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Design Awards Differentiate Lextar from the Competition

The future is bright for this company's innovative lighting solutions

Sep 04, 2014 | By Ken Liu

By KEN LIU

In July this year the Taiwanese LED heavyweight Lextar Electronics Corp. won an International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) in the United States for its intelligent "PANDORA"pendant. Michael Yang, manager and chief designer in the company's lighting product design dept., says the award once again shows that his firm's innovative designs meet the need of end users.

Lextar's PANDORA lighting fixture.Lextar's PANDORA lighting fixture.

The PANDORA fixture was picked as an IDEA winner because of its ability to simulate natural light such as beautiful twilight and use wireless technology to control the on/off switch and color-changing function.

PANDORA debuted in April this year at the Light+Building trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. “A lighting design intended to bring Mother Nature into the home should not just stress the exterior of the lighting fixture, but the mood the illumination that the fixture generates,” Yang comments.

PANDORA is outfitted with a total of 60 red, blue, and green LEDs, and integrates smart phone and Wi-Fi wireless technologies. Yang explains that the fixture generates light that simulates natural light and produces a halo effect by receiving the data sent from Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones that take the pictures of natural scenes and analyze the chromaticity of the natural light.

“The user switches the lighting fixture on and tunes it by waving the controlling smartphone, which is an improvement over sliding on the phone screen to effect control,” Yang says.

Lextar's PANDORA lighting fixture.Lextar's PANDORA lighting fixture.

PANDORA uses a thin lighting panel less than one centimeter thick to give off even, smooth flat light. The panel projects light downward or upward to serve as a direct or indirect lighting source, respectively.

Awards Reflect Differentiation
In addition to the IDEA prize, Lextar has also won an iF award in Germany, a Good Design Award in Japan, and Taiwan Excellence and Golden Pin Design awards in Taiwan with other products. These awards, Yang feels, prove that his company has differentiated itself from its competitors via innovation.

“Taiwan's contract manufacturing service is losing its cost advantage," Yang notes, "and something innovative must be done to regain competitiveness. But Taiwanese manufacturers have had very little chance to reach end users and observe their needs, because brand-name buyers have been their sole customers. In the past, Lextar did exactly what other contact manufacturers did, only making products based on designs from customers. But the situation has changed since we set up a strong industry-design team. Now, we're more knowledgeable than our brand-name customers about what end users need from a lighting fixture."

Lextar established its design team in 2011 with the aim of offering original design manufacturing (ODM) services, recruiting Yang, among others, for its lighting design division.

Understanding the Needs of End Users
Yang, who is also a director of the Chinese Industrial Designers Association of Taiwan, indicates that end users' lighting fixture needs have been changing along with the evolution of light source technology, reminding manufacturers of the need to make themselves innovative to keep up with the changes. “By providing ODM service to brand-name customers," he goes on, "Lextar now better understands end users than its customers do; and when you know better than they do about the market, they will buy your designs without hesitation regardless of higher cost. That is now Lextar's case."

When he was designing computer mice at the BenQ Corp. (Lextar's parent company) a few years ago, Yang visited all of the 168 stores throughout the island run by the consumer-electronics retailer Tsannkuen to observe which mice were purchased most frequently and gain an understanding of what consumers wanted from their mice.

In addition to thoughtful design, Yang believes that a winning LED lighting manufacturer must equip itself with integrated manufacturing capability encompassing almost everything from epitaxy-wafer processing and chip slicing to packaging and lighting fixture assembly. “If Lextar was not an integrated manufacturer," he explains, "its design capability would be extremely limited because of insufficient knowledge about the latest LEDs. When LED makers are advancing their technology, they could hardly produce much value for their products if there is no corresponding applications for them."

"Similarly, lighting-fixture designers would not be able to come up with innovative products if they had no idea about how far LED technology has gone. Lextar, for example, has introduced the world's thinnest LED panel light thanks to its advanced LED technology.”

Catching Up with Cree
Yang claims that Lextar is only few months behind Cree Inc. of the United States, which is also an integrated manufacturer, in technology advancement. Industry executives think that the gap will become even narrower following the closing of a long-term deal between the two companies in August this year, with Cree acquiring a 13% stake in Lextar and licensing its technologies to the company in exchange for Lextar's pledge to provide it with blue chips.

Backed up by its solid technological strength, Lextar will release eight-millimeter panel lights this year. According to Yang, the thinner a light is, the safer it is because its light weight makes it less dangerous should it fall in an earthquake. He adds that the company's panel lights are well received in Japan, where earthquakes are frequent. In addition, "Thinness saves room in shipment containers, thereby saving delivery costs.”

Lextar is recognized as Taiwan's No.1 supplier of LED panel lights, and is likely to continue prospering since the market for panel lights is promising, thanks partly to the fact that they are used to replace fluorescent lamps.

The rapid development of the Internet of Things (IOT) worldwide makes Yang even more optimistic about the future of intelligent lights like the PANDORA. “IOT allows all independent items to connect with each other on the Internet," he says, "and the interaction between people and lighting will become more frequent when lighting is connected to IOT. In the future, lighting might be the most IOT-connected industry.” As a result, lighting specialists like Yang believe that in the years to come people will be able to control lighting at home via the Internet, even when they are overseas.


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