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GE Lumination

Issue 64 Dec / Jan 2011/2

Our product reviewer David Morgan takes a look at a luminaire with great potential for the architectural market: GE’s Lumination LED range.

As the first company to produce a usable incandescent lamp back in the 1880s followed by a series of light source innovations throughout the 20th century, GE has certainly got a long and successful track record in the lighting industry.

In recent decades this leadership position has faltered to some extent and the other leading light source companies have grabbed a larger share of the new product headlines.

As a luminaire company, GE has also appeared to lose momentum recently. There are still some HID road lighting and Hi-bay luminaires on the US web site but they are rather hidden away and hard to find. 
With the LED revolution, the lighting game has changed as the traditional US and European light source brands face a more uncertain future with an increasing challenge from the major Asian electronics companies.

To respond to this challenge GE has decided to beef up their LED interior range with new ranges of LED luminaires. The company has recruited leading fixture designer Simon Fisher from the UK lighting and luminaire design consultancy LAPD to spearhead the project as general manager for indoor luminaire solutions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The first results of this development were launched at Lightfair in Philadelphia last year where the Lumination range was presented. The Lumination range is based on a high efficiency LED panel and includes pendants, recessed ceiling tile products and an intriguing vertical suspended version with a batwing distribution for use in retail display.

The first products to be introduced to the market are the recessed LED lighting panels designed for use in general commercial applications including offices, retail and circulation areas. There are two sizes in this initial range, 600mm x 600mm and 1200mm x 300mm. Designed to fit into standard exposed tee-bar ceiling systems, the overall thickness of the panel is only 14mm. The driver housing mounted on the back increases this to 65mm which is larger than expected but still gives a low profile product in the crowded space above the ceiling.

The key technology in these panels comes from a US optical film technology company - Rambus - which has a variety of patented high efficiency micro-prismatic materials marketed under the Pentelic brand. GE has licensed the material for the use in the Lumination range and it seems effective as the optic is evenly lit across the surface from two rows of 18 Cree XP G LEDs mounted horizontally along the sides of the panel.

It is understood that there will be two lighting distributions available. The launch products will incorporate a micro-prismatic optic that gives a Lambertian distribution and the batwing will follow in later releases.

The surface brightness is comfortable to view and it is understood that the panels comply with the required UGR 19 glare rating for office lighting. Compliance with LG7 would be based on the amount of lit ceiling surface as there is no upward light from the panels themselves.
Available in three colour temperatures the panels deliver around 3700 lumens with a consumption of 50 watts giving a very acceptable 74 lumens per watt.

The projected life to 70% of initial lumens is the industry standard 50,000 hours and the panels have a five year warranty.

The back of the Lumination panel is made of pressed aluminium and, when running in free air, is very cool. When recessed into a shallow ceiling void with limited air movement, the luminaire is likely to run somewhat hotter. The maximum operating ambient is 40°C which should be sufficient given the low heat sink temperature. The LED driver from Lightech, now part of GE, has a thermal cutout in case the internal ambient rises above a safe level. DALI and 1–10V dimming is standard and a plug-in emergency lighting LED module is understood to be in development.

The keys to success with a LED panel luminaire of this type for general commercial lighting are performance and cost. There is a great deal of competition from many manufacturers in this product sector. GE has prepared projections showing energy savings and payback times for the Lumination panel in schemes to replace high quality T5 luminaires.

These show savings ranging from 12% when luminaires are replaced on a one-to-one basis rising to 35% when the whole scheme is redesigned around the distribution and output from the GE panel. Payback time ranges from two years for a retrofit project rising to seven or eight years in a new-build scheme.

Production of the first set of panels is in Taiwan but once sales volumes rise, production will move closer to the relevant sales market: Hungary for the European market and Mexico for the North American market.

The initial Lumination range took fourteen months to come to fruition with input from two external design companies both located in Europe. The next product release will be the suspended panels which should have visual appeal for the architectural market. The samples of these suspended luminaires shown at Lightfair benefit from the innovative and attractive design feature that the micro prismatic panel becomes transparent when the LEDs are not lit.

The company says that there has been considerable interest in the vertical batwing panel from a number of retail operators for use as an efficient asymmetric wall washer to illuminate both sides of an aisle from a central luminaire.

Although the first release of the Lumination range is not the most exciting luminaire from a visual or illuminating standpoint, it is well-engineered and the Rambus micro prismatic controller is very effective.

A variety of project sales have already been made in diverse parts of the world and it seems very likely that the Lumination range will become a very successful part of the rejuvenated GE luminaire offer.


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