The Warton group of companies produces LED lamps under the Gauss and Varton brands. They are installed in offices, residential buildings, in warehouses and streets - in all, the company makes a thousand kinds of different lighting equipment. The production and laboratory are a three-hour drive from Moscow in the city of Bogoroditsk, Tula Region. Life around went there and found out how office LED lighting is done.
In front of the building of bright color, Ilya Sivtsev, the general director of the company, meets us. There are several floors in the building, and we go up to the very top, where there are executive offices and a show room. In it on all racks are different lights. In general, the most common lamps for lighting are of four types: incandescent, fluorescent, halogen lamps and LED lamps. The Warton factory specializes in the latter.
Bulbs themselves, LED modules and other important components are not produced here, but are purchased in China, Korea, Finland and Austria. “The further you go inside, the slower and inefficient you are,” Ilya explains. All these enterprises assemble a light bulb from several elements: a base (a plastic part inside of which is aluminum), a base and an LED module, and finally, a driver that is responsible for the glow. A scattering element (most often made of plastic) is worn on top of this structure. Therefore, here they make lamp housings, diffusers, assemble everything together and ship to suppliers. There is also a laboratory where various lamps and fixtures are tested.
The idea of LED technology is that heat is generated from the LED. The LED is small, and it emits a lot of light and, as a result, heat. The latter has to be neutralized with aluminum plates. For example, the temperature that comes from the LED is 80 degrees, it goes to the heat sink and eventually drops to 45 degrees coming from the lamp. On average, a LED lamp serves 50 thousand hours. “In general, there are no problems in the LED itself,” Ilya Sivtsev explains. “If everything is correctly output, 100 thousand hours can work.” The problem lies in the power supply, which is most often the first to fail.
The whole process begins with the production of metal housings for fixtures. The metal comes in huge rolls, the heaviest of which can weigh 4.5 tons. Then such a coil is lifted on a crane beam and transferred to an unwinder. Its main goal is to slowly unwind the metal sheet and feed it to an automatic line, the first operation of which is editing. Using a device that resembles a device for spinning clothes on old washing machines, the sheets of metal are made absolutely smooth, plus the installation orientates the flow so that it correctly enters the next station.
And then all the necessary holes are automatically cut out in the metal with an automatic stamp. After this, the guillotine sharply, with noise, cuts off a piece of the roll of the desired length, and he goes to the bending station, where the machine bends the long sides of the future case, folds them like an envelope. The robot takes this design and flips it over so that another machine will bend the ends of the body: this is called the “reed bending station”. The line ends with clinching - the so-called method of fastening metal with metal without welding and extra rivets and bolts. It turns out such a hook that keeps itself. So, every 17.3 seconds each conveyor prepares a new product, an employee picks it up and stacks it in high piles, as in the game “Jenga”.
All equipment is in sensors: if the finished case is not removed from the line, the machine will stop and wait until the product is removed from it. So do mass parties on two lines.
With exclusive and trial copies, you have to tinker longer: although the processes are still the same, but the equipment is already different. “Carefully, he can strike,” Ilya warns us. We move a couple of steps from the device: the platform is constantly moving and can quickly accelerate, so there is a marking on the floor that is forbidden to enter. On this automatic machine - the coordinate-punch press - holes are made in the sheets of metal, and after that they are carried to the sheet bending machine, which does everything itself - bends, turns over - you just have to select the desired program. Among the processes there are those that need to be done manually; the plant needs such a line for exclusive small series.
The finished cases of future fixtures are painted on equipment similar to a carousel: the bodies are hung on hooks on a wire, and they slowly travel from one station to another. It all starts with washing: a special shower with a chemical solution removes oil from the metal, then the bodies fall into the dryer, where at a temperature of 280 degrees the water from the surface escapes. After cooling down, they fall into the powder coating chamber: there are automatic guns that move from top to bottom and cover the body with an even layer of paint. True, such paint does not get into the corners, so an employee in a special suit still works in the camera and paints over something that automatic pistols could not reach. The paint is heavy, and it seems to stick to the surface; if this did not happen, then the air pressure at the bottom of the chamber draws it in through the openings in the floor and again serves for painting. Then the paint must be “baked”, so the parts are sent to the polymerization furnace. The size of the chamber is such that the entire path of the product from start to finish takes about 20 minutes. Everything, the case is ready, now it can be removed from the hook and sent for assembly.
Ilya Sivtsev says that two teams are engaged in assembly, in one of which men predominate, in the other - women. The former take on the hard work, preferably in small exclusive series, and women, he said, do a good job of in-line work - where speed and clarity are needed. The essence is the same: modules, drivers are inserted into the painted case, the drivers are connected to the terminal block through which current flows. Basically, everything is collected manually, sometimes a screwdriver is used.
But the company is trying to refuse fastenings like bolts and screws in favor of snaplocks: so the details can be hooked to it directly on the case. During assembly, lamps on each table alternately light up - employees check the operability of each product. All this is done manually, because the assortment of the plant has more than a thousand positions, and it is difficult to automate such a number of products. Employees have their own assembly standards: for example, the daily standard for one assembler is 363 products. In general, the plant is committed to delivering the finished product every eight seconds.
Those models that are assembled in a shift depend on the order: during our visit, they collected medical (they are airtight), emergency (continue to work for another three hours after they turned off the electricity) and in-line (to replenish the warehouse). Each lamp should have a diffuser, which is produced in the factory in five types - for example, "prism", "opal", "crushed ice". The assembly does not put on lenses on the lamp, but only packs, as the customer selects the model that he needs. The diffusers enter the plant in the form of large sheets of polycarbonate, which are cut into layers of the desired size.
Some lamp housings are made plastic - such models are cheaper, so the model can certainly be seen in almost every entrance. They are produced in the workshop where injection molding machines are located. This happens like this: plastic granules are poured into the machine from above, which the machine later melts. All parts are born in a two-part mold, and when they close, a hot plastic mass is supplied at a temperature of 300 degrees. The form opens, and the robot takes the resulting product out - it all takes 98 seconds. Then the employee manually disconnects the diffusers and slightly adjusts the fault location.
The same factory produces street lighting. “They are more complicated in development, but their production is simple,” says Ilya. Lamps are made of huge aluminum beams, the length of which can reach six meters. On special equipment, the beam is driven under high temperature through a press, inside which there is a form - a die, which is responsible for the direction of the cut. Then employees make holes in it and cut into pieces of the right size with a circular knife.
Warehouse and Laboratory
Part of the finished product falls into a warehouse measuring 3,500 square meters. In total there are about 2 thousand pallet places in the warehouse. Next to the warehouse is the laboratory of the plant, where employees check the products for durability and examine the bulbs that they purchase from suppliers.
The first thing that catches your eye when you go into the laboratory is a huge ball with open sashes. This is a photometric ball in which all measurements are made and the technical characteristics of the light device are checked. Bulbs are mainly tested here: they are screwed into the center, closed and all the necessary indicators are read.
Further on the wall there are racks with the lights on - these are degradation stands. The light from them is so bright that it seems like you are in a photo studio on the set. It turns out that all these bulbs shine around the clock - so the laboratory staff checks how long the lamp will work and how these indicators differ from the declared ones. Plus, throughout the entire service life, workers take readings from each lamp, noting how they change over time. If the employees saw that after a thousand hours the lamp went down, then this is a sign that you need to check the whole batch again.
The tests of the lamps do not end there. The next machine allows you to check the bulb for dust protection, its task is to sprinkle dust on the object (talc plays this role). Next come the climate chambers, in which you can set different temperatures - both the highest and lowest - and see how the bulb behaves under them.
The site of one of the tests is similar to a pool: both the walls and the floor are paved with tiles. Here they check how resistant the lamp is to water. One of the tests looks like this: the lamp is mounted on a special platform that rotates, and at this time a strong water stream beats from the crane, similar to a fireman (the degree of pressure can be changed).
But the most interesting thing in the laboratory is a separate room where there is a device that helps to measure the light curve (how the lamp will shine) and other lighting parameters. The room is large (18 meters in length and 6 in height), completely black: the walls, upholstered with velvety material, and the ceiling, and even the batteries here are black. At the entrance to the room there is a pole with several mirrors and a beam that rotates, and at the top there is a device with three detectors - one is responsible for color, and two for light. The tests are carried out in two stages: in the center, the lamp is mounted on a special frame, and when the test begins, this frame rotates, the rod with detectors rotates around the lamp and measures it in different planes.
Now the plant produces about 1.5 million lamps per year, selling them to customers from Russia, the CIS countries and some European countries. There are customers from Africa - for example, Nigeria and Egypt.