DOE R+D funding: Cooper Lighting wants to print their LED fixtures

Earlier this summer, the US Department of Energy’s SSL program selected Cooper Lighting (now part of Eaton) as the recipient of $2.4m for their interesting R+D program proposal.  Cooper’s press release is useless, but here is the text from the DOE’s announcement:

Recipient: Eaton Corporation
Title: Print-Based Manufacturing of Integrated, Low Cost, High Performance SSL Luminaires
Summary: The objective of this project is to develop manufacturing process innovation that
allows for LED package, chip, or chip array placement directly on a fixture or heatsink. The
approach includes the placement of integrated power electronics. Flexible manufacturing for
planar, non-planar and recessed product designs will be investigated through the development of
non-traditional thick film processes. The proposed approach allows for cost reductions through
improved thermal performance, reduced materials and parts, and enabled automation and
manufacturing flexibility.

Sounds very sci-fi, but indeed is a very promising and realistic path to greater mass-customization of LED fixtures.  In the future, such hybrid printing/pick’n’place technologies could be readily combined with 3D printing technologies for a fully-automated customization process.

In fact, a key area of R+D investment focus for 2013’s SSL R+D Manufacturing Roadmap is increasing manufacturing flexibility and reducing the cost of LED luminaire assemblies:

M.L1. Luminaire Manufacturing: Support for the development of flexible manufacturing of
state of the art LED modules, light engines, and luminaires. Suitable development activities
would likely focus on one or more of the following areas:
• Advanced LED package and die integration (e.g. COB, COF, etc.) into the luminaire,
• More efficient use of components and raw materials,
• Simplified thermal designs,
• Weight reduction,
• Optimized designs for efficient and low cost manufacturing (such as ease of
• Increased integration of mechanical, electrical and optical functions, and/or
• Reduced manufacturing costs through automation, improved manufacturing tools or
product design software.
The work should demonstrate increased manufacturing flexibility (processes or designs that
can work for multiple products) and higher quality products with improved color consistency,
lower system costs, and improved time-to-market through successful implementation of
integrated systems design, supply chain management, and quality control.