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Is Low Price Really Low Cost?

When building an LED luminaire or lamp, total price of components in the bill of materials is a critical to the commercial success and adoption of a product in the market.  Another factor that is truly important in the long run of manufacturing LED products is the total cost for such components and the ability to meet the expected lifetime demanded by the market.  The LED lighting market is demanding high reliability and long expected lifetimes of products in excess of 50,000 hours.  Total cost not only takes into account the price of components, but also the costs associated with issues such as manufacturing quality, warranty claims, and brand reputation due to reliability issues.

The industry has already started to see some of these associated costs in instances related to failures of electrolytic capacitors in drivers and optical performance degradation due to lens material complexities in LED systems.  Connectivity products for LED systems are also important components that are not immune to such concerns and need to be carefully evaluated for quality and reliability when selected during the design process.  While the price is important, selecting the right connectivity solution may prove to be less expensive to a manufacturer over time.

Understanding the basics of the connector design and test process helps a fixture designer make a confident component selection to meet market demands.  The basic connector consists of a housing and contacts used to create the electromechanical interface. The interface can be used for wire?to?wire, board?to?board, and wire?to-device/board connections. The purpose of the connector is to establish and maintain a reliable, yet separable low?resistance connection. The contacts used in a connector system are at the heart of what makes a connector work.  Correct material selection is critical to ensure adequate normal force is retained at the interface during the life of the connector.  The connector housing provides a number of very important functions. Fundamentally, the housing provides electrical isolation between adjacent contacts and between the contact and the outside world.

In high?intensity LED applications, the LEDs themselves generate enough heat to require careful consideration of thermal management and material selections. Choosing the right connector is critical to ensure it meets the intended application and environmental conditions just as with the LED, optics, thermal management and driver electronics.

Connectivity solutions should to be designed or evaluated for LED environments to minimize common failure modes such as fretting corrosion of contacts and other issues due to the effects of plastic relaxation that lead to catastrophic failures.  At TE Connectivity, we have developed design processes and testing procedures along with robust material selection guidelines to design high quality connector performance and field reliability.  Years of innovation and experience is embedded in TE’s design and manufacturing practices providing the market with the confidence it needs to build products with high demands for useful life at competitive prices.

In today’s solid?state lighting systems, LEDs, thermal solution, optics and packaging comprise a considerable part of the overall cost of the lighting system. The connector is usually a small part of the overall cost and is often specified without adequate consideration and balancing of cost versus performance. It makes little sense to scrimp on the one component that your entire fixture relies on for power. Without a reliable and appropriate connector system, the lighting fixture, however well designed and esthetically pleasing it is, becomes a dull, static (and unlit) non?functional object d’art. Spend some time and consideration selecting the appropriate proven connector system for the application even if it costs a little more. It will pay dividends in the long run.

The bitterness of poor quality lasts much longer than the sweetness of the lowest price.

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