Modular lighting for the circular economy

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Modular lighting for the circular economy was the graduation project of Morgan Ruben at the Technical University Eindhoven, where he received a masters degree in engineering.

The project is an exploration into the possibility to re-design current lighting systems in order to make them more suitable for the upcoming circular economy. Nowadays, we can identify a trend in sustainable LED lighting where sustainability is defined from the perspective of energy efficiency. But LED lighting has also become much more integrated and complex in its use of materials and components. As such, they are difficult to recycle or replace when individual components break down or upgrades become available. Sustainability is not just about increased energy efficiency. But also about a sustainable production method, end of life value of the product and its components and / or a high degree of recyclability.

A specific element that was investigated, during the project, was product modularity in order to facilitate the refurbishment / recycling cycles of the circular economy. Through spring connections in combination with neodymium magnets a prototype was developed that would enable the user to easily assemble or disassemble the product at home. A qualitative user study was conducted in order to investigate the interest for such a system from a user perspective. The study provided a validation for the concept. Other aspects that were investigated were technical aspects of modern lighting systems, production techniques of the components as well as sustainable options for the armature. The prototype itself was fully 3D printed from polyamide, a material that can be recycled many times over. Lastly, product “smartness” was investigated as a means of further facilitating the circular economy.

The need for our world to become more conscious about our waste streams, will require to conduct a design process in a different way. From the outset, decisions have to be made on how to apply end of life value to the end product. Perhaps in the future, the design process will be not just about form versus function, but about form versus function versus sustainability.

Elements from this project will be used to redesign the old collection of products, as well as with new upcoming products.

The project was made possible by the Technical University in Eindhoven, TNO and the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, who all contributed their knowledge to the project.

The end result is a master thesis and an example product prototype.

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