"Funkii" by Viso. Photo © Adam Drobiec, Stylepark
Of lenses and other lighting magic
by Thomas Edelmann
Apr 10, 2014

This year, Light+Building, which recently started calling itself “World fair for energy efficiency”, explores how electricity is to be distributed in future as light in homes, offices and on the street, and looks at building automation. And it has notched up records. Some 211,500 visitors from 161 nations made their way to Frankfurt, 47 percent of them from abroad. Whether they – manufacturers and visitors alike – all came in quest for greater efficiency cannot be said for sure. Yet one thing is certain: LED and OLED lighting technology is inspiring many sectors and systems. There was a relaxed atmosphere at the fair, as evidently both small and large brands are successfully participating in the new developments. Yet anyone searching for new, convincing designs and comprehensive creative concepts may have gone home disappointed. It is in the details that innovation is apparent – sometimes tiny, and other times quite enormous.

Take lenses and diffusing screens, optical systems installed in front of LED-components, for example, whose task it is to disperse light. Depending on the application they either bundle it or diffuse it. Tobias Grau features them in his new “Set” spotlight, which comes in various mounted and recessed versions and colors. With the exception of two model series, Grau has switched his entire product portfolio over to LED. And increasing numbers of manufacturers are doing the same.

In addition to new LED lighting tools such as “Lightscan”, an outdoor spotlight, Erco presented visitors with spotlights’ interiors such as collimator lenses and Spherolit lenses. The design of its trade stand was informed by the shape of a greatly magnified LED circuit board. This year, Erco succeeded in considerably curbing its electricity consumption, which at just 6.17 watts per square meter was 19 percent less than at the last fair in 2012.

They met while walking their dogs: famous Dutch industrial designer Friso Kramer and Henk Janssen, CEO of Lightwell, a company that produces LED luminaires for the public realm with illuminants from Philips and Cree. One of the Netherlands’ top designers, Kramer (b. in 1922) started out in his career in the 1950s. His claim to fame in Germany was his “1200” bench system for Wilkhahn in addition to office furniture for Ahrend. In 1960, The City of The Hague commissioned him to design a round street lamp. For Lightwell Friso Kramer has breathed fresh life into the design – its LED light is now cast against an asymmetrically facetted reflector. The luminaire, which like its historical predecessor is destined for residential areas, has a tripartite beam. It does not shine into homes, but provides light at front door height.

A&O Technology from Bremen produces public design of an entirely different kind. The company’s large Xenon and LED spotlights serve as “architainment”, in other words they illuminate events and spectacular buildings, in the United Arab Emirates or in Miami, for instance. The spotlights made in Germany withstand heat, cold and humidity. The firm has even had the honor to illuminate the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, several times.

“T.T. Moon” by Ingo Maurer is still at the prototype stage. Like a miniature space ship with sails attached that serve as reflectors, the technical lighting platform floats through space. There are LED uplights and downlights on the circuit board, which can be dimmed via special sensor pads. At first sight “Brick” looks like an ordinary lighting system; however, each Brick lighting element (two additional modules can be fitted onto a basic one) can be swiveled by 360 degrees. The body is available in black, blue or “natural” aluminum, the lamella panel comes in bright red, bright yellow or silver. 42 in-built LEDs require 17 watts and produce 1,500 lumens. “Brick” can be infinitely dimmed. Till Armbrüster’s “Luminophor” suspension luminaire, likewise an Ingo Maurer design, on the other hand, demonstrates how white LEDs work. From a blue LED in the luminaire head the light is first bundled by a lens and then transformed into white light as it is guided through a coated diffusing screen.

However, it was not only novelties by such giants that were on show. “Combilight” by Steng, masterminded by Prof. Wulf Schneider and partner, is a modular system at the heart of which is minimalist spotlight that has its own cooling system integrated into a translucent Perspex cylinder, which is 44 millimeters in diameter. Thanks to its powerful spotlights “Combilight” illuminates a whole host of locations, from stores to surgeries to offices or homes. Moreover, the lighting color can be altered through color filters. Other versions are available: a swiveling downlight, a suspension luminaire, ceiling and wall luminaire. The range also includes tracks and other system components.

What is startling, however, is the way in which some of the major firms have chosen to present themselves. Take Osram, for example, whose booth is an off-white extravaganza, dotted against which are the orange-clad fair hostesses – not the most flattering combination. While “Luminaire”, the OLED pilot by Werner Aisslinger and Till Grosch, looks a little lost hanging from the ceiling. Not even the most perceptive visitor will realize here that the designers deliberately combined traditional tile shapes to create a three-dimensional landscape of recurring, irregular elements.

Nor is Philips’ presentation of new products very effective: Visitors are led through a cave fitted with lighting installations destined to elevate their senses before they find themselves among a confusing mass of Philips’ products.

In addition to showcasing their current innovations, some manufacturers offer insights into their laboratories. LG largely devotes itself to the OLED and its not wholly convincing future potential (an employee keeps replacing the portable flat lighting elements), while Samsung presents a future LED that is still at the research stage, though its launch is scheduled for 2016. The Nano LED is supposed to manage without the typical yellow phosphorous coating. So possibly the lighting scene will look a little different next time around at Light+Building.

Erco lenses. Photo © Thomas Edelmann, Stylepark
Booth by Erco. Photo © Adam Drobiec, Stylepark
"Luminophor 4C" by Till Armbrüster for Ingo Maurer. Photo © Ingo Maurer
"T.T. MOON" von Ingo Maurer. Foto © Thomas Edelmann, Stylepark
Booth by Osram. Photo © Adam Drobiec, Stylepark
OLED study "Luminaire" by Werner Aisslinger. Photo © Thomas Edelmann, Stylepark
"Eggboard" by Artemide. Photo © Thomas Edelmann, Stylepark
"Grafa" by Artemide. Photo © Thomas Edelmann, Stylepark
"Falling in Love" by Tobias Grau. Foto © Adam Drobiec, Stylepark