LED disks on a rail

One use for the VLM system is in indoor horticulture applications.

Lightfair 2011 has been a blur of wall-to-wall LED technology. LEDs have been so dominant and so prevalent that very few offerings stand out from the pack. One such product isn’t available for purchase is full of potential.
   The Versatile Light Module (VLM), from Molex Inc., Lisle, IL, uses light-source “pucks” and a rail to provide a rather flexible lighting solution. The low-profile rail has two conductive strips that run its entire length, much like train tracks. The rail also serves as a heat sink. LED pucks are simply placed in the rail and use a pair of magnets to connect to the conductive strips. Once they connect, they are powered and the LED chip activated.
   The VLM offers versatility by making it possible to alter the lighting color/intensity by simply changing pucks. Because the connection is magnetic, you can slide the pucks along the rail and position them wherever you need light. Of course, sliding pucks, grouping colors, and using any beam angle opens the door to almost endless creativity. In fact, according to Molex, the concept makes it possible to use virtually any type of light source, though LEDs were demonstrated.
   Since Molex is rather talented at building connectors, they’ve created several ways to join the rails. One demonstrated arrangement uses the rails to create the equivalent of a picture frame, with light sources on all four sides.
   According to a Molex blog post, “The technology behind the VLM product line is called MID or Molded Interconnect Devices. MID technology is the application of circuitry onto three-dimensional plastic surfaces. By integrating a light source into a selectively-plated plastic component, that includes the drive electronics and a magnetic hold down, we are able to dramatically reduce the complexity and cost of implementing solid-state lighting solutions.”
   What lies ahead for this concept? “Although the first generation of VLM modules are low-voltage products, within the next six months, direct-line voltage products will become available, further driving down the cost and usability of solid-state lighting. All of this is possible through the use of MID technology and how it makes the integration of electronics, optics, and thermal management possible in a very small space.
   To learn more about this product, watch this video and read this blog post.—Gary L. Parr