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LED Technology: Lighting the Flame for Future Development

13/12/2013

Following the news about the new Bentley SUV and the many jobs it will create nationwide, there is a real buzz about the automotive sector in Britain. Bentley is a globally renowned brand who already employ close to 5,000 people, and this ‘change in gear’ means they will be keen to bolster their ranks even further.

Inspired by this surge, we have produced an infographic entitled, ‘An Illuminated History of the Headlight’ which takes a look at what has been lighting the roads since the 1880’s. While the past is intriguing, it is important to look forward, so how are headlights developing and what will this mean for you?

Forever moving, never stalling

Even the briefest of glances into the development of headlights reveals a common theme: relentless progression. From the original Acetylene lamps to the present development of LED solutions, there has never been a still moment. Researchers and engineers have constantly sought advancement but it isn’t only the lighting of cars which has adopted this trend.

Automotive workers have always made a huge impression on the world we live in, whether they’re involved in the nuts and bolts of manufacture, or the improvements to safety. Dedicated engineers strive to develop for the here and now rather than settle for what’s available. As the industry thrives and grows with exceptional speed, more jobs within the various fields are being created.

The main indicators of a light bulb’s performance are its output and efficiency and both have increased drastically throughout the stages of development. A clear parallel can be drawn between this and the automotive sector itself, as more cars, with increasingly complex technology, are being produced than ever before, with excellent productivity levels. Far from the automated, robotic production line, it is the creative, committed workers within the sector who drive this progress.

Xenon & LED: The tech and what to expect

While boasting increased efficiency and a higher level of output, Xenon lights are an innovative but controversial stage in the evolution of headlights. Also known as High-Intensity-Discharge (HID) headlights, they were first implemented on the 1991 BMW 7 series. Despite the obvious positives of the impressive but dazzling, bluish beam, manufacturers continue to look towards LED lighting for improvements – showing the ingrained human desire for progress, once again.

LED lighting technology has been around for a while, but first appeared on cars in 2008. It is now undoubtedly the next generation of headlight. An LED (light-emitting-diode) is a semiconductor light source which produces light through electroluminescence. LED bulbs can retain 70% of their initial output for 50,000 hours or more, depending on operating conditions. This means that even if the bulbs were on continuously, they would last for around 6 years!

Behind the scenes, away from the top end models which currently feature LEDs, the technology is improving rapidly. The performance of LED headlights is expected to develop to a point where it dwarfs the competition in terms of efficiency, output, reliability and cost. This demand for new technology will also lead to a call for skilled professionals to fill the numerous new roles created. Therefore, the relentless search for progression will continue for the foreseeable future.

Moving Forward

Although currently a technology used within luxury cars, LEDs are starting to creep into the general market. Market projections have predicted that, by 2020 of all the headlights produced in the world, LEDs will make up 20%. This is a steep increase from the approximate 2% of lights today. The three main factors behind this are improving performance, potential for customisation and declining cost.

The efficiency of LEDs is also well documented; they shine brightly despite low power requirements and have an extensive lifespan. Their compact size means automotive designers have been able to get creative with their ideas, creating varied imaginative patterns for rear and daytime lights.

The main hindrance to the implementation of LEDs, so far, has been their price. While Halogen lights cost auto-makers between £10 and £15 and Xenon bulbs range from £40 to £50, LEDs often cost twice this amount. This cost is declining quickly though, so while all of the above continue to develop and increase in cost, LED headlight solutions are only going to become more desirable.

Although you may feel that you're not the next Henry Ford or Thomas Edison, the automotive sector is an evolving industry with a wealth of opportunities that are increasing day by day as new projects and technology are launched.

Fircroft works with some of the UK's leading automotive manufacturers to source talented engineers and designers to shape the future of the industry. See all of our current automotive jobs here.

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