We often get asked the question – ‘Why do you manufacture in Australia?’ The simple answer is that by manufacturing here we know exactly what goes into the product so we know exactly what we can get out of the product.
We all know Australia’s conditions are harsh – a fact we are all secretly proud of. However it does cause a number of issues with very high UV, extreme heat, cyclone zones and tropical downpours with extreme humidity. Not to mention cockatoo’s munching on the cabling to get the savoury bits from the PVC! These are all conditions that have adverse effects on LED lighting – from the powder coating, rims and seals, to stressing the LED’s and drivers themselves.
So, where to begin? Well, as logic would suggest, we start at the beginning – the product design in relation to the application. For instance, Footy (AFL or Australian Football for non-locals) uses an extremely large oval field with only four poles. As no other country in the world uses this same configuration, it is very important to consider all the factors as just copying what someone else has already designed won’t cut it. Or worse still, some companies are using an off-the-shelf product where our conditions have never even been considered.
The first priority therefore is to have total control over the design of the product. Whilst this is potentially possible for companies who design a product in Australia and get it manufactured overseas, often this results in modifications which can slowly drift from the original intent. Components can also be used which have not been tried and tested in the Australian conditions. This design phase incorporates all the features needed to cope in extreme conditions.
With very hot days and nights, it is important to get sufficient heat sinking. This can be done by simply over-specifying the amount of aluminium heat sink required. However, this adds additional weight which can be a problem when you are trying to retro fit from old metal halides. Also, the larger the light, the larger the sail area (or surface area) which is also a problem in high-wind zones as this is a major factor the pole strength calculations. It is therefore important to get the balance right – spread out the LED’s, give them enough surface area, and use high-density extrusions specifically designed for the job. The grade of aluminium plays an important role in heat-sinking and also corrosion resistance and cannot be compromised. When made in Australian, this grade is certified and traceable when using reputable extruders.
Many overseas suppliers use plated steel fixings or even more deceptive ‘stainless steel’. Whilst these look the same as stainless steel for the first few days, they very quickly deteriorate, particularly at coastal locations. Once 30m in the air, the corrosion is not noticed until failures occur, which may well be outside the warranty period. Certified 304 stainless steel is a must for all fixings exposed to the elements. Don’t take the suppliers word for it – get proof!
As previously mentioned, we have very hot days and evenings. When this coincides with no breeze, the results can be disastrous for LED fittings. Generally a lamp running hard will get up to 70-80°C when there is no airflow. If the temperature is higher than 30°C this can easily push the lamps nearer 100°C. Whilst this scenario in many countries would be very rare, in Australia an over-temperature mechanism is therefore essential. LED failure due to over-heating is one of the major factors for failures so make sure you don’t compromise on this important point.
UV STABILISED COATINGS
With Australia’s UV being one of the worst in the world, using suitable coatings is essential. This goes for powder coating, anodising and treatment to the optics or lenses that are used. Not all coatings are equal – make sure you are using reputable suppliers who have a track record of success in this environment. If not, the result will be faded and unprotected housings and yellowing lenses which dramatically reduce the light output.
Cockatoo’s are infamous for destroying PVC cabling inside of high mast lamps. Vain attempts are made to deter them with bird spikes or specialised coatings but in reality, prevention is the best cure. This again is an issue that is somewhat specific to Australia so designing here ensures all cables can be concealed behind peck-proof plate.
Once a finished product is received in from abroad it is always difficult to know exactly what has gone into the final product, irrespective of the design specifications. By manufacturing and sourcing components locally where possible it gives a far higher degree of confidence when assembling everything together. Being able to visit the extruder, laser cutters, fabricators and anodisers gives you a greater degree of control and gives confidence for extending warranties in extreme conditions. The final stage of assembly gives a last check point for all the components to make sure they are up to specification. Having this last-leg in-house is a very important step to ensure what we produce is exactly how it was designed and loops back to knowing how and why it was designed the way it was.
Manufacturing in Australia is unlikely to ever be the cheapest option. However, for a long-term reputation of reliability, we believe it’s an investment worth making.