DOMINANT Opto Technologies announces SmartRGB LED for Automotive Ambient Lighting Applications
At the Electronica 2016 exhibition, DOMINANT Opto Technologies has unveiled a new digital LED concept for automotive applications. The SmartRGB LED is to be based on an entirely new in-car LED ambient lighting concept that drives down costs, simplifies control, and expands the functionality of LED lighting and display solutions. This will also be the first product developed under the umbrella of IseLED, an open alliance formed to provide a full ecosystem for the new digital LED right from its very inception. The founding partners of the IseLED Alliance are DOMINANT Opto Technologies, Inova, NXP, TE Connectivity and the University of Pforzheim.
Prof. Karlheinz Blankenbach, Physics professor at the University of Pforzheim, said, “My role has been in the project characterization phase, setting the theoretical framework for the system. It is essential that vehicles are able to better communicate with the world around them, for instance, I see the ability of vehicles to inform pedestrians that they have seen them as very important from a safety standpoint. Of course, we should not limit our outlook to purely automotive applications.”
Robert Isele, Manager, Ambient Light, Modular System, Interior Lighting at BMW AG explains, “We have been listening to our customers, and the feedback has resoundingly indicated a demand for this new platform. We believe that we need an innovation which provides a cost-effective way of creating inspiring products of the future, which will assist with in-car information, corporate branding and communications. This new LED technology has to provide a very viable, easy-to-use solution to the in-car LED dilemma – it would have simply been impossible if every LED had to be calibrated individually.”
The first solution consists of a driver from Inova with a bidirectional serial interface and daisy-chain capability; jointly developed with DOMINANT Opto Technologies into a single compact package with three LEDs (red, green and blue). The new package will come with pre-calibration of the required white point from the factory.
“Our business supplies qualified LEDs to the automotive market, and so we are thrilled to have had the fortune to take part in such a prestigious, exciting and paradigm-shifting project," commented Tek Beng Low, Senior Vice President at DOMINANT Opto Technologies, adding, "We see SmartRGB LED as a new boom in the automotive LED segment, and look forward to when this innovation really goes mainstream.”
The driver includes three constant current mode (CCM) drivers to control the red, green and blue LEDs. The color of each RGB LED "trio" can be set with 24-bit resolution (3 x 8 bit). For temperature and manufacturing tolerance compensation, the brightness of each individual LED can be controlled with 12-bit resolution.
The extremely low thermal resistance of the housing, which is 30% lower than in comparable products, reduces the power consumption of the LED by delivering better light efficiency with cooler LEDs.
A built-in temperature sensor ensures accuracy, whilst the calibration values of the CCM LED drivers and temperature compensation parameters are securely stored in non-volatile memory, an indispensable prerequisite for safety-related applications.
This upcoming generation of in-car lighting will typically consist of 10 to 30 LEDs mounted on a flexible strip. Each group of one red, green, and blue LED will form a ‘pixel’, which at 24-bit resolution (3x8-bit) can be set to more than 16 million colors.
At the present time, in order to individually control LEDs, a microcontroller containing LED-specific data is needed for each individual RGB LED. Hence, such a solution is typically too cumbersome and expensive to be viable. Also, it is not feasible to capture individual LED life parameters such as functionality and temperature.
Now, the vanguard SmartRGB LED concept is set to change the automotive LED paradigm by creating an amazingly compact smart LED driver that is directly integrated with three color LEDs into a tiny 3mm x 4mm package.
The processing power is provided by a microcontroller from NXP, perfectly suited for the project,” said Manuel Alves, VP & GM, Product Line General Purpose and Integrated Solutions at NXP Semiconductors. “As NXP has a clear focus on system-level challenges, this SmartRGB LED concept fits right into what we’re aiming for with the recently announced S32K microcontroller product line. We are taking a new concept to market as a complete solution including hardware, software and developing the ecosystem around it.”
Leveraging the experience it gained during the development of its APIX communications standard, Inova has built a high-speed communications protocol that allows every LED to be individually addressed. By supporting data rates up to an impressive 2Mbit/s, the new protocol enables blisteringly fast, dynamic lighting effects. Thus, the straightforward scalability of the solution will enable remarkable cost savings and open new market opportunities.
Robert Kraus, CEO at Inova said, “The past 8 years have shown the power of an ecosystem, like our APIX link concept, to rapidly deploy new technology in an unsaturated market – and we hope to repeat this success with SmartRGB LED; perhaps we are now witnessing the inception phase of another new automotive LED industry standard.”
The smart LED driver from Inova provides sophisticated calibration features, ensuring every LED will render the same color and brightness over the full temperature range, thereby guaranteeing automotive-level illumination consistency, even accepting greater LED manufacturing tolerances than are currently attainable. A single microcontroller can now manage up to 4096 LEDs and their drivers, which is sufficient for a 4K ultra high definition display.
“If interior lighting evolves as indicated by BMW and Prof. Blankenbach, there will be a strong demand for higher integration of optical parts, electronics and connectivity," said Hajo Wetzel, Director, Global Advanced Engineering, TE Connectivity. “Since we have previously partnered with BMW and Inova in the field of connectivity, we decided to support this project by producing the early application prototypes. Due to the short timeline this was definitely a great challenge for our advanced engineering teams which were closely supported by our global lighting hubs in Europe and Canada.”
Samples of the first engineering prototype, an advanced SmartRGB LED, will be available in 1Q 2017 from DOMINANT Opto Technologies.
About DOMINANT Opto Technologies
DOMINANT Opto Technologies is a dynamic company that is amongst the world’s leading automotive LED manufacturers. With an extensive industry experience and relentless pursuit of innovation, DOMINANT’s state-of-art manufacturing and development capabilities have become a trusted and reliable brand across the globe. More information about DOMINANT Opto Technologies, a ISO/TS 16949 and ISO 14001 certified company, can be found under http://www.dominant-semi.com.