Thursday, December 20, 2012

When being the bright spark isn’t such a good thing

“Bright”, “Brilliant”, “Sparkling” …all terms used more often than not to describe positive attributes. But in a recent visit to a Dialight customer, we ran across a situation where a “Bright Spark” was the cause of a very negative situation indeed.

The “Spark” I’m referring to here is the powerful electric arc that resides at the heart of the mercury vapour lamp. Electric arcs are very bright. But as well as being powerful sources of visible light, they produce huge quantities of ultra-violet light. Anyone who has ever suffered from sunburn will know only too well how damaging UV light can be to the skin. The intense UV radiation from an electric arc can also severely damage the eyes, causing a very painful injury known to welders as “Arc-Eye” or “Welder’s Flash”. But UV also causes physical damage to things as well as people. Exposure to ultra-violet radiation causes common plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene to break down. It can also cause many commonly-used pigments and dyes to degrade and change colour. That’s why carpets and shop signs fade away as they get older.

Even though the arc burning at the heart of the mercury vapour lamp is contained within a glass envelope designed to block harmful UV, the radiation is not completely stopped. Low levels of UV light will inevitably leak out and, while harmless to people, it can have a negative effect on materials exposed for long periods of time. This is exactly what was happening at the warehouse of one of Dialight’s newest customers.

The company in question creates packaging for lots of well-known brands, handling the entire process from manufacturing the cardboard to printing and finishing. The entire facility was, until recently, lit with mercury vapour lamps. The deleterious effects of long-term UV exposure meant that the company was unable to store finished or partly printed products in direct exposure to light from the overhead mercury vapour lamps for any period of time, necessitating extra measures to protect products from fading. Not only was this inefficient, it meant that workers were continually having to peer into gloomy corners to read labels and pick batches for shipping.

Thanks to Dialight’s LED High Bays, these problems are now a thing of the past. LED lighting does not emit UV radiation, making it perfect for situations like warehouses – and indeed places like museums and galleries where UV degradation is a problem. Not only are products (and people) protected from nasty UV radiation, but the full spectrum of light delivered by Dialight energy efficient lighting fixtures means a brighter and more comfortable working environment for everyone. Not to mention a huge saving in energy costs, of course.

Moving from outdated mercury vapour to a modern Dialight solution proved a success for this customer, perhaps… dare we say it… one of their brightest decisions!