Just about the biggest thing to talk about at Fiberstars is the company’s new fiber optic product, the EFO™ that delivers up to 80 percent in energy savings while drastically reducing maintenance costs. Calling it one of the most “significant breakthroughs ever made in commercial lighting,” Fiberstars, producers of illuminators for every possible application, including commercial and residential, indoor and outdoor, damp and wet location, side emitting and end emitting, has caught the attention of government agencies eager to reap the benefits of the company’s new energy saver.
The Department of Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has tapped Fiberstars, along with three other companies, to modify its revolutionary EFO for use on ships and at government locations through its HEDLight program; the fiber optic lights are envisioned as replacements for fluorescent tubes. The three-year project, valued at $9.5 million, also involves: APL, manufacturer of metal salts used in high intensity discharge lamps; ORA, Optical Research Associates, optical experts (the company corrected the lens on the Hubble telescope) and SAIC, a large company focusing on government contract work.
With the energy efficiency created by EFO, the company sees the DARPA contract as one that will open up a huge market at the end of the three-year contract. “We see commercial lighting as our biggest growth opportunity,” says Vice President of Finance Bob Connors, and one which has the potential to take Fiberstars from its $150 million niche to a projected $5 billion niche; a staggering number, yet, says Connors, representing only 10 percent of the vastly competitive lighting market.
Fiberstars also has been buoyed by a recent grant received through the Department of Commerce, enabling the company to switch its manufacturing processes in its Ohio facility from cast to extruded, requiring a larger production line. Seeing advantages in the energy efficiency emitted by Fiberstars’ EFO, the Department of Commerce’s aid will enable the company to accommodate a larger market.
Fiber optic pioneers
And none of this would be taking place if it hadn’t been for three entrepreneurs working out of a garage to produce usable fiber optic lighting. Says CEO Dave Ruckert: “Prior, fiber optic lighting had been used for gimmicky things and there were no real useful lighting applications for it.”
The company’s first product was perimeter lighting for swimming pools created in 1991, as a way to light up water using no voltage. “Color filters were used,” says Ruckert. ‘It was a breakthrough.” The pool and spa lighting market now comprises half of the company’s production.
In 1989 Fiberstars entered the commercial market and produced a sidelight for the neon replacement market. That same year its production took a turn into the medical field, albeit briefly, devising a method to treat jaundice in infants. Prior, infants had been treated with a blue light, which required that they be naked and masked. “Our pro-duct was a weave of fibers in a blanket,” says Ruckert. “It was much more humane.” This product, however, is no longer on the market.
Fiberstars, however, has come light years with fiber optic technology that was developed a decade ago at Rohm and Haas. Having the in-house visionaries who realized this technology would outshine the rest, Fiberstars bought the patents in 2000; these comprised five years’ worth of work and a $20 million investment. The venture has produced a line of fiber optic lighting that the company hopes will garner more attention as more applications are discovered.
The EFO in lighting
The centerpiece of the company’s EFO technology is its patented Compound Parabolic Collector (CPC) technology, which enables it to efficiently harness the illuminating power of an ultra-high output metal halide lamp and deliver it to multiple downlighting fixtures with minimal light loss. The result is a system that not only uses much less energy, but also requires maintaining just one lamp instead of up to six, or more. EFO also produces far more pleasing and effective light than bulky and unattractive compact fluorescents. A newer version of EFO, producing more lights per watt, was introduced at the lighting industry’s premier event held this year in May, Lightfair. (The company introduced a pool and spa version of EFO last year.)
Also significant to the product lineup is the High Performance Downlight (HPDL®). This family of elegant downlight fixtures is designed to yield maximum light output while duplicating the most popular MR16 beam spreads.
HPDLs feature a finish and a regressed-position light source that, working together, eliminate glare at normal viewing angles. The result is lighting appropriate for lobbies and reception areas, profess-ional offices and conference rooms and from art galleries and museums to retail and residential settings. HPDLs can be used to light walls or featured objects, or to provide general illumination, particularly where UV, IR, or heat are areas of concern, or where limited plenum space makes the use of more traditional fixtures impossible. Plus, they’re incredibly easy
Available in a choice of 15-, 25- or 40-degree beam spread, HPDLs exhibit a clean and elegant appearance, fitting neatly and seamlessly into any design setting or ceiling type. When combined in systems with Fiberstars’ newest, high-power illuminators and efficient fiber optic cables, one 400-watt source can provide up to 12 HPDLs with the power and performance of 50-watt MR16s.
In other areas, Fiberstars manufactures what it claims to be the finest multi-strand cable in the world, “outperforming anything else on the market.” (Because certain applications are best served by the characteristics of large core fiber, the company also makes “the best large core fiber available.”)
Additionally, because the illuminator, the source of light in the fiber optic system, is critically important to the success of any fiber optic lighting installation, Fiberstars has developed a line of top performing, reliable illuminators. The company’s Model 701 is touted as the brightest fiber optic illuminator in the world, outperforming every other illuminator on the market, and exceeding the output of neon when paired with its patented BriteCore TT fiber. Fiberstars makes illuminators for every application: commercial and residential, indoor and outdoor, damp and wet location, side emitting and end emitting; all are UL listed.
Lighting the way
Fiberstars’ diverse array of fiber optic lighting solutions are the result of extensive research and development programs and are performance-verified through a series of comprehensive and accurate independent tests. A systems approach to fiber optic lighting means that Fiberstars takes full responsibility for the successful integration of
With two plants – the Sonol, Ohio facility is set to be expanded from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet and a Fremont, Calif., facility measures 30,000 square feet, – Fiberstars sees opportunities not only in the myriad commercial and residential pool and spa uses of its EFO and other technologies, but also in the decorative and specialty markets. Considering its experience in the application of fiber optic technology unequalled, Fiberstars can give specifiers and end-users a level of professional support that can’t be found anywhere else, Ruckert says.
Through organic growth, Fiberstars is illuminating the world one light source at a time and, in the process, helping us all to see the light in the greater efficiencies of fiber optic lighting.