Compact, robust, and generating output at wavelengths from the IR to the UV spectral regions, LEDs are well-positioned for a host of lighting applications. The devices offer higher efficiencies and significantly longer lifetimes than incandescent and even compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. The reduction in total cost of ownership, coupled with increasing environmental regulations, have positioned LEDs to make significant inroads into many lighting sectors.

Lighting applications for LEDs can be divided into the classes below:

  • Indication illumination
  • Functional illumination
  • Display illumination
  • General illumination

Here, we talk about each of the four classes, discussing function, why they are strong niches for LED technology, and some examples.

The Four Primary Classes of LED Lighting

Indication Lighting

What is it? Devices and equipment need to communicate with the operator. Indication lighting lets users determine the status of a device at a glance. A green light might indicate that a device is turned on, while a red light might indicate a fault. Traffic flowing through a modem might be shown by a solid white light that begins flashing upon service interruption.

Why LEDs work: LEDs are available in a variety of colors. Multicolor LEDs can be particularly useful. A red/green LED, for example, can show green when the device is operational and red when it has faulted out. The devices are compact enough to be placed close together for more complex instrument panels, assuming effective control of light bleed and proper thermal management. Light pipes provide an additional level of design freedom, in terms of positioning, visibility, and location on the housing of the device.

Sample applications: Any piece of equipment that involves electrical power, from computer equipment to industrial machines, home entertainment devices, vehicles of all types, power tools, and more. If it runs off of a battery or wall-plug power, chances are good that it will include at least one indication LED.

Functional Illumination

What is it? Functional illumination refers to the use of lighting to support the function or assist in the operation of a device. Functional illumination can be as simple as using an LED to light up the power switch on a surge protector or to backlight the charge-level icon on an electric vehicle charging station. The light does more than simply communicate status – it is intrinsic to device function.

Why LEDs work: LEDs are available in a full range of color, multicolor, and white light devices. With their compact form factors, high efficiency, and robustness, they are particularly effective for portable devices. Their long lifetime also provides benefits for high reliability applications such as automotive, aerospace, and healthcare.

Sample applications: Functional illumination can range from the simple, such as backlighting a logo to the complex, such as the color matched, structured lighting required for industrial machine vision systems.

Display illumination

What is it? From the tiny screen of a smart thermostat to that 85 inch diagonal flat screen TV across the room, LEDs are the go-to technology for display illumination.

Why LEDs work: The small form factor and choices of mounting style allow the devices to be used for backlighting and side lighting, depending upon the needs of the application. The availability of programmable RGB devices supports large-scale screens with dynamic displays. The ruggedness and light weight make them effective for portable devices. For large-scale displays, the long lifetime and high efficiency drive down cost of ownership.

Sample applications: Phone displays, vehicle dashboard displays, human-machine interfaces on consumer and industrial products, computer displays, televisions, and video walls at public venues are just a few examples of display applications dominated by LEDs.

General illumination

What is it? Indoor and outdoor lighting of spaces, including home, workplace, industrial locations, public spaces. Specialty applications include interiors of a variety of vehicles ranging from trains to ships to aircraft.

Why LEDs work: LEDs offer significantly longer lifetime and efficiency than incandescent and even compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Their reliability and long lifetimes provide significantly lower overall cost of ownership that offsets higher cost of acquisition (which is rapidly dropping). On the regulatory front, the technology is getting a boost from bands of incandescent bulbs and increasing concerns about the environmental hazards of the mercury in CFL’s. General lighting manufacturers have developed LEDs and form factors that work with traditional fixtures. More recently, the focus has been on developing innovative fixtures that take advantage of new design degrees of freedom offered by the lights.

Sample applications: LEDs for general illumination go beyond just home lighting. They bring great benefits for lighting large indoor spaces, such as hotels, hospitals, airports, and even factories. Municipalities save on power maintenance costs with LED street lighting. Because of the color options, LEDs can be used for aesthetic lighting, washing surfaces with color or adding decorative accents to building interiors and exteriors.

At Bivar, we supply LEDs and light pipes for a host of LED illumination applications. Find out how we can help with your next design – contact us.