The popularity of the semiconductor-based light-emitting diode (LED) for lighting applications has grown exponentially in recent years. LEDs are energy efficient and offer comparable light quality to fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, but with longer life, added durability, and significantly reduced energy consumption. Manufacturers worldwide have developed LED luminaires; however, connectors and associated parts have largely remained proprietary, greatly increasing the risk of obsolescence. Realizing that this could present some limitation to the broad adoption of LED lighting, the Zhaga Consortium was created, of which Amphenol, along with other manufacturers, is a member, to create a set of common manufacturing standards for LED luminaires. This article presents an overview of the Zhaga Consortium and some of the LED lighting standards that have been released to date.
What is a Luminaire?
According to the Illuminating Engineers Society (IES), a luminaire is defined as “a complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps together with the parts designed to distribute the light, to position and protect the lamps, and to connect the lamps to the power supply.” The term luminaire can be used interchangeably with more familiar terms such as light fixture or light fitting.
The Zhaga Consortium is a global association launched in 2010 with the mission of creating standards for the lighting industry that ultimately simplify the design and manufacturing of LED luminaires. It comprises 360 member-companies, as well as a range of suppliers and testing labs. The consortium's mission is to identify electrical, mechanical, communication, optical, and thermal interfaces for the interoperable components used within LED luminaires, with the goal of enabling compatibility, upgradability, and serviceability.
Zhaga membership offers many benefits; the key benefit is early access to Zhaga's roadmap, strategy, and proposals for new specifications, with influence over their development. Members also share intellectual property and the ability to certify products.
Figure 1: Illustration of the interoperability of a driver, connectivity module, and LED module within a luminaire. (Image Source: Zhaga White Paper)
10 Reasons to Adopt the Zhaga Standard
Adopting the Zhaga Standard provides many benefits for the LED lighting industry, spanning manufacturers, suppliers, and end users. Let’s discuss the top 10 reasons to adopt the Zhaga Standard in this section.
1. The supply chain is improved.
Supply bottlenecks can be minimized, due to the availability of alternative suppliers of compatible components. Because standardized LED light engine (LLE) upgrades can be integrated into existing luminaire designs, old inventory will not be rendered obsolete because of advancements in technology.
2. Components are more easily procured.
Interchangeable components will mean greater availability from a larger number of manufacturers, driving down prices as supplies increase. More manufacturers also translates to a wider variety of components to choose from for the same specifications.
3. A larger portfolio of products can be created without increased development costs.
The availability of standardized components allows for a range of luminaires to be created, all with a similar design but different attributes, such as color temperature, lumen output, CRI, reliability, stability, and lifetime. This enables a company to segment their luminaire portfolios into different price/performance categories while using the same basic design.
4. Production costs are reduced.
The use of interchangeable components enables companies to produce several different types of luminaires using the same processes and production tools. Equipment such as stamps or drilling tools can be used for a plethora of products without reconfiguration, because their components will be mechanically compatible with each other.
5. Design and development costs are reduced.
New or upgraded LLEs will generally follow the same standards as existing LLEs, thus minimizing the need for reengineering luminaire designs as technology advances.
6. Products can be brought to market faster.
Because luminaires will not need a redesign every time a new or upgraded LLE is introduced, new products can be brought to market quickly, allowing luminaires to keep pace with the short innovation cycles of LED technology.
7. Luminaire designs are future-proofed.
LLEs and other components will be designed to the same standard, allowing current luminaires to be compatible with future components. Component upgrades are also made possible within the interchangeable LLE.
8. End users can upgrade devices more easily.
Interchangeable components will allow end users to upgrade their luminaires with the latest-generation technology, making LED lighting no longer a disposable product. Additionally, Zhaga devices allow end users or system integrators to do upgrades themselves, without the need for the expensive services of an electrician, saving time and money.
9. Manufacturers of components will save production costs by manufacturing fewer designs at higher volumes.
The availability of interchangeable parts will prompt luminaire designers to use similar components in the majority of their designs. Production of these components will increase over time, while production of proprietary and non-standardized components will decrease or disappear.
10. Market life of existing components is extended.
Because luminaires can be used for longer periods of time, existing components will continue to be in demand because of service and repairs.
Overview of Zhaga Books
The Zhaga Consortium publishes the descriptions and specifications for LED standards in Zhaga Books. Rather than being presented as one single compendium, Books are published as a series, with each Book being exclusive to a specific application. For example, Zhaga Book 20 describes a smart interface providing a connection between a sensing/communication node and an indoor LED luminaire.
Figure 2: Zhaga Books 1-25 Overview by Application (Image Source: Zhaga Consortium)
The Zhaga Consortium follows a five-step process for developing new Books:
1. Collecting proposals: All Zhaga members can submit proposals for new specifications at any time.
2. The merger of proposals: Members evaluate proposals with similar ideas, consolidating them into a single final proposal. The aim is to sidestep unnecessary variations.
3. Specification development: A work group adopts the merged proposal and composes a draft specification. Members then craft prototypes and verify their interchangeability. Testing follows, culminating in the development of certification testing. Members can now vote to approve the new Book. Zhaga members can access the entire specifications at this stage, even though the new Book is yet to be published for market consumption.
4. Maintenance by Zhaga: The Work Group keeps the Book relevant and creates revised editions where necessary. Such revisions clarify specifications and fix member reported problems, while remaining compatible with earlier editions.
5. Maintenance by an SDO: Zhaga intends to transfer all Books to a Standards Development Organization (SDO), such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The transfer will take place once Zhaga standards become stable and widely used.
Zhaga certification specifies that a product is standardized as per Zhaga recommendations and is issued only after evaluation by an authorized testing center. Testing centers are accredited for each of the different Books; some testing centers may not be accredited for all Books. After a testing center evaluates and approves a new product, the product is listed in the Zhaga product database. Zhaga-certified products are authorized to have the official Zhaga logo printed on their packaging and informational leaflets showing that they are fully compliant with Zhaga standards.
Figure 3: Zhaga Certification Logo (Image Source: Zhaga Consortium)
Amphenol Zhaga Book 20 Certified Products
Zhaga Book 20 describes the specifications for a smart interface connecting a sensing/communication module to an indoor LED luminaire. Amphenol’s Book 20 FLM Series has been approved by the Zhaga Consortium as the Book 20 standard for connecting modules with the LED driver and control system.
Figure 4: An example application using Amphenol FLM series connectors
FLM Series connectors support the Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI-2) protocol, a smart interface protocol that enables bi-directional communication between luminaires and modules. To enable the DALI-2 bus, Zhaga Book 20 specifies the 2- position connectors: the Luminaire Plugs (LEX-LP) mounted to the luminaire and Luminaire Extension Module Receptacles (LEX-MR) mounted to Book 20 compliant sensors or communication modules. DALI-2 support is essential for the Zhaga D4i certification, which itself is an extension of the DALI-2 certification. FLM Series connectors are available in Wire-to-Wire and Wire-to-Board configurations.
FLM-P21-X0, FLM-P22-X0, FLM-P23-X0, and FLM-S23-X0 (where X=0 corresponds to black housing and X=W corresponds to white housing) are examples of Amphenol Book 20 FLM Series connectors.
|Amphenol FLM-P21-00||Amphenol FLH-PC136-T01||Amphenol FLM-S23-00||Amphenol FLM-P22-W0|
Black Receptacle Housing for Crimp Contact Pins. Requires 2 separate Crimp Contact Pins: FLH-PC136-T01
Crimp Contact Pin
Plug Connector (Black) with integrated Pin contacts for poke-in wire termination. No additional contacts required.
White Receptacle Connector, Right Angle, PCB Mount. No Additional Contacts Required
Zhaga Book 20 Innovation: The L-Prize
The L-Prize (Lighting Prize) is a competitive event for next-generation LED lighting organized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), with the intent to advance the clean energy economy. It rewards the design of commercial lighting systems that demonstrate exceptional energy efficiency, data connectivity, seamless lighting control, excellent visual quality, recycling design, and remanufacturing. In the Prototype phase, points are awarded in 4 areas: efficiency, quality of light, connectivity, and product life cycle, with the potential for additional points for innovation in diversity, equity, and inclusion in how systems are designed, produced, deployed, or installed. In the Manufacturing and Installation Phase, points are awarded for production volume, U.S. content, and U.S. installations, in addition to points earned for innovation in technical specifications and in diversity, equity, and inclusion. The scope of the L-Prize includes the luminaires, sensors, control devices, and interfaces comprising a connected lighting system.
The new L-Prize® competition, launched in May 2021, is designed to catalyze transformative LED lighting innovation, products, and impact. The L-Prize is primed to unlock the full potential of LED technology—to combine high efficiency with exceptional lighting quality, data-driven control and functionality, and innovative design, construction, and grid flexibility. The DOE has announced a reward fund of up to $12.2 million to encourage companies to develop luminaires based on Zhaga Book 20 and D4i specifications from the DALI Alliance.
The competition is currently in Concept Phase, where potential competitors can submit innovative concept proposals. Concept Phase winners are announced January 19, 2022, after which the competition proceeds into the Prototype Phase, followed by the Manufacturing and Installation Phase in March of 2023. Participation in initial phases is not a requirement for participation in later phases.
As LEDs become the dominant technology in lighting, an increasing number of LED luminaires and components are being manufactured, many using proprietary connectors and components. In order to streamline and facilitate wide adoption and growth in the LED lighting industry, the Zhaga Consortium was created, its goal to create a set of standards governing the connectors, interfaces, and components used in LED luminaires.