Substrates Provide Base for LED Revolution

LEDs are slowly but surely transforming the lighting industry. Reduced power consumption, smaller size and programmability are helping to drive growth, particularly in fields where different lighting patterns are desirable.

Printed boards come into play when designers want to focus light beams in specific directions. For example, automakers want headlights to shine on roadways, but also shine to the sides during turns or focus downward in fog.

Osram, North America’s largest lighting supplier, is putting a lot of effort into LEDs as it transitions from a Siemens operation to an independent company. Joe Jablonski, applications engineering manager at Osram Opto Semiconductors, recently detailed some of the challenges facing automotive engineers working with headlights, which require a lot of light output, meaning they generate a lot of heat.

Metal core boards have the best heat transfer traits, but they can’t be formed to suit demands of automotive stylists. However, smaller metal core boards can be packaged together using flexible printed boards to let stylists position LEDs to shine in the right areas. There are other alternatives, like using fixed connectors, to name one.

Whatever the alternative, these solutions underscore the importance of substrates in many of the designs that use high power LEDs. Designers in outdoor lighting, cars and other markets are looking for substrates that give them freedom to design efficient solutions that excite end customers.

It might not be easy to produce modules that let stylists create novel structures that provide differentiation while dissipating lots of heat. But when substrates play a key role in a new field, it’s really pretty cool.

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