Posts tagged ‘Manufacturing’
December 20, 2010
Behold, the last project of my first semester of grad school — a recessed wayfinding/path light nicknamed “FRINGE!”
Yes, the name is in all caps for a reason. Look at it! It doesn’t just blend into the wall, it screams style and taste! (Or maybe it just screams for attention.) Anyway, for those wondering what a wayfinding/path light is — think step lights on your deck or patio, or those low-voltage stake lights in your garden — it’s a light that evenly illuminates a path indoors or outdoors when there is very little other light present. This one just happens to be recessed into the wall at about 15 inches off the floor to provide a low level of light for a path or corridor. So, like I was saying, “FRINGE!” I think it’s clear that this project is a merger between my theatrical and architectural sensibilities. When I started the project I knew I didn’t want to design a fixture that just put out an amorphous wash of light; I knew I wanted strict, theatrical control over every lumen in order to deliver something you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a Ryan Fischer specialty!
The way I went about my design was 100% opposite from the way I did my last luminaire. Instead of starting with a clear idea of the form of the fixture and then working out the optics from there, I started the design with an image of the light beam and the effect in my head and then designed the light fixture to create that beam pattern. In a sense, all I’ve really done here is create a theatrical projector. The light source is a low-voltage 10 watt clear halogen T-3 lamp that is designed with a very small filament, so in essence this lamp provides a point source of light that can be used to project an image. By ray tracing the light beam I wanted to create back to the point at which I wanted the filament to sit, I was able to define the aperture of the fixture and then create the rest of the housing from there.
This project wasn’t about creating an attractive light beam, though; it was about creating a functional, performance-driven luminaire that could be manufactured and used in real situations. As such, we were required to design the fixture to provide a certain even light level across the center of a path, as well as design it to work indoors or out in a variety of wall materials (wallboard, brick, stone, tile, etc). We even had to write up installation instructions for it!
It may sound odd, but all those requirements were what made the project fun — we were forced to design a 100% complete fixture that could go into manufacturing and production purely based on the set of drawings and documents we generated. We were held accountable for listing every piece of metal, knowing how that piece was manufactured and formed, and diagramming how it connected to all the other parts in a logical series of steps. It was a complex project, but I think the end result was absolutely worth it.
Thanks to my knowledgeable professors I am now thoroughly comfortable with the complete process of designing a luminaire, and I know these skills will be valuable well into the future in designing custom lighting installations. I think I’ll continue to design fixtures in the near future, too. It’s a fun skill to have, to be able to develop and fabricate something that can be used to (pun pun pun) light up someone’s day.
In fact, I’ve already gotten a couple of requests from friends to design some custom lamps … and I can’t wait to get started!
November 27, 2010
Ever wonder where all of those downlights, wall washers, and track lights come from? Sure, they all show up on a job site assembled and ready to go, but where do those fixtures start their lives? Our Luminaire Design class had the rare opportunity to find out this past Monday during our tour of the Edison Price Lighting factory in Queens, where we had the chance to observe some of the machining processes that the typical light fixture goes through before it leaves the factory for installation in projects all over the world.
The factory itself is a clean, bright, modern facility, where most fixtures in the Edison Price product line are assembled prior to their delivery on a job site. What this means is that each fixture is manufactured and assembled per order (a “Just-In-Time” business model), so there is no warehousing of large stocks of light fixtures here or at another location — the process is simply: you order it, they’ll build it (all within one to two days). Surprisingly, this doesn’t require legions of employees to accomplish as one might expect. The factory employs less than 75 people that can build hundreds of fixtures per product line, per day, which is due, in large part, to the amount of automated machinery used in the manufacturing process. From automated laser cutters and punch presses to folding press brakes and even packaging machines, the investment in modern technologies in this factory has clearly paid off in efficiency, accuracy, and production. Luckily our hosts allowed me to take some short videos on our tour, so you can see exactly how some of these machines work!
Despite all of the automation, however, a large part of the manufacturing process is completed by hand. All of the assembly of the fixtures, for instance, is done by hand. Some of the raw material processes are done by hand as well. In fact, one of the most interesting processes we observed on our tour was the hand-crafting of an aluminum reflector. The man in the photo below is “spinning” a curved reflector from a flat disk of aluminum by using a series of wooden sticks to push the metal against a form in the machine. It was impressive to watch as he expertly formed each piece in a few fluid strokes.
I find it very reassuring, too, that many of the processes in the factory are left to the human hand. The fact that a company as large as Edison Price trusts in the skill and craft of their employees to construct their fixtures is evidence of a caring company that is concerned with delivering only the highest caliber of products. As a lighting designer, I know that this is a company I can trust to take care of me and my work from the start of a project to its finish (and beyond), because I have seen, first hand, the care that goes into each product.
It’s surprising to me that most businesses like this don’t advertise these parts of their company. Edison Price, for instance, hardly mentions anything about their manufacturing process on their website. In today’s transparency- and social media-driven world, I think any business would benefit from promoting the fact that every one of their products is crafted and inspected by a well-paid American employee. People like to feel a connection to the things they buy and the companies they buy from, and the more they know about the inner workings of a company, the more they are likely to trust and buy from that company. I think if more people knew about what happens behind-the-scenes at companies such as these, it would benefit everyone involved.
Thankfully I can share these photos and videos with you, so now you know and can spread the word about the great work that this company is doing, and hopefully use this knowledge to your own benefit on your next lighting project! Know of any lighting or related companies that promote their behind-the-scenes activities as much as their products? Share with all of us below in the comments!