Braving an insanely bad economy and truncated travel budgets, more than 23,000 lighting professionals and more than 500 exhibitors attended LightFair 2009, held May 3-7 in New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center.

You can sum up the biggest news at LightFair in 2009 in just three letters: LED. Despite the facts that LEDs are not quite cost-competitive with many conventional light sources, and that many industry insiders have concerns about the quality of light and manufacturing standards, there was no doubt at the lighting industry's annual meeting of the tribes that LEDs are here to stay and that they are totally revolutionizing the lighting business. Dozens of booths at the show exhibited LED light sources, LED lighting fixtures or related products, and it was common to see LED manufacturers talking with fixture manufacturers about sourcing arrangements.

The title of one LightFair seminar summed up some of the current concerns about LEDs: “100,000 hours and other LED Fairy Tales.” In the course description, the presenter, John Curran, president of LED Transformations, Stanton, N.J., also composed a little LED ditty on the concerns about light quality: “Mary had an LED. Its light was white as snow. But everywhere that Mary went, people said, ‘What is that blue glow?’”

At least one manufacturer is moving cautiously into LEDs. Ray Angelo, president, Westinghouse Lighting Corp., Philadelphia, said his company was displaying its core lighting products such as HID lighting and CFLs, but just a few LED prototypes so his employees could get feedback from customers on where they want to use LEDs before ramping up production. Angelo said customers inquired about parking lots and some industrial settings where light quality is not a major issue and lamp replacement/maintenance is costly.

General office/interior lighting and exit signs were by far the most common LED applications promoted at LightFair, but a surprising number of manufacturers, including GE Lighting, Cleveland; Cooper Lighting, Peachtree City, Ga.; and Schreder Lighting, Elk Grove Village, Ill., displayed outdoor LED fixtures for parking lots and pathways.

Other innovative applications included WAC Lighting's InvisiLED tape lights — an all-inclusive kit for electrical contractors. They just have to peel off the sticky-back tape and install the LED strips in runs of up to 20 feet. The tape lights are used for applications such as refrigerated food or beverage cabinets, miniature cove lighting, bars and counters, and display cases. WAC Lighting also had prototype OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) on display. Manufacturers believe OLEDs will one day be mass-produced on large sheets or rolls for general lighting applications. They are currently used as backlights in cell phones and some computer screens.

LEDs also won their share of awards in LightFair's annual LFI Awards competition. This year's winners were:

Most Innovative Product of the Year

Calculite Solid-State Downlights by Lightolier/Philips.

Design Excellence Award

Kite by Peerless from Acuity Brands Lighting.

Technical Innovation Awards

Luxeon Rebel ES from Philips/LumiLEDs and SST-90-W by Luminus Devices.

Judges' Citation Award

(special recognition of an innovative product at the judges' discretion): LM-80-08 - “Approved Method for Measuring Lumen Maintenance of LED Light Sources,” from the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES).

Other observations at this year's show

Philips Lighting had to set some sort of record for the most booths run by one company at LightFair. Philips had 24 separate booths for all of its product lines, and the company's lighting village looked like a trade show within a trade show. Another interesting exhibitor was Arrow Electronics, Melville, N.Y., which was selling LED components and “total lighting solutions” that lighting manufacturers need for their LED lighting fixtures and other LED products.

Next year's LightFair will be held in Las Vegas, May 10-14. Show organizers said 76 percent of the available space is already booked for next year's trade show.

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