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Publication Date: 09/1/2011
Archive >  September 2011 Issue >  Special Features: Assembly and Production > 

Solid-State Lighting: a Greener Future
A progression of general lighting lamp technologies shows (from left to right): a traditional T12 fluorescent lamp, a traditional T8 fluorescent lamp, a classic LED replacement utilizing through-hole technology, and a modern LED replacement utilizing surface mount technology.

We're all aware of the benefits of the benefits of solar power, but it's only a part of the answer to today's escalating energy crunch. While solar cells were first developed in the 1980s, the world is feverishly adding such renewable energy sources as fast as possible. But we're still consuming too much energy and most of today's electrical production still massively pollutes our fragile environment. And unfortunately, even today's vastly improved photovoltaics are still notoriously inefficient as a power source.

In an effort to cut down the excess use of energy, environmentalists have heavily promoted the use of fluorescent lighting, and now even that is considered to be too energy wasteful. Today's darling is LED or solid-state lighting (SSL). Since lighting consumes roughly 22 percent of U.S. electricity use, SSL technology is being embraced for its potential to cut U.S. lighting energy usage by at least 25 percent.

Solid-state (LED) lighting provides far more efficient use of energy than traditional incandescent and even fluorescent lighting.

The term "solid state" refers to light emitted by solid-state electroluminescence, whereas traditional lighting sources utilize electrical filaments and thermal radiation (incandescent bulbs which date back to 1878), plasma (arc lamps such as fluorescent lamps), or gas. Variations of SSL include semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LEDs), organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), or polymer light-emitting diodes (PLED).

SSL Emerges
Solid-state lighting delivers numerous advantages over traditional lighting technologies, including a fifty percent reduction in energy consumption, reduced carbon-dioxide emissions and heat generation, a longer life span, and a greater resistance to shock and vibration. SSL is being recognized and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which is facilitating improvements in efficiency and performance, and integrating programs — such as the ENERGY STAR SSL Program — that encourage companies to evolve and apply this technology.

Solid-state lighting can be seen today in many automotive applications, traffic signals, signage, street and parking lot lights, building exteriors, remote controls, and large area displays. However, there is a growing movement to expand its benefits to reach across the broader spectrum of general lighting. We are now only in the earliest stages of realizing the true potential of this significant technology movement.

Driving SSL Growth
Because the core of solid-state lighting involves different materials, drivers, system architecture, controls, and photometric properties — accouterments that are not needed for more traditional lighting technologies — organizations such as the DOE are diligently working to implement the appropriate test procedures and industry standards to support its development. Further, electronics manufacturers are being faced with an entirely new set of challenges as they move forward into this new "green" frontier.
SM/Automation mixed-technology LED production line with Genesis Platform and Polaris Assembly Cell.

Solid-state or, more specifically, LED applications encompass a range of end products and a diverse set of assembly requirements. While a portion of these applications are now being addressed with manual assembly, this cannot continue indefinitely as economic factors shift against hand assembly. As the cost of labor and the cost of energy rise even in low-cost manufacturing regions of the world, manufacturers will inevitably be forced to move to full automation of these products. The impending "one child-per family" rule in China may also fuel this economic shift.

LED automation today entails multiple technology areas that are specific to this type of product. Large-scale LED signs and displays, as well as many automotive assemblies incorporate through-hole technology. However, there is a growing percentage of surface-mount-based applications, including the global push to replace fluorescent bulbs for use in general lighting. LED products also elicit an entirely new set of process challenges — something that cannot be overlooked in the quest to maximize yield and overall productivity. Manufacturers must consider all of these factors when choosing an assembly equipment provider who can best support their LED manufacturing growth.

Efficient Production
Universal Instruments is a complete solutions provider with an established history in LED product assembly, and the only source capable of delivering the full complement of equipment, production line design and delivery, and process expertise to excel in this developing arena. Whether producing the LED, mounting it on a PCB, or performing final product assembly, the company's machines have the capabilities needed to provide the most efficient full-process solution.

Universal's Generation 88 lineup is the enduring industry standard for through-hole productivity. With years of implementing LED product solutions, the company maintains a distinct advantage built upon cycles of learning. The larger challenge, however, lies in the growing breadth of LED products that are built on a surface mount foundation. Universal's Genesis is the most adept SM platform for LED applications. Genesis utilizes tape or track feeders to present the sometimes delicate components for pick. Once presented, the LEDs are picked and placed by the Lightning® placement head — the industry's fastest. As the transition to LED progresses, the ability to achieve high-throughput, high-accuracy production will almost certainly evolve into an absolute necessity.
SM/IM/Automation mixed-technology LED production line with Genesis Platform, Radial 88 Sequencer/Inserter, and Polaris Assembly Cell.

Populating substrates remains only part of the challenge for manufacturers. Final assembly of these products also brings a new and distinct set of prerequisite competencies. The Polaris Assembly Cell addresses LED applications with all of the capabilities of custom automation solutions on a standard, modular platform.

While Universal's equipment portfolio spans the full spectrum of LED production requirements, it is the leading-edge process knowledge and support of its Advanced Process Laboratory (APL) that ensures optimal performance in these environments. The APL stands alone as the leading technical resource in the industry, helping customers get the most from their investment by enhancing yield, achieving continuous process improvement, and optimizing product reliability and life-cycle. The APL plays a leading role in the greater electronics community, organizing research consortia and building partnerships with academic and industry experts to identify and develop new and emerging technologies such as SSL.

Full Production
The value of a complete solutions provider can be seen in the manufacture of an LED light bulb assembly — those that are replacing the traditional fluorescent bulb and ballast for general lighting purposes. Here the power supply is no longer built into the fixture, but rather in the bulb assembly. These power supplies require a number of odd-form component placements, which are easily achieved using the company's Genesis Platform and Polaris Assembly Cell.

Next, the substrate must be populated with surface mount LEDs in an efficient manner, and this is accomplished using the Genesis configured with a Lightning placement head. The populated substrate is then bonded to the heat sink by applying thermal adhesive using the Polaris configured with a dispense head. The integrity of this assembly must then be verified to ensure that the process and materials are supporting a robust end product in terms of thermal management — a critical factor in ensuring proper functionality and a long-life for the end product. Universal's APL integrates the expertise to ensure appropriate bonding and confirm the product quality at this stage. Finally, the populated substrate is placed between the two bulb hemispheres, and the final assembly is completed with the placement of the two end caps by the Polaris cell.

Contact: Universal Instruments Corp., 33 Broome Corporate Parkway, Conklin, NY 13748 607-779-5364 fax: 607-772-1878 E-mail: Web:


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