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Hey guys, so I know you guys LOVE technical details, so I thought I’d put together a sort of brief of some stuff I’ve been working on. I hinted at this in my introduction thread (HERE). Feel free to ask me any questions!
What is Outbound Lighting?
This is the first foray into the bike lighting market, taking the latest in automotive LED technology, sources, materials, and design methods to produce one of the best all-around bike lights, period. This is not a claim that is being made as marketing fluff. I personally designed these lights using my many years of experience as an automotive optical/illumination design engineer. I design automotive lighting for a living and was frustrated with the lack of a good trail light that could be REALLY good, knowing how automotive lights are designed. Big lumens put into tiny lenses, nothing but spot and flood optics, poor thermal transfer, the list goes on and on of the typical bike light. There are several VERY good options available in Europe from companies such as B&M and Supernova, but those are focused on the road and for E-Bikes. Therefore I set out to develop my own bike light using what I know, and it has morphed into Outbound Lighting.
What is Focal Series?
This is the first product from Outbound. Using OSRAM Black Flat automotive grade chips, a downward firing multi-segmented reflector, automotive grade optically clear silicone lens and a magnesium die cast body to wrap everything into a highly efficient, well-engineered, robust bike light that I hope will redefine what you come to expect from a bike light for the trail.
Optical Design (Trail & Road)
Design of this bike light came after using several higher end lights, as well as dozens of cheaper lights from Amazon and other retailers. The common theme for almost every trail oriented light was a spot beam pattern, and a few that had an elliptical or a rectangular beam pattern. This is a great compromise in theory, and it gets the job done. However in knowing how automotive lights are designed to give the wide field of view, as well as even illumination on the ground, along with an intense main beam, I knew there was a lot of untapped potential for the trail.
The design of the optics came from hundreds of hours in OPTIS simulating almost every combination I could think of, as well as many different LED sources. In the end settled on a multi-segmented reflector that creates an even, wide and smooth intense beam pattern across the field of view of the rider, as well as creating a “light carpet” on the trail that allows for even illumination from the bike tire all the way out to your main focal point on the trail. This lets you attack both the high speed and the tight and twisty sections of a trail without having to readjust your eyes, or mount up multiple lights. What you end up with is a rather unique looking beam pattern that may look somewhat odd when lit up close against a wall, but mount it onto your bike and dive into the trails deep at night, and it will redefine what you will expect from a light. The road series optical beam pattern is similar to the trail in terms of width and the “light carpet”, however it has a cutoff, as well as a more focused hotspot (almost triple the candela) that allows to see further down the road whether bombing a steep downhill at 50+mph, or just hoping to pick up that odd critter or pothole that has somehow wandered into your path!
This is a shot of the trail ground illumination plot. Think of this as a birds eye view looking down, and seeing the light intensity directly on the pavement, or the trail. The green is representing 60 lux of illumination, which is more than enough that the human eye perceives it as “very bright” when in darkness. Notice how this green is extremely even from the center point of the bike, all the way out to 70’, and then falls off more from there. So as you can imagine, this is a light that is going to not only let you see further down the trail nicely, but also what’s on the trail in front of you without having to aim your light down, sacrificing the light you use to see straight on! As well as the very wide width that it entails.
If interested, I can dive into a lot more technical detail of exactly how this beam pattern was designed, the optics, the math behind it, and more. These are details that most companies would call proprietary, or “competitive secrets”, but in reality it is most likely because they picked out some optics from a catalog, or hired an optical company to do the work for them and cannot explain it like we can. Since we are designing every part, every optic, and every electrical circuit here in St. Louis, MO, we are happy to share details and specifications as questions arise.
One item that comes up often in this forum, that I do like seeing, is that thermal is discussed! As many of you know, thermal control is very important for not only LED life, but also the optical output, color temperature and overall reliability. This is also why I had opted for a downward firing reflector as opposed to a typical TIR or reflector bowl, since it would allow for more a more optimal thermal pathway from the LED chip to the incoming airflow.
The main LED board (copper core board) is separate from the control board, and it is monitored using a thermistor that is located near the chip. We don’t expect that when the light is in use that it will reach a thermal step-down, but of course need to plan for the worst if we want to have a reliable product. Many thermal simulations were run to decide on the final design. Early prototype shots that are shown later on are using an older design that has since been optimized further after receiving the machined prototypes. The beam pattern has even been designed such that it forces the user to partially aim the light “down” just slightly, so that incoming air is hitting the back of the LED heat sink directly. Combine this design decision, with large die cut thermal interface material (not just globs of paste) that are sandwiched together by the magnesium die casting, and you end up with a very well designed, thermally optimized heat sink that is not only thermally efficient, but also very lightweight due to the magnesium material choice.
When using the included large thick silicone strap for mounting on the handlebar, you will notice that the mount itself has an integrated air scoop that helps force more cooling air into areas of the heat sink that otherwise would be hard for air to reach in a conventional manner. Again this scoop was thermally optimized for overall height, fins, and more to help achieve the final design.
This is the one portion of the design that I outsourced to an extremely experienced freelance electrical engineer in Kansas City who mostly designed high power driver circuits for RC cars and other battery operated devices. So developing an efficient driver was no issue for him! Initial prototype testing is showing 93-95% efficiency from the battery, through the wires, through the connectors, into the board, through the driver, and to the chip. We are using integrated software to control the LED, monitor the temperature, adjust brightness of the status lights, as well as an “adaptive” mode that will use some human physiology to help extend your battery life while maintaining that same perceived brightness.
Another key point in the electrical design includes using an automotive grade LED. Right now working around an OSRAM Black Flat, however we may also opt for a LUXEON Altilon SMD. Both are the same chips that you find in every single OEM LED headlight on the road. You will never find a CREE LED being used as an optical source for headlighting except for aftermarket products. There is a reason for that. Not only thermal stability, but also the extremely small emitter size allows for extremely high luminance, which helps with the optical design, and helps keep optics smaller. More on this topic goes hand in hand with optical design, so I’ll save the nitty gritty details for later!
Designing for reliability was a set goal from the start. I had several lights fail on me when I was benchmarking many cheap lights. Some were due to thermal overload, and some were due to fatigue on the wire connections since they were poorly soldered down. This is why we opted to not have ANY soldered wire joints in the design. Power comes in and is put into an automotive grade wire-to-board connector, then transferred to the control board through another thick board connector. All components are solid state and chosen for reliability, not cost.
Robust & Lightweight Design
Of course when designing a light for the trails, robust and lightweight design is absolutely needed. Thin wall magnesium die casting allows for a very lightweight head given the size, as well as still being strong enough to withstand a hit or a drop from the bike as the main corners of impact were thickened as needed. Optical grade silicone is used for the lens. This is a rather new material that is making its way into some automotive headlights (namely Mercedes Benz Matrix LED lights), it is clearer than PC or PMMA, while offering superior scratch resistance, as well as being able to mold in a gasket that helps make the entire light waterproof. Part consolidation helps reduce points of failure. The incoming power wire is thick, and includes an overmolded grommet that provides both strain relief, as well as waterproofing the light.
Mounting of the light comes from a very thick silicone strap that uses two types of silicone. The main strap itself is a tough and rugged silicone as well as stretchy enough to pull tight on the bar. The bar “pad” that sits on the mount itself is a softer silicone that acts as a grip on the bar. The small ridges and soft material means that the strap holds onto the bar tightly, without marring those expensive carbon bars! I’ve already had several hard crashes on my own personal bike that resulted in losing several cheaper lights I bought, but my own strap design stayed absolutely solid!
GoPro mount adapter will be included on every light head. More future mounting options will be available as more people give me some ideas on how they want to have their lamps mounted! So ideas are always welcome!
Specifications (NOT final)
Lumens: 1200-1500 range (final lumen numbers to depend on chip selected and power settings)
Runtime: 3.5 hours on HIGH at minimum
Battery Pack: 4-cell lithium ion, LG Cells, 7.4V at 5200 mAh
Weight: 315g (approximate), light head: 95g
Dimensions: 62mm x 48mm x 56mm
Light head WILL be purchasable separately. WILL use a common battery connector (DC5521)
Current State (September 4[SUP]th[/SUP], 2017)
Currently we have paid for the tooling to get these parts started after getting prototypes that worked out well. We will have a rough self-contained alpha prototype that I’ll be able to take onto the trails hopefully by the end of this week. Currently the prototype shots shown are showing an earlier build, as well as slightly different beam pattern design. It is very hard (and very expensive) to prototype reflectors, so the beam pattern is not perfect.
We are shooting for a release date on November 5[SUP]th[/SUP] (daylights savings day!) and will be working with local bike groups and events to get some more people interested in night riding. As many of you know, it’s just an absolute thrill to hit a trail hard at night. Feels like a completely different world! I honestly hope these lights will help bring more people into the night riding community, and help extend their riding seasons even longer. I am extremely passionate about lighting, and about biking, and so this isn’t just imported product that’s being rebranded as my own, this is a light that is being developed from the ground up to hit the goals I feel that have been missing from bike lighting.
I strongly welcome any questions, opinions, and more! I want this to be the best light, period!
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