Near future of flashlights

markr6

markr6

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I think the near future of flashlights will be mostly about better emitters. High CRI is starting to catch on, as flashlight users are saturated with "bright light" options. So many 2000+ lumen reasonably priced lights now, it's starting to be a yawnfest as mfg. #1,344 jumps on the sun-in-your-hands bandwagon. Light consumers are starting to look for something that sets these products apart - better UI, longer runtime, better tint, and better beam pattern. 3 of these 4 can be addressed by improved emitter technology.

In the next few years, tints and CRI will improve, along with battery life. Dedomed emitters for better throw and output will become more common, and offered as a standard ordering option from the factory. I would even dare to predict that fairly soon, tuneable output emitters with adjustable "warmth" and CRI will become available.


Other than that, I see slow but certain improvements in LiIon tech - higher capacity and improved safety/reliability.


Beyon that, it's anyone's guess! :)

YES to all this!

People eventually get bored of the techy, gimmicky junk. They move on to high-quality features or aspects of the product, realizing simpler is better.

Take a boring blender for example. The ones with "21 mixing modes". Really? They're junk, and you actually have maybe 3 different speeds. If you care and actually use them a lot, you'll eventually end up with a $200 blender with 2 or 3 speeds. Pricey, but you appreciate the quality.

Once you get past the flashlights with 4 colors modes, 3 switches, recharging port, 92 blinking modes, crazy UI, and wi-fi compatibility, you can focus on a few important things that really matter.
 
chaosdsm

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That's not how you do cost accounting in the real world, my friend. I have run those equations many many times (for a school project a few years back and when analyzing the possibility for my own home) and that "free" solar energy has a per-kWH cost that's typically higher than retail electricity; small-wind is always higher.

Appears to be a variant on the Brunton. Perhaps if offers superior performance in some way, but that's not immediately apparent to me.

RE: Solar / wind power, if you already have the equipment installed, there's no added cost to charge your fuel cells ;) you don't pay for the sunlight or the wind... And you don't add the cost of something you paid for 2, 3, 5 years ago into your calculations. Sure you'll eventually have to replace the batteries that your solar / wind station(s) are charging, but if you go with LiFePO4 replacements, they can (theoretically) last a decade or more.

Also, both the standard & Pro version filling stations (as well as the Brunton branded filling station) can generate 3L Hydrogen per hour from a 25 Watt DC Power source, i.e. solar / wind so you don't need a giant investment if you are starting from scratch & want to go solar / wind powered. ;)

And apparently you didn't bother to read my whole post... Brunton's offering is manufactured by Horizon... i.e. the Brunton is a variant of the Horizon product not the other way around. And as I already mentioned, there are "Pro" versions of the Horizon product that deliver more power. Not mentioned, was the fact that the Pro versions can deliver up to 30 Watts of power instead of just 2 Watts of power.

Expand your search, & expand your mind :D Hint: Horizon Pro fuel cell
 
idleprocess

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RE: Solar / wind power, if you already have the equipment installed, there's no added cost to charge your fuel cells ;) you don't pay for the sunlight or the wind... And you don't add the cost of something you paid for 2, 3, 5 years ago into your calculations. Sure you'll eventually have to replace the batteries that your solar / wind station(s) are charging, but if you go with LiFePO4 replacements, they can (theoretically) last a decade or more.

Also, both the standard & Pro version filling stations (as well as the Brunton branded filling station) can generate 3L Hydrogen per hour from a 25 Watt DC Power source, i.e. solar / wind so you don't need a giant investment if you are starting from scratch & want to go solar / wind powered. ;)

And apparently you didn't bother to read my whole post... Brunton's offering is manufactured by Horizon... i.e. the Brunton is a variant of the Horizon product not the other way around. And as I already mentioned, there are "Pro" versions of the Horizon product that deliver more power. Not mentioned, was the fact that the Pro versions can deliver up to 30 Watts of power instead of just 2 Watts of power.
We shall have to agree to disagree. I don't think we're going to see fuel cells powering flashlights of any reasonable size in the next 10-20 years due to their stacks of compromises - waste heat, narrower environmental envelopes (requirement for oxygen/exhaust, specific temperature ranges), inherently greater complexity than a sealed electochemical cell, and far greater inherent cost. You do not share this view and I will cease attempting to dissuade you.
 
chaosdsm

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We shall have to agree to disagree. I don't think we're going to see fuel cells powering flashlights of any reasonable size in the next 10-20 years due to their stacks of compromises - waste heat, narrower environmental envelopes (requirement for oxygen/exhaust, specific temperature ranges), inherently greater complexity than a sealed electochemical cell, and far greater inherent cost. You do not share this view and I will cease attempting to dissuade you.

Actually, I do share your view, no doubt about it, there are some significant obstacles to overcome, and all new technologies carry a significantly inflated price tag. But I also know how to look beyond the "right now" factor. Just look at HighDef LCD TV's, the first 42" 1080p LCD's cost around $4200 - $5000 (MSRP). Less than 10 years later, you can find 42" 1080p LCD's starting at about $310 before sales prices.

Fuel cell technology is going to have a MASSIVE push behind it to drive; innovation, manufacturing, & cost reduction, in the form of production automobiles, at least one of which is already in consumer's hands... albeit in (currently) limited locations.
 
lightlover

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............ LED technology has matured to the point that it's kind of boring - we're not going to see leaps and bounds like we did during the heady climb from Luxeon to XR-E to XM-L. It's down to incremental improvements ............

idleprocess, what kind of timeline/datings would you construct for the leaps and bounds improvements over the past 10 years?
(I guess after the first LEDs in ~'95, and slow progress, it then really started moving with the 2003 Luxeons, but I'm not familiar with the history)

Do you have any thoughts about the kind of speed at, and which notable improvements of LED's will be reached in the nearer future, say 5 years?

Keisari,
Are there any lights which use prismatics already out there, on sale now?
Did you have any prismatic designs in mind, specific things you'd like to see?

I looked at:
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/types_of_battery_cells
and sure 'nuff, QUOTE: “No universal format exists and each manufacturer designs its own”

I believe that lights will be built-in to many "Other" devices, and dedicated illumination-givers will become rarer, and more specialised.
And maybe programmable outputs and personalised UI's will become standard: once a USB connection is provided, it seems like a logical step.
 
Hoop

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In the near future, existing hardware will be exploited and combined in ways that it is not currently. There are many opportunities for innovation right now using existing hardware.
 
idleprocess

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Fuel cell technology is going to have a MASSIVE push behind it to drive; innovation, manufacturing, & cost reduction, in the form of production automobiles, at least one of which is already in consumer's hands... albeit in (currently) limited locations.
Sure, and that research is ongoing and has produced some improvements after many decades of effort, but I suspect that even the well-financed automakers are going to run into some of the immovable laws of physics and their associated economics that will leave their efforts halted at pilot programs.



idleprocess, what kind of timeline/datings would you construct for the leaps and bounds improvements over the past 10 years?
(I guess after the first LEDs in ~'95, and slow progress, it then really started moving with the 2003 Luxeons, but I'm not familiar with the history)
I can really only name products - can't really give timelines and efficiency milestones. Lumileds came first circa 2003 as you've noted, introducing the concept of the power LED to the market. There were some others of that era, but they always seems to be second fiddle - Nichia, Osram, Seoul Semiconductor. Cree built a kind of quiet momentum as they transitioned from supplier to other LED producers to LED producer to intergrated lighting manufacturer. They really changed the game with the XR-E; I believe one of its many advancements over its contemporaries (in addition to its significant efficiency bump) was that it could be reflow-soldered as opposed to the less-robust Luxeon-style packages.

Do you have any thoughts about the kind of speed at, and which notable improvements of LED's will be reached in the nearer future, say 5 years?
I'm probably going to have to repeat myself here.

The theoretical limit for light is in the area of 300 lumens per watt. I believe that LED has hit 200 lumens per watt in the lab, although I think it's going to be a coin toss as to whether we see those efficiencies in large-scale production within 5 years. There is appreciably less marketing incentive to reach those efficiencies since LED has won the lumens-per-watt war by a wide margin vs all other competing technologies; I doubt that 300 lumens per watt will be realized outside of the lab for these very reasons.

The general-lighting market is driving LED R&D, so I would look to its trends for guidance on what to expect in flashlights; said market seems to be interested in thermal ruggedness, lumens-per-dollar, and tolerance of worse electrical conditions come to mind.

If you look at the latest bulbs from Philips and Cree, you'll notice that they have largely omitted heatsinks as a matter of thermal ruggedness. both manufacturers have started to rate and warranty their individual LED components at 85C rather than the previous laughable rating of 25C as acknowledgment of the hot environment that their products are expected to live in. While the warranty terms on these products is disappointingly short, I suspect that they'll have little trouble exceeding the warranty by a fair margin. For flashlights

Lumens-per-dollar is an important metric for price-sensitive mass markets. As such, manufacturers are seeking ways to reduce costs. Some of this has come from re-thinking packaging, which is one of the more expensive aspects of low-cost electronics; note that most of the Cree light bulbs have used new multi-die packages with little consideration for optics since the light will be managed by external diffusers. As the efficiency gains for power LED's are pushed down the chain to less-valuable mid- and low-power SMD LED's, these are becoming more cost-effective options for general lighting since those packages are simpler and - thanks to thermal ruggedness - have reduced heatsinking requirements. Otherwise, this will probably just make flashlight-suitable parts a bit cheaper.

The bad electrical-conditions push is speculation on my part. I know that in the general-lighting market, AC-DC driver circuits are failure-prone components that add cost to designs. If LED's can be made more tolerant of AC voltage, not flicker so visibly on it, and perhaps some sort of dimming be made to work, drivers can potentially be eliminated and more basic filtering can be introduced to handle the flicker. This will likely reduce component count immensely, although it might just shift the liability from AC-DC drivers to the components used to manage flicker and dimming. This capability could also help in the dirty environment of an automotive electrical system. I don't foresee too many flashlight applications here.



In the near future, existing hardware will be exploited and combined in ways that it is not currently. There are many opportunities for innovation right now using existing hardware.
Indeed - this is something that marketing and product engineering can uncover by discovering market needs and balancing them against existing capabilities.

USB power bank flashlight concepts like I mentioned earlier is something the market has tentatively explored, although I believe there are unexploited opportunities within that genre.

In a similar vein, wireless charging is something that could be added to the list. Phones are starting to support it with "power mats" and other standards - no reason not to also utilize the same tech for flashlights to leverage existing capabilities without creating new standards.
 
fyrstormer

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The next 20 years is by no means the "near future" for a technology that has undergone such rapid advancement.

I think the big advances will be in low-cost LED manufacturing, higher CRI ratings even on cheap LEDs, and better battery performance. I think the basic UIs have been established at this point and we won't see much change in that regard; the advancements over the past few years finally enabled flashlight manufacturers to build flashlights with UIs that are flexible and feature-rich, and now they'll just tweak the formula from time to time without any significant changes. I think control-ring UIs will become more prevalent as the digital-compass-sensor technology they use comes down in price for flashlight-specific applications, because it's just such an intuitive interface -- everyone knows how to use a volume-control knob.

In short, I think we'll see incremental improvements, but nothing earth-shattering, and that will be disappointing for enthusiasts, but satisfying for everyone else, as is usually the case in a mature technology market.
 
RetroTechie

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The theoretical limit for light is in the area of 300 lumens per watt. I believe that LED has hit 200 lumens per watt in the lab, although I think it's going to be a coin toss as to whether we see those efficiencies in large-scale production within 5 years.
Maximum lm/W isn't a fixed number, but depends on the color spectrum produced.

IIRC, theorethical maximum for a monochromatic light source whose wavelength matches what the human eye is most sensitive to (green?), is up in the 600-something lm/W range. But that's not very useful. :) For a mixed-color spectrum, theoretical maximum would be around 250~350 lm/W, depending on how close the output spectrum matches a blackbody radiator for a given color temperature (aka 'sunlight' for ~5800K CT). That is: with output spectrum limited to what human eyes are sensitive to at all (and cutting of a few % more or less on the upper & lower edges).

For a good read on this subject, Google for "Maximum Spectral Luminous Efficacy of White Light".

I suspect by now, some lab specimens are a good part of the way there. But again, that isn't very helpful. :p

There is appreciably less marketing incentive to reach those efficiencies since LED has won the lumens-per-watt war by a wide margin vs all other competing technologies; I doubt that 300 lumens per watt will be realized outside of the lab for these very reasons.
Hmm... Suppose for a given quality output spectrum, theoretical max is 300 lm/W. And suppose some product on the market can already do 260 lm/W for same output spectrum. Also assume that some further research could boost that to 280 lm/W. There's 2 ways of looking at this:

a) 260/300 = 87%, 280/300 = 93% of theoretical max. Only a few % improvement. No big change in how much energy is turned into useful output for each W you put in.

b) (300-260)/300 = 13%, (300-280)/300 = 6.7% input power wasted. Same as a), but this improvement would DOUBLE the max. lumens output you could put into the same size bulb, or requiring similar size heatsink. A thus a very, very significant improvement.

Commercial-wise, a) wouldn't be interesting, but b) very much could be. So for that reason alone, I'd expect research to continue. Of course @ some point the low hanging fruit is picked, and even minor steps become harder and harder as you approach theoretical limits.

If you consider that (white) LEDs on the market are roughly in the 100 lm/W range, and most around 80 CRI (some worse, some better), with a variety of ways in which the color spectrum is 'off', it's clear that -from a theoretical pov- there's still some way to go. But it's also clear that the days of 2x, 5x, 10x etc improvements (for same-quality output spectrum) are behind us.

As for battery tech, such theoretical limits are much further out, and improvements are more of an engineering effort. More stable chemistries, improved safety margins, faster charging, lower cost materials and production methods, etc, etc. So I'm expecting more in that area. But who knows... it's not like science hasn't surprised us before. :)
 
fyrstormer

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There won't be a consumer-driven demand for more efficient LEDs, but there will be a utility-driven demand for it. Electricity prices MUST rise in order to replace aging infrastructure, and to compensate for ever-increasing demand from other sources, so there will still be research funding available to develop more-efficient LEDs to reduce nighttime electrical load, both for room lighting and for TV/computer screens.
 
idleprocess

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There won't be a consumer-driven demand for more efficient LEDs, but there will be a utility-driven demand for it. Electricity prices MUST rise in order to replace aging infrastructure, and to compensate for ever-increasing demand from other sources, so there will still be research funding available to develop more-efficient LEDs to reduce nighttime electrical load, both for room lighting and for TV/computer screens.
It was 10+ years ago when the DOE could make the claim that lighting represented a quarter of residential electricity consumption. Now, I suspect it's perhaps half that number with the once-ubiquitous A19 incandescent pretty much gone from store shelves and disappearing from the average home. While it's true that further efficiency advances would reduce demand, the big savings have already been made in that area and further savings will result in diminishing returns.

Let's take a hypothetical residence with 30 800 lumen bulbs putting out 24,000 total lumens. Here's what various efficiencies starting at 15 lm/W and doubling with each step will do for consumption:
5QLsDWX.png


The big jump is at the 15 >> 30 jump and absolute savings rapidly fall off after that point. Utilities will probably subsidize whatever is cost-effective that isn't incandescent/halogen, but their incentive to get more efficient than today's ~100 lm/W OTF bulbs is pretty much zero. Encouraging the installation of more-efficient insulation, HVAC, major appliances, water heaters, etc will probably yield more net reduction in demand than additional advancements in lighting.
 
idleprocess

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a) 260/300 = 87%, 280/300 = 93% of theoretical max. Only a few % improvement. No big change in how much energy is turned into useful output for each W you put in.

b) (300-260)/300 = 13%, (300-280)/300 = 6.7% input power wasted. Same as a), but this improvement would DOUBLE the max. lumens output you could put into the same size bulb, or requiring similar size heatsink. A thus a very, very significant improvement.

Commercial-wise, a) wouldn't be interesting, but b) very much could be. So for that reason alone, I'd expect research to continue. Of course @ some point the low hanging fruit is picked, and even minor steps become harder and harder as you approach theoretical limits.
I see some parallels between LED lighting and photovoltaic (PV) solar power. Like LED lighting, solar power used to be constrained by the cost of the panels themselves. Also like LED lighting, solar has seen drastic reductions in the cost of the panels to the point that they're no longer a majority of the cost of the system as a whole. PV Solar simplistically has the panels, racking, wiring, and inverters; when I first researched solar panels were > $4 per watt, now they're close to $1 per watt ... eventually the inverters may be the highest-cost item in the system. LED lighting is in a similar situation with LED's, heatsinking, drivers, optics, and housing; LED cost on a per-lumen basis for any given system has dropped precipitously, thermal ruggedness has also reduced or eliminated the need for heatsinking ... drivers remain one of the cost challenges now.

I believe that the big jumps in LED thermal ruggedness have been more commercially useful than wringing increasingly-difficult efficiency advancements out of the lab and then wrangling them into cost-efficient production methods. Cree can produce ~800 lumens from a mere 8 LED packages for the 4-Flow bulbs heatsinked by the PCB copper cladding and warranty them for what the market feels is an acceptable length of time. This cuts the expensive heatsink out of the equation. Philips took a similar approach with their flat bulbs, albeit with more LED's that are probably cheaper than Cree's higher-power packages.

On a longer timescale, let's examine what you can do with the humble SMD LED. 11 years ago I worked for a firm that used floro tubes to backlight a nuymber of display panels on one of its products. These floro tubes were producing sufficient heat to cause failures in some of the other electronics within. We looked at LED backlighting with SMD LED's and found that it simply wasn't possible to hit anything close to the brightness that the floro tubes were putting out at any remotely reasonable price; instead they grudgingly spet money on more efficient floro tubes/ballasts. I'm pretty sure that nowadays they just custom-assemble cheap LED tape that's better in every way - cost, durability, color rendering, heat production.

Existing higher-efficiency lab samples will most likely eventually find their way to production products, but I don't know that many more efficiency projects will enter the pipeline.
 
fyrstormer

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It was 10+ years ago when the DOE could make the claim that lighting represented a quarter of residential electricity consumption. Now, I suspect it's perhaps half that number with the once-ubiquitous A19 incandescent pretty much gone from store shelves and disappearing from the average home. While it's true that further efficiency advances would reduce demand, the big savings have already been made in that area and further savings will result in diminishing returns.

Let's take a hypothetical residence with 30 800 lumen bulbs putting out 24,000 total lumens. Here's what various efficiencies starting at 15 lm/W and doubling with each step will do for consumption:
5QLsDWX.png


The big jump is at the 15 >> 30 jump and absolute savings rapidly fall off after that point. Utilities will probably subsidize whatever is cost-effective that isn't incandescent/halogen, but their incentive to get more efficient than today's ~100 lm/W OTF bulbs is pretty much zero. Encouraging the installation of more-efficient insulation, HVAC, major appliances, water heaters, etc will probably yield more net reduction in demand than additional advancements in lighting.
I don't think the drop in electricity usage for lighting has been anywhere near what you predict. What I've noticed over the past few years is people are installing more and brighter lights both in and around their homes, because it's an instinct for humans to do more with the resources they have when they learn to use it more efficiently, rather than simply use less of it. The only way to cut resource usage is to make the resource unaffordable, or else make its usage so incredibly efficient that even if people are as wasteful as they can possibly be, they still can't use more of the resource than they could before the efficiency was improved.
 
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idleprocess

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I don't think the drop in electricity usage for lighting has been anywhere near what you predict. What I've noticed over the past few years is people are installing more and brighter lights both in and around their homes, because it's an instinct for humans to do more with the resources they have when they learn to use it more efficiently, rather than simply use less of it. The only way to cut resource usage is to make the resource unaffordable, or else make its usage so incredibly efficient that even if people are as wasteful as they can possibly be, they still can't use more of the resource than they could before the efficiency was improved.

Apparently, per an EIA FAQ, residential and commercial sectors combined were 17% of their total consumption or 14% of national consumption. Once you find the actual data itself (more directly: PDF XLS), 2011 shows 13.15%, 2012 shows 13.55% (row 33 "Lighting" divided by row 40 "Delievered Energy"); forecasts show a slow drop over time with both cases ("Reference" and "AEO2013 Reference") reaching <10% in 2020.

I can't find older data to show where we came from 5, 10, 15 years ago. It probably exists - I just can't be bothered and I've already wandered way OT.
 

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