Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, has been quoted as saying, “There are two ways to build a product. The first: a company starts with their strengths and builds to the needs of the consumer. The second: a company starts with the needs of the consumer and builds (into) the strengths of the company.” According to Bezos, Amazon.com is an example of the first; It built logistical strength and educated the customer on the benefits of ecommerce. The Kindle is an example of the second; It started with the consumer’s need for faster delivery in a digital format and built the infrastructure of the company to satisfy that need.
Like Amazon, Cree is another rare company that does both. Cree leverages its strength in high-brightness LED R&D to develop LED chips, packaged devices, and arrays, all focused with rifle-shot accuracy on general lighting. Cree isn’t interested in the backlighting market, or automotive; It wants to make the solid-state lighting market take off. And in large part due to Cree’s efforts, LED prices, which have been painfully high, are dropping. However, Cree also sees the quality – or lack thereof – of packaged luminaires as being a major obstacle to LED acceptance: Will an LED light do what a consumer expects for as long as it should?
In general, Cree’s immediate customers are lighting manufacturers with little experience in making and designing semiconductor-based products. While third-party labs can provide testing services, such as IES LM-79 for LED luminaires, Cree believes many other aspects of end-product quality aren’t caught by third parties, such as chemical compatibility between materials used in the luminaire and the LEDs, the effectiveness of mixing slightly different color LEDs for enhanced color consistency, and TM-21 LED lifetime projections.
Cree sees a “testing gap” between what third-party labs can provide, and what lighting manufacturers need to evaluate their design for quality, performance, and lifetime. To address this gap, Cree has created TEMPO (Thermal, Electrical, Mechanical, Photometric and Optical) Services which the company claims represent the accumulated advantage of Cree’s extensive experience with customer LED systems combined with the use of calibrated test equipment to give LED lighting manufacturers and end users confidence in LED product designs.
Cree offers a range of TEMPO Services to LED luminaire makers, depending on their product development needs. The flagship service is the TEMPO 21 Service, the most comprehensive LED luminaire test available, which measures and analyzes a final product design before submitting it for LM-79 certification. TEMPO 21 examines all the aspects of quality that Cree has identified as critical. In addition to a TEMPO report, the TEMPO 21 Service also includes consultation time with a Cree Application Engineer to review the testing results and highlight possible areas for improvement in the design.
Cree is also offering two quick turnaround testing services; The TEMPO SPOT Service provides measurements of flux, efficacy and chromaticity for luminaires and replacement lamps. The TEMPO FLASH Service provides measurements of flux, chromaticity and throw for torches and other portable lighting designs.
Cree is currently providing TEMPO Services out of its Cree Technology Centers, located in Research Triangle Park, N.C. and Santa Barbara, Calif. Future TEMPO Service locations are planned for Munich, Shanghai, and Taiwan.
What about pricing? The flagship TEMPO 21 service is about $1200 with a turn-around time of two weeks; The SPOT and FLASH services cost less. Says David Peoples LED Product Manager for Cree, “We’re not here to make money off of this service, we’re here to drive the market.” As a cost comparison, third-party LM-79 testing ranges from $1200-$2,500 and thermal testing costs about $1,000, with turn-around time closer to months rather than weeks.