It’s not every day that a Waterford company merits a visit from but then again, there aren’t many companies like Lumachip in Connecticut.
Lumachip makes strip Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights that are as flexible and thin as heavy stock paper. The company, which moved into 156 Cross Road in June, has 16 patents in the United States and worldwide, with additional patents pending for the manufacture and design of LED lights.
The technology was originally developed by Articulated Technologies of Wallingford. Lumachip President Chris Manning bought the patents and the equipment needed to create the lights about a year ago.
The renamed company relocated to Waterford this summer, in part, because it was a more convenient location for company Chief Operative Officer Andrew Macy, who lives in Preston, and for Reinhold Henning, director of manufacturing, who lives in Lebanon. The newest member of this small company is Timothy Farrell, who moved to Waterford from Florida four months ago to head research and development.
Henning describes the company’s product as “a flat light bulb.” Lumachip’s lights can be made in strips about 1-inch wide that can be stuck under a cabinet or a shelf to provide light wherever you need it. Other applications vary from scrolling LED signs that can be used for advertising to illuminated exit signs that fit flush on the wall.
The company has also developed an indoor grow light that uses blue and red light, ideal for spurring and controlling plant growth. Unlike traditional grow lights, these aren’t bulky and they don’t give off the heat that traditional grow lights do, so they don’t pose a fire hazard and they use much less electricity.
“We believe in the technology and we believe we can make a dramatic impact here in southeastern Connecticut,” says Macy.
Overall, lighting is a $120 billion industry, Macy says, but it’s a business that’s changing rapidly. Traditional incandescent lights, which suck up energy and produce more heat than light, are fast becoming obsolete. Newer, more energy efficient florescent lights are beginning to dominate the market but these contain mercury, which poses an environmental problem when it comes to disposal.
Macy believes that LED lights are the wave of the future. They’re energy efficient, burn cool, and pose no threat to the environment—and Lumachip is poised to take the lead in manufacturing technology. While other companies are getting into patent fights over who owns the rights to white light technology, Macy says, Lumachip has circumvented the entire process by coming up with a unique light that it has exclusive rights to produce.
Macy believes Lumachip’s manufacturing process is superior to the process used by other LED manufacturers and considerably cheaper too. Typically, he says, it takes 20 to 30 manufacturing steps at two different factories to make LED lights. Most LED lights use a 12-layer process before they even get to the chip—the bare die LED which is a tiny sliver of metal organic wafer dispositive—which then has to be wire welded in place.
Lumachip’s patented process eliminates the need for expensive wire-welding by placing the bare die LED onto conductive copper, covering it with a conductive adhesive, placing a layer of silver ink and phosphor on top of it, and laminating the whole thing into place to make contact.
“The beauty of our device is it’s so simplistic,” Macy says. “And we’re doing it in one stop in Waterford.”
What they’re not doing yet, however, is selling LED lights in a big way. Right now the company is focusing on point-to-point sales and is custom-making lights to order. Lumachip is working on building a global sales force to bring its LED lights to a mass market, but to be able to fill those orders it needs a state-of-the-art pick-and-place machine, which costs about $350,000.
Macy is hoping that, with the governor’s help, the state of Connecticut might be able to help out with a small business loan. “That’s the only thing we need,” says Macy. “Hopefully, with the governor’s endorsement, we’ll get a loan.”