Casting a light on LEDs

IECQ provides solution for certification of LED-based lighting sources

By Claire Marchand

From indicator lamps on electronic devices or numeric readouts on digital clocks to their current use in a wide variety of lighting solutions, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have come a long way in a few decades. They are now replacing incandescent or CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs in domestic, residential, commercial and industrial applications.

LED module (Photo: Samsung) LED module (Photo: Samsung)

More popular than ever

LEDs have many advantages over incandescent or CFL light sources: lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, robustness (reduced cost of maintenance and replacement), smaller size and faster switching. They are also easy to control.

Aviation/airport and urban lighting, automotive headlamps, advertising, traffic signals, camera flashes and shopping malls are ever more reliant on LED lighting sources. Because initially they were expensive to produce, they found their market mainly in commercial use. Improved technologies and economies of scale have brought prices down, and made the devices increasingly attractive to domestic consumers.

Mass production must not affect quality adversely

The ever growing demand for LED lighting solutions carries with it a potential pitfall: the risk of sub-quality products flooding the market. While it is tempting for manufacturers to roll out their products as fast as possible, thus securing a share of the global market for themselves, this must not be done at the expense of quality and reliability. Whether or not they are mass-produced, all electronic components, parts, modules and assemblies that make up LED lighting solutions must work together in the best possible way. One faulty component can result in poor performance or, even worse, in the overall failure of the LED lighting system.

Standards, specifications...

There are standards, IEC International Standards in particular, which address safety requirements, including interoperability. However, manufacturers of components and assemblies need to deal with issues that are much broader than those covered by these International Standards when controlling their manufacturing processes.

...testing and certification

Through its AC (Approved Component) Scheme, IECQ (IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components) has put forward its "LED initiative", intended to provide manufacturers, suppliers and buyers with the confidence that the products they sell or purchase have been independently verified and meet all requirements and specifications.

The IECQ AC Scheme, already in place and widely used by industry, can easily be applied to certify the manufacturers and suppliers of electronic components and assemblies that are part of the production of LED packages, lamps, luminaires and associated LED ballasts/drivers.

The IECQ AC Scheme provides the assurance that the requirements stipulated in safety and interoperability standards, and in industry specifications, are met. It also ensures that specific performance and environmental criteria associated with the components are satisfied, and takes care of material and component traceability. Moreover the Scheme makes sure the initial qualification of designs and any controls for subsequent design, manufacturing, process, material and supply chain changes are in place. Last but not least, it provides a constant checking and testing of production samples.

The IECQ AC Scheme is a powerful supply-chain management tool both for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and component and module suppliers.

A win-win situation

Suppliers benefit from the on-going assessment conducted by IECQ, as opposed to undergoing multiple assessments and having differing criteria set by each of their OEM customers. The structured approach offered by IECQ allows for increased efficiency and substantial cost savings by eliminating sub-standard items during production.

As for OEMs, they know they can trust their IECQ-certified suppliers to provide them with high-quality components, thus removing the need for monitoring and controlling the supply chain from A to Z. Ultimately, this helps them protect the reputation of their brand on the market.

Cooperation between IEC CA Systems

Another 'first' for IEC CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems is that, while the IECQ AC Scheme covers the quality and reliability of electronic components, parts, modules and assemblies, other aspects of LED lighting fall under the responsibility of another IEC CA System, IECEE (IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components). The IECEE CB Scheme addresses performance and safety issues for a wide variety of lighting products and their accessories, including LEDs.

This collaborative approach is expected to develop further as many industry sectors increasingly seek complete solutions to their compliance needs.

LED module (Photo: Samsung) LED module (Photo: Samsung)
COB (chip on board) COB (chip on board
Colourful LED-lit trees Colourful LED-lit trees