Signify 3D Printing

Signify 3D Printing

TECHNOLOGY PROFILE - LIGHTING


Signify 3D Printing


Pioneering the process of creating mass-market, on-demand tailored luminaires that can be recycled.


By GEORGE MCCLURE


The Light Lady exterior lighting
 

WITH 3D PRINTING, SIGNIFY ENABLES CUSTOMERS TO custom-design or tailor their luminaires, which are then delivered incredibly quickly. Signify’s service saves on time, energy, waste in manufacturing, packaging and transportation. 3D printing paves the way for more innovative designs with more complex shapes and colors. These are available digitally for on-demand production to allow easy modification and adaptation. What’s more, all 3D printed Signify luminaires are recyclable and specifically designed for the Circular Economy.

Here's an excerpt from our recent conversation with Matthew Wall, 3D Product Marketing Manager for Signify.

 
"Our 3D printed luminaires are made with a 100 percent recyclable polycarbonate. They are designed to be fully reused at the end of their lifetime, avoiding waste of materials. Our smart designs use no paint, less parts and less screws compared to traditional luminaires."Matthew Wall, Signify



GEORGE: Tell us a little about Signify’s business.

MATTHEW: We have over 130 years of experience. We were formally known as Philips Lighting and changed our name to Signify in 2018. We deliver energy-efficient lighting products, connected lighting systems and lighting services for customers across office and industry, retail and hospitality, warehouses, distribution sites, you name it. And residences as well. We offer energy-efficient lamps, luminaires, LED electronics and connected lighting systems and services. Think about your favorite landmark or bridge in your community — there’s a good chance that Signify lights it.

"I love to say that Signify is the largest lighting manufacturer in the world — next to the Sun, we produce the most light on Earth.”

GEORGE: When did you guys get into 3D printing?
MATTHEW: Around 2015, and it started off as just a guy sitting in the back room that had a 3D printer. Lighting is no different from any other manufacturing process — we used 3D printers to create molds and stuff, printing the molds and castings. You'd use a 3D printer to come up with a different prototype, so it was most commonly used for that. But what would happen is, in the world of downlights and track lighting, I'd come up with a prototype of a 3D printed product, and I'd send that prototype around to my rep in California, who would then send it to my rep in Houston, then to Chicago, then back to me in Boston. And by the time it got back to me, it was broken half the time. So the problem in using 3D printing at that time was that the material was really fragile.

Then we worked on improving the process by taking, basically a 3D printed luminaire, but playing around with the filament as well as the material, making it from something that is very strong, very durable — polycarbonate.

GEORGE: So it evolved from there?

MATTHEW: : Yes. Then he brought the concept to the management team and said, “Hey, I think we have an opportunity to create something unique.” And so they started off with a decorative pendant line that you would see in restaurants, bars, retail and hospitality. We did a job for Albert Heijn, which is a large grocery store chain in the Netherlands. One of the things they liked about the product was the fact that you could actually change out the shade. So you could go from having a shade that's in blue, but then they could change it out to do something in a different color or a different texture or size.

The other aspect Albert Heijn really liked is that it was recyclable and sustainable — that they could recycle this product whenever they wanted to have a different look and feel for their stores. Marks and Spencer, a large retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland, eventually heard about this and said, "We're retrofitting our stores with a totally different store design. We heard you could do 3D printing for decorative pendants. Can you do track lighting?" So it evolved into track lighting and then into other series.

Marks and Spencer, a large retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland, wanted track lights.

Light Lady - Gentry dinette
 

GEORGE: You've touched on some of it already, but what are the main benefits of 3D printing?

MATTHEW: Well, first, the fact it’s sustainable. We became carbon neutral in September 2020. Sustainability is in our DNA. The benefits within 3D printing are that it’s even more of a sustainable product.

Many of our 3D printed products are 100 percent polycarbonate and that means they can be 100 percent recyclable. So you can take our product at the end of its life, grind it down, melt it and turn it into new filament and print new fixtures.

When you look at a track head, the majority of it can't be recycled. But when you look at ours the fact is that you can do the outer sleeve and different portions of it with just the polycarbonate that can be recycled up to 42 percent. On some of our fixtures, you can recycle all the way up to 75 percent of the product. So much more sustainable than your conventional lighting product that at the end of its life, it just gets thrown away. But ours, you can actually recycle the majority of the product.

One of the other things we like to do is to print and manufacture locally. When you look at the traditional manufacturing process, a product is made in China, shipped on a boat to the coast of Mexico where it’s unloaded, assembled and then put on a truck that's driven to a distribution center where it sits in the middle of America until it's ordered, and then it gets the final trip out to the customer. Think about all the carbon emissions from the freight to the boat, to the truck, to the FedEx truck.

With 3D printing, everything is made to order. A customer places an order, we have the material, we make it, we ship it out. So we don't have things in inventory — our products aren't sitting off the coast of California waiting to come in and be unloaded. It's made here, it's shipped locally. Right now we just have a facility in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, but the idea is to actually have printing hubs in different regions of the country, in Canada, in Latin America, so we can ship from a factory closer to the customer.

GEORGE: Further reducing the carbon footprint.

MATTHEW: Absolutely. To sum up about sustainability, our 3D printed luminaires are made with a 100 percent recyclable polycarbonate inner design to be fully reused at the end of their lifetime, avoiding waste of materials. Our smart designs use no paint, less parts and less screws compared to traditional luminaires. We manufacture locally, which reduces transport distances for materials, parts and final products. We only print it when you need it to avoid large stock storage. Due to the light weight of polycarbonate, less energy is used during transportation, which drastically reduces CO2 emissions. And compared to traditional aluminum die casting production methods, 3D printing requires far less energy and material. This brings you a reduction of up to 75 percent on your carbon footprint. Together with the reduced transportation footprint and a standard use of LED lights, 3D printed luminaires are the most energy-efficient choice.

 
Signify 3D printed lighting
 

GEORGE: That's great. I was looking on your website and noticed that another selling point is an advanced level of customization.

MATTHEW: It's interesting you mentioned that. We recently launched a new low bay line. You’d have this product in an office building in an open ceiling concept or you’d have it in the lobby of a hotel where you need a lot of light, but not too much — not like a warehouse, but more than your average downlight or your decorative pendant. Typically you might find them in white, black, bronze, aluminum and that was pretty much it. But within our low bay product range, when you calculate in all the different outer and inner color optics and lumen packages, we have over 870,000 different combinations.

Here are some examples of even more configuration and customization. Say you’re a lighting designer working with a restaurant, and they want to duplicate their fish logo around the inside of the fixture. That's something we've done and can do. We also worked with a large chiropractic franchise in the United States who said, “We have decorative pendants when you come into the reception areas; do you guys have a cylinder?” We said, "Of course we have a cylinder. It's about five inches in diameter.” And they responded, “It's a little bit too big. Can you make it smaller?” And so, again, it wasn't something that we had done, but we said, “All right, give us a couple of days.” And our design team was able to sketch it out on CAD, and we came up with a smaller pendant that fit their needs. So a process that used to take months is now doable in days or weeks.

"Within our low bay product range, when you calculate in all the different outer and inner color optics and lumen packages, we have over 870,000 different combinations."