Light Show West: ALKILU: Adventures in OLED Lighting
If you’re looking for the #OLED lighting products we’ve long been promised, you’ll find some right here in Southern California. ALIKLU Enterprises, LLC is manufacturing and selling OLED lighting products today. Their products are designed around the unique form factors and advantages of OLED technology, appealing to the consumer market.
Founder and CEO Alex Khayat, a tech veteran, chatted with West Coast Lighting Insider about ALKILU’s corner of the market and the future of OLED lighting technologies.
WCLI: ALKILU was founded in 2013. Do you still consider yourself a start-up?
AK: We’ve invested a lot, and we do have a number of products ready for market. We are still trying to get off the ground and work up to volume orders so we are very nimble in how we respond to changes. Our ultimate mission is to make OLEDs part of everyday life.
WCLI: What OLED lighting products are you currently selling, and how are you going to market?
AK: We’re focused specifically on portable lighting, and we are the only OLED product company in the world doing portable. We try to bring OLEDs to the masses at extremely low prices, competitive to LEDs. We are moving toward large-scale manufacturing so we can reduce the cost even further.
We have a lot of new products designed around the unique aspects of OLEDs. We make a transparent bookmark that uses transparent OLED panel – it’s called BookLit. The light emits 90 percent on one side so you can still read the text through it. And when it’s off, it’s just transparent material.
We are marketing direct to consumer. We are filling direct orders from ALKILU.com and partner websites now, and working with resellers to wholesale these products. Our Kickstarter campaign is promoting the TripLit for outdoor activities like camping and roadside emergencies, as well as travel, task lighting, around the house or anywhere you need extra light. These portable products are integrated with rechargeable batteries and can run for over 30 hours. We also sell a solar charging package for when there are no outlets nearby – charging the TripLit in less than 4 hours.
WCLI: Where do you source your OLED panels?
AK: Depending on the product, we partner with the four major OLED manufacturers around the world. We work with all of them, and we design and develop our own products. For example, our Triplet product uses a panel from LG Chem. They’re the category leader in OLED lighting panels right now.
WCLI: Do you have any architectural products in the ALKILU pipeline?
AK: We do get OEM requests for the panels themselves. And we have exclusive arrangements with some of the OLED manufacturers, so we’re able to price panels lower than anyone else on the market. We sell the panels directly to OEMs doing commercial products; furniture manufacturers and other designers of decorative pieces. Nothing I can announce publicly, yet.
OLEDs are flat, less than 1 mm thick – completely different from traditional lights, even LEDs. Now that the flexible plastic OLEDs are coming out in the next few months, that will open up a whole new universe of illuminated products.
WCLI: I have heard disappointment that there were few OLED products displayed at LIGHTFAIR 2015. As OLED technology and its market mature, what do you see as the ideal architectural lighting applications?
AK: We haven’t exhibited at LIGHTFAIR because our product lines, even though lighting, are geared more towards end-users consumers rather than commercial. You’re more likely to find us at consumer shows and events like CES [the Consumer Electronics Show], which we exhibited in 2014, or Electric Run. We’ve got a couple of design partners that are working on integrating OLEDs into their furniture and desk lamps. We’ll see these by Q3 2015.
In addition to our own design engineers, we also work with many designers that continue to collaborate with large corporations such as Sony, Philips and Samsung, to integrate OLEDs into their product lines.
WCLI: What are OLED technology’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?
AK: OLEDs have come a long way, but very slowly compared to LEDs. They have a lot of pros compared to LEDs: two-dimensional form factors; high efficacy; uniform, diffused light distribution; low glare; no UV rays and almost no heat.
You can integrate OLEDs into furniture, mirrors and windows. And now there’s flexible plastic OLEDs, which everyone’s been waiting for. Right now there are flexible glass panels, but flexible plastic OLEDs give complete freedom to twist and integrate into fabrics and surfaces. Design capabilities that you couldn’t do with any other kind of lighting.
Remember that OLEDs are diffused light sources and LEDs are directional. OLED will not replace LED. There is a need for both, and in a lot of situations both are used together to create a specialized effect.
WCLI: What do you see in the future?
AK: Since the early nineties, the ultimate promise of OLEDs was roll-to-roll printing. Flexible OLED lighting will be supplied in any size, and perhaps cut to any length on site. That’s where it needs to go to pull ahead of standard light sources. These OLED panels will be far cheaper and easily install over large surfaces.
There’s been delays in the development of the technology: brightness and longevity. OLEDs now last about 40,000 hrs, which is closely competitive with LEDs. Both will improve. Roll-to-roll printing is next, and I expect them to be readily available within the next 5 years.
WCLI: ALKILU. Where did the name come from?
AK: The name has two origins – the first part of the name comes from the AlQ3 compound (or aluminium tris (quinolone-8-olate), more easily pronounced as alk-three), which is the electroluminescent component of OLEDs. The last 3 letters (ILU) come from ancient times and stands for “power.”