Light Emitting Diodes, better known as LEDs, are small light bulbs that are long lasting and incredibly energy efficient. The specific design of these lights requires the use of additional lenses and optics in order for them to function at their best, as the LED emitter isn’t strong enough to light its target without assistance. LEDs optics are split into two types: primary and secondary.
LEDs emit all of their light from their center, meaning that this light fades around the edges as it spreads. Manufacturers describe this style of light emission as “typical spatial distribution.” When left unaltered, the primary optics of an LED cause the light to spread out and appear unfocused.
Secondary optics are incredibly useful to help focus this light. They consist of additional lenses or reflectors that can collimate the light from the LEDs, rather than allowing the rays to spread out at 180 degrees. Generally, secondary optics are more effective the smaller the light source is.
One term frequently used when discussing secondary optics is Full Width Half Maximum (FWHM). This term describes the width of the light beam when its outer edges are at half the intensity of its center.
Total Internal Reflection (TIR) optics are a common type of secondary optic. TIR optics are generally cone shaped, and make use of a reflector with a refracted lens inside. They function by directing the light beam onto the reflector, which produces a collimated beam that can be adjusted to various widths.
Reflectors are another common type of secondary optic. On their own, they are much cheaper than TIR optics, and can be found in almost all incandescent lights. However, use of reflectors by themselves can result in an unpleasant glare or lost lumen output. This is because without the TIR optics to guide it, much of the light beam will not actually touch the reflector. More modern reflectors can make use of different types of finishes that diffuse the light more effectively.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT LED LENS
People who want to build their own LED light will often need to do a bit of experimenting to determine which types of secondary optics let them achieve their desired light. One important factor to consider is the size of the LED as compared to the optic. For example, if you want a very narrow beam of light, you should choose a larger optic and a smaller emitter. Having a clear understanding of the type of light required will make it significantly easier to choose the appropriate emitter and optics.
BENEFITS OF LED LENSES
- High efficiency: LEDs use significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs while offering equal levels of brightness.
- Long lasting: LEDs will frequently last more than seven years before they need to be replaced. Additionally, they fail slowly—at the end of their life they dim, rather than suddenly dying like an incandescent bulb.
- Environmentally friendly: LEDs consume 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs. They are also recyclable and made from non-toxic materials.
- Safe: LEDs do not generate heat, therefore reducing the chances of fire or burns.
- Sturdy: LED lights come from a small chip in an enclosure, making them sturdier than bulbs that use neon gas or filament.
- Versatile: While early LED emitters could only emit directional light, modern optics have made it possible to have ambient LEDs that give off a diffused glow if desired. Different types of lenses can also provide different colored lights. The base colors of blue, red, and amber can be mixed to produce a number of unique colors.
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