Construction, Manufacturing, and Technology

Manufacturer’s new technologies shine bright

October 9, 2015
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A Grand Rapids-headquartered company with an expertise in photonics engineering has created a new LED technology it said will likely improve the yields produced by the growing commercial greenhouse industry.

LumenFlow, an assembly manufacturer founded in 2000, has developed two patented technologies that, combined, create “a down converting optic that makes white light from LED sources.”

“Our two patented (technologies) work in combination to create a volumetric radiator of white light, so it’s more like a filament structure that emits more like a bulb, unlike a LED which is pretty directional,” explained Brian Zatzke, chief operations officer at LumenFlow.

The photonic LED solution ensures the uniform distribution of high intensity light.

“By applying those silicone optics, we’ve created an emitter cup out of silicone that blends the various LED colors around what the plant spectrum needs for growth, so we can take four, five or six different LED wavelengths and put them into one of these emitter cups and get uniform light out,” Zatzke said. “It’s blended very well, and the pattern inside of it works very well for grow lights.”

The technology was used by Light-Speed USA to create a grow light for use in commercial urban greenhouses.

Light-Speed’s grow light was the winner of the NextEnergy Lighting Challenge earlier this year, a statewide competition designed to drive technology innovation and economic development in Michigan.

NextEnergy is a nonprofit located in Detroit, established in 2002 to “drive advanced energy and transportation investment and job creation in Michigan.”

Light-Speed also worked with AMF Nano, a maker of specialty sensing and feedback control systems, and Nextek Power System, which builds direct current power distribution systems, on the project.

The company received $80,000 in cash and in-kind services to support the development of the new reconfigurable grow lights for use and demonstration at Recovery Park, a nonprofit that grows more than 25 varieties of specialty produce in Metro Detroit. The grow lights will be placed in Recovery Park’s facilities for grow trials and exhibition.

Zatzke said the next step is commercialization of the grow light.

“With the award, that allows Light-Speed and us to take the product from prototype to production,” he said. “The goal is to be selling the grow light across the country and around the world.”

Zatzke couldn’t project the cost of the final grow lights, but said he is confident it will be competitive with other quality grow lights in the market.

“We will be competitive on dollars per watt,” he said.

Zatzke expects Light-Speed to start producing the fixtures within the first half of 2016.

Right now the Netherlands leads the world in indoor growing, Zatzke said, but he thinks there is a solid market for indoor growing in the United States, particularly in Michigan, due to the state’s lack of sunlight during portions of the year.

“Michigan is probably number two or three in the nation for the most commercial greenhouses,” he said.

Michigan also is seeing an increasing interest in urban indoor growing and vertical farming that Zatzke believes will be an important market for the grow lights.

“We are seeing a movement in the urban grow arena, where you have grow facilities within city and community areas that are 100 percent artificial light,” he said. “They really control the environment, the air, water, lighting; they create their own ecosystem within.

“Known as vertical farming, they have vertical trays or rack systems that you can get a lot of yield out of a small footprint. That is where we see LED lighting flourishing in the future.”

The grow light should help greenhouses and vertical farms produce better yields and allow for more turns in the growth cycle.

Zatzke said independent studies conducted by other organizations have shown that, with the proper lighting, plants have better nutritional levels, too.

“We appreciated the opportunity to partner with Light-Speed, AMF Nano and Nextek Power on this project and are particularly proud that our technology had a part in winning the NextEnergy Lighting Challenge,” Zatzke said.

LumenFlow provides photonics and lighting solutions to numerous industries, including automotive, agriculture, retail, instrumentation, defense, aerospace, medical devices, life sciences, specialty lighting and others.

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