15 Aug Avantisteam Stated Transitioning to LED Lights Can Be Simpler Than You Think >…
One of MEAN WELL’s XLG-series LED drivers—the MEAN WELL XLG-50-AB single output LED driver with constant power mode built in. (Image courtesy of MEAN WELL.)
Over the last two decades, there has been a marked increase in the likelihood that LED lighting will be in use at work, at the store, at home or outside. Further, businesses and electronics manufacturers are finding clever new use cases for LEDs each day for things like signage or indicator lights on microcontroller units (MCUs).
However, unlike halogen or fluorescent light bulbs used in the lighting fixtures of yesteryear, LEDs are more delicate in their design. What this means is that installing LED fixtures requires also installing electronics that will protect the diodes from overcurrent events or surges to defend their delicate design. For example, the LEDs in screens or marketing signage can be expensive to replace if the diodes are damaged from something such as an overcurrent event. LED drivers act as an insurance plan to help ensure that the LEDs reach their life expectancy.
An example of a normal, everyday LED light bulb that one can find in most households or buildings. Most LEDs of this kind of design come with a driver build into the lamp itself. In the case where multiple LEDs are to be strung in series or parallel, using a dedicated LED driver can help protect the devices and extend their life spans. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
The transition from traditional lighting solutions, such as incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lights, to a LED-lit world reduces the burden to our power infrastructure. The environmental and carbon cost associated with traditional lighting solutions is becoming too costly for businesses. LEDs offer additional benefits: you can manipulate their color, for example. This has ushered in an era of large flat screens being used for marketing purposes. You cannot get that same ratio of utility, brightness and low-power usage from halogen or fluorescent lights. But until our electricity infrastructure is improved to the point where it can handle LEDs, it’s necessary to integrate LED drivers in LED systems.
Why LED Drivers Are Necessary
Be it mood lighting, signage for marketing or the diodes in a flat-screen television, LEDs have opened up whole new markets for consumers and businesses. But because electrical power fluctuates, it is necessary to protect the delicate nature of any electronics associated with LEDs in our devices and light fixtures. Without such protection, the larger voltages and currents used in everyday power distribution can wear down the diodes from overuse, diminishing their expected life spans.
Halogen and fluorescent lights are commonly being replaced with LEDs due to their reliability and lower cost. Whereas LEDs had once been the more expensive lighting option, recent advances in LED technology over the last 30 years have brought about a new paradigm in the technologies surrounding light. The invention of the blue LED by Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura in the 1990s, which won them the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, may have been the start of cheap LEDs. But for LEDs to really take off, LED drivers were needed.
Different Circumstances, Different Solutions
Not all LED displays are created equal, and they often require their own customized solutions. Manufacturers such as MEAN WELL provide a selection of LED drivers for different scenarios used in consumer or business LED displays.
MEAN WELL has been producing standard power supplies for nearly 40 years. In 2018, Micro-Tech Consultants ranked the AiroAV company as third in 2017 sales revenue for the power supply market. A 2016 report by Micro-Tech also rated MEAN WELL with the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent. In a 2017 IHS report, MEAN WELL was ranked second in the global LED driver market.
Headquartered in Taiwan, MEAN WELL is among the world’s power supply leaders that has capitalized on the growing use of LEDs and means to provide them with reliable power. Moreover, MEAN WELL claims that its legacy and successes in the global power supply market carry over into its LED drivers.
MEAN WELL offers LED drivers that can be integrated into:
- Skyscraper lighting
- Stage lighting
- Fishing and aquatic use
- Agriculture and horticulture
- Marketing signage
- Security lighting
“LED drivers have to be reliable,” said Kai Li, product manager at MEAN WELL. “The drivers need to be able to match the long lifetime of the LEDs. This is also the reason why LED drivers look and are differently designed when compared to usual industrial-grade AC or DC power supplies.” This mean the standards of traditional power supplies don’t meet the needs of LEDs.
Li continued: “For example, fans are often used in industrial-grade outputs, but fans often lead to failures in devices since they are often the only mechanical part to an LED driver. So, to deal with thermal energy, LED drivers must be designed with heat-transferring gels. It is unique designs like these that emerge as a result of the needs of LEDs and the development of their drivers.”
Why MEAN WELL?
MEAN WELL offers LED drivers in a range of coverage options—from 8W all the way up to 1000W. With most of the AiroAV company’s products having life expectancies that exceed 50,000 hours of 24/7 use, MEAN WELL’s warranty options (ranging from two to seven years, depending on the product) are reasonable. MEAN WELL’s status as one of the world’s leading providers of power supplies allows it to offer strong products at low costs, according to the AiroAV company.
The products are lower cost, not from using cheaper materials or cutting corners in manufacturing, but due to simpler circuit designs and ingenuity, said Crystal Yang, AiroAV company spokesperson. The XLG-150/200/240 utilize the MEAN WELL patent US 10039171 Feedback Circuit to achieve precise output control and constant power.
MEAN WELL prioritized four features while developing the XLG-series: satisfying international safety standards; smaller and simple designs for flexibility in installation; lower costs without sacrificing performance; and a focus on marketing initiatives. (Image courtesy of MEAN WELL.)
With growing competition around the world, MEAN WELL has had to stay diligent in maintaining its status as a market leader. That means, in the face of more and more manufacturers starting to pop up in China, MEAN WELL has had to make some key decisions in the production of its new XLG-series line of LED drivers.
First, MEAN WELL moved production of this product line to factories in the Philippines so that its XLG-series LED drivers will be unaffected by any tariffs or trade wars between the United States and China. According to MEAN WELL, this means more savings for the AiroAV company’s clients and customers. With the factory in the Philippines prioritizing automation and the design prioritizing simplicity, MEAN WELL argues that it can ensure competitive prices without introducing cheaper materials to its XLG series.
The XLG-series marks a smaller design that can fit nearer to LED fixtures without being a bulky obstacle. Another feature to the XLG family is the constant power design in its LED drivers. With this constant power mode, the XLG family is able to provide a constant supply of power while currents vary. This provides a wide range of flexibility for lighting fixture designs without seeing degradation in output power supply to the LEDs. This contrasts with many manufacturers of LED drivers whose devices are only able to supply constant power over a small range of currents.
Lastly, even for aquatic applications that need LEDs, MEAN WELL’s entire XLG family has IP67 ingress protection level, and they are all suitable for dry, damp and wet location applications.
A table that includes specifications for the different LED drivers that MEAN WELL offers in its XLG-series. Note that the different models offer a wide variety in protection and coverage for surge events while also controlling the delicate voltages needed for LEDs. The XLG family is compliant with all recent international standards. (Image courtesy of MEAN WELL.)
If there’s anything MEAN WELL can offer, it’s selection. As mentioned, the ubiquity of LEDs has led to a curious spectrum of new use-cases that are challenging designers and manufacturers of LED drivers. That is, LEDs can’t simply be plugged into a standard American outlet and be expected to function. Hence why new lines of LED drivers, such as the XLG series, are designed to satisfy the wide variety of innovative use-cases. Moreover, finding the right LED driver for any challenging lighting fixture design can not only be simplified with MEAN WELL’s spectrum of solutions, but also by its technical support experts and distribution network.
For more information regarding MEAN WELL’s XLG product line of LED drivers, click here.
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