Understanding Lighting: Quality of Light
When one plans a new design project, there are several aspects to consider such as individual product placement, their balance with each other and the environment in general. Not only does a designer or brand manager need to consider their project budget and time-frame, but they also need to think through elements that will make your project truly stand out. An essential part of any environment is ensuring that it is in the “right light”. The quality of the lighting available is a function of how it works within your environment to add positively to the design thereby complementing the products or elements being illuminated. Naturally, determining the components of the quality of lighting becomes a criticality as high-quality lighting can serve to enhance, detract, annoy, highlight, or even hide certain features. At Omnify Lighting, we’ve come up with a short list of what makes up high-quality lighting to guide you in your decisions:
High CRIThe true test of quality for any LED light is its ability to render colors accurately and naturally i.e. where it ranks on the CRI(Color Rendering Index). CRI is a measure of how “real” colors look under a white light source and the values range from 0 to 100. Our eye is accustomed to the sun which has a CRI of 100, and as such, for most applications, a higher CRI results in a better visual experience. Everyone’s has passed along a road with it’s yellow streetlights on at night which provide illumination to travelers. Problem is, while these streetlights provide ample lighting, the quality of the light isn’t particularly great i.e everything looks bathed in washed-out tones of yellow. Now, while this is perfectly acceptable for lighting by streetlights, imagine this quality of lighting being present in retail stores where the emphasis is on making products look aesthetically pleasing! LED lights with a low CRI add a flat, muted hue to objects that they illuminate making them look drab and dull. When people are seen in low CRI lighting, skin tones are unappealing, with lifeless eyes. Relevant to highlight that low CRI does not imply poor quality lighting but simply that the colors rendered will differ from the ones actually seen during the daylight. Typical use-cases of applications where high CRI lighting would be relevant include: retail environments for brands particularly high-end jewelry displays and clothing, produce displays in grocery stores and supermarkets, neonatal care, and any application where the fidelity of the colors of objects is critical. A high CRI light source will allow you to showcase the natural beauty of the illuminated objects within their design spaces and make them “pop,” adding a deeply rich subtlety to the design. At Omnify Lighting, our entire OmniChip-powered range of lighting products is tested at a CRI of 95+, close to the sun’s value, thus reflecting colors accurately and naturally.
Is High CRI Enough?Recent developments in LED technology have allowed for rapid advancements to be made with CRIs—increasing the ability of LEDs to render colors in a manner that is true-to-life. However, these improvements in LED lighting systems do not tell the full story. While CRI is made up of 15 colors (R1-R15), the CRI score itself is calculated by averaging the scores of only the first eight colors (R1-R8), which are a variety of unsaturated, pastel colors. Colors R9-R15 are not calculated into the CRI score, but are still very important for color performance and may be measured individually. This is especially true for R9, the “red” color which plays an important role in healthcare, where it is critical in distinguishing the various shades of red with skin, tissues and blood in order to make good decisions and correct diagnoses. R9 also impacts the lighting of clothes, vegetable and meats. Hence, for meat and vegetable display counters in supermarkets, ensuring high R9 LED values is a must to ensure visual freshness of products since consumers are likely to find de-saturated looking produce unappealing. For dressing sections or make-up rooms in department stores, the accent lighting chosen needs to have a high CRI value in order to accurately depict the color of the clothing chosen against the customer’s skin. R9 should be at least zero and 10+ is usually recommended. With negative R9, skin tones and other reddish and red objects look muted. Equally important is R13, the “skin” color which is very important in the area of skin treatment and cosmetics. Relevant to highlight, a high general CRI doesn’t guarantee high R9 or R13 values but the specific ability of an LED lighting system to accurately reproduce R9 and R13 is critical to accurate overall color rendering.
BinningHuman eyes can discern differences in colour extremely well and while this means we can enjoy rich and wonderful array of colors, it nevertheless causes a problem for LED manufacturers. As LEDs are mass-produced in a complex process, it is almost impossible to manufacture LEDs that are all identical. LEDs tend to be very similar but are very rarely exactly alike. In order for a light to be, say, red, a manufacturer need a technique to ensure every one of the component LEDs are actually red. To ensure identical LEDs in a given run, LED manufacturers sort their manufactured output by light intensity(lumens), voltage, color and color location. Of these, lumens and color are the most important parameters in LED variability. This physical sorting of LEDs of similar brightness and color is called “binning” which results in overcoming LED manufacturing variations that leads to a better quality and consistent light for the end user. At Omnify Lighting, our entire range of lighting products across backlighting, linear lighting and signage uses LEDs from one bin only thereby ensuring that any combination of products used renders completely consistent lighting.
Phosphor QualityPhosphor is an essential component in the manufacture of white LEDs. The performance of white LEDs is a function of the quality of phosphor used as well as the manner in which the phosphor is integrated into the LEDs. White LEDs, using only yellow phosphors, are often characterized by a bluish-white tinge and a CCT ranging between 4000K and 6500K. In addition, these LEDs often do not meet minimum CRI requirements, which is a qualifying criteria for illumination-grade LEDs. At Omnify Lighting, we understand how phosphor works at a first principles level, giving us the latitude to pursue the absolute best in chemical formulations and manufacturing processes which result in the highest quality of LEDs. As such, we leverage recent advances in red phosphor materials that yield warm white LEDs with CCT values ranging between 2700K and 4000K, and minimum CRI values of 80 across all our OmniChip powered products. Further, to maintain our industry leadership, Omnify Lighting routinely invests in the research of new phosphor materials and manufacturing processes which result in higher efficiencies and improved lumen output.
ConsistencyWhile they may not look different from other products in the market, the advanced LED technology inside is what sets Omnify Lighting products apart. Not only will colors remain true, the light output remains stable throughout the lifetime of any Omnify products–meaning that consumers get to enjoy the same light quality for years to come. Further, understanding the importance of consistency, at Omnify Lighting we ensure that any combination of any OmniChip-powered products will have absolute consistency in color and brightness. In summary, the quality of light is an incredibly important parameter to consider while planning your investment in LED lighting.
- Getting the highest possible CRI LED lighting is important to render the most true-to-life lighting possible. Our Backlightings, Linear Lighting and Signage products all guarantee high CRI across the product lines.
- To achieve consistency in lighting across products, the LEDs must be selected from one bin which is something that Omnify ensures across all products.
- At Omnify Lighting, we ensure consistency regardless of individual products usage by integrating the OmniChip across product lines.