For a long time, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) were only used as indicator lights on electronic equipment. They were incredibly efficient, but couldn’t produce the quantity of light needed in commercial or domestic applications, and could only generate red, green, yellow and amber light.
The invention of the blue LED in 1994 started a revolution in LED lighting. Blue LEDs made it possible, in turn, to create white LEDs, and as research on solid-state lighting forged ahead, manufacturers steadily increased the brightness and efficiency of white light LEDs until, by 2010, they could compete directly with incandescent and fluorescent luminaires in terms of overall light output.
LED lighting has developed to the point where it can be retrofitted to existing lighting systems and is replacing incandescent and fluorescent units in the exhibition setting. LED lighting has many advantages over other light sources that make it especially useful to exhibitions and events:
Their working lifetime exceeds incandescent and fluorescent lighting systems by a factor of 10, and the total cost of ownership (TCO) is much lower, in spite of a higher unit cost. However the unit cost of LEDS is declined steadily as mass production ramps up to meet demand.
For the same light output, LEDs consume much less energy than their alternatives.
LEDs produce only small amounts of waste heat, and will not scorch or burn surfaces close to the light source.
LEDs are much more robust and easier to store and transport.
LEDs run on low voltage DC power, which can be incorporated into designs where mains voltage lighting would not be appropriate.
On a typical 8A 230V exhibition power connection, an exhibitor might be running 20 x 50W halogen spotlights, consuming 1000 Watts - more than half the available power. Similar lighting levels can be achieved with 20 x 11w LED units, which would only consume 220 Watts of power, leaving almost 1700W available for AV kit, computers and other electrical equipment. By reducing power consumption, exhibitors can often scale down their power consumption, and opt for a less-expensive, lower capacity electricity supply from the venue.
LED lighting systems are now suitable for more or less every lighting application, and the units can be adjusted to deliver a pin spot, wide flood or colour wash as required by the stand design. Both cool white and warm white LEDs are standard, but for special applications, a whole spectrum of colour is available for special effects.
The real beauty of LEDs, beyond their efficiency and TCO, is that they are electronic devices, and can be controlled using digital techniques. Whilst most lighting requirements are for stand illumination, and don’t require any special effects, the digital LED lighting controls becoming available for special effects allows designers to create colour changing displays, strobing effects and gradual brightness changes, perfect for creating atmosphere and changing the look and feel of a stand without physically changing its structure or content.
The future is bright for exhibition lighting!