrated wireless control systems. Buildings that are monitored at the power supply level of granularity for energy consumption are really taking off in the Unites States right now.
Why do you think customers make the investment in intelligent lighting controls?
If you’re in Europe, where lighting ambiance is very important, the intelligent LED lighting controls are used to ensure ambient light experiences.
In the United States, we are seeing a pragmatic focus on reducing power consumption and lowering utility costs on a larger system level to comply with government regulations and initiatives designed to ensure the stability of the utility grid while reducing requirements for fossil fuel power generation. Ambiance and pragmatism are competing
goals. Fortunately for ERP, the core technology enables both goals to be achieved. Even though the markets are different in different countries, ERP can service both desires because of the intelligence and programmability embedded in our LED drivers.
You mentioned intelligent lighting controls at the industry and government levels. Do you foresee this being adopted at the consumer level as well?
Currently, the products available to facilitate lighting and power controls
are primarily designed for higher power megawatt/gigawatt consumption
office buildings, retail stores, factories, stadiums and warehouse, rather than the kilowatt residential or consumer side. We’re helping accelerate what’s happening in power control and affordable management for street lights, ambient outdoor lighting, industrial
and commercial complexes. Beyond that, I would speculate that eventually utilities will want some control over lighting systems across the board, which is something that a wireless lighting system can supply. However, right now, wireless lighting systems in homes are typically used for ambiance control rather than energy savings.
What will your next generation of products bring to the market?
ERP’s next generation LED drivers will be more powerful to address high- wattage / high lumen fixtures in street lights, stadium lights and other outdoor lighting applications while continuing to be smaller and more efficient than our competitors with all the wireless connectivity and intelligent controls. We also are developing some innovative dimming approaches where the driver is integrated with the dimmer to power multiple lighting fixtures. This will lower the cost of wireless lighting controls in residential and small o ce environments since the intelligence will be embedded in one integrated dimmer/ driver that can deliver ambiance and energy savings for all the lights a room.
What advice do you have for electrical engineers just starting their career today in power electronics?
I think the important thing for new engineers in power is to not get
too caught up in the digital side of everything. While it’s important to understand the digital side, don’t forget that power is analog. We still use reactive components to transfer power from one location to another, or from one form to another. It’s very important to stay in touch with the analog roots of power to be effective in the long term throughout your power electronics career because digital needs analog.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about the lighting industry or, more specifically, ERP?
ERP invites you to collaborate with us as we power the future of LED lighting innovation. We are happy to provide electro-mechanical lighting designers with samples of our products; and earn the right to your business by making things easy when it comes to pairing the right driver with the LED components you have selected. We are fortunate to be the power inside many of the industry’s leading lighting fixtures. ERP envisions a future where LED lighting will be the backbone of the Internet of Things (IoT), enabling a completely new connected world where light becomes data and delivers engaging, interactive experiences for people everywhere through the Internet of Lights.
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Michael is co-founder and
CEO of ERP Power. Established
in 2004, ERP designs and manufactures energy-e cient LED driver power electronics
for commercial and industrial lighting applications. Small, yet powerful, ERP products deliver
an industry-leading combination of compact size, extensive dimmer compatibility, and high e ciency at competitive cost. Headquartered in Moorpark, CA, ERP owns and operates its own ISO 9001 certi ed manufacturing facility to ensure quality of design, sourcing, production and testing.
ERP is an Angeles Equity Partners portfolio company. www.angelesequity.com