1. Could you describe your current role, and what part of Lightbar Slim’s development you worked on?
VP: I lead Ketra’s industrial design initiatives and on this project I had an opportunity to lend a different perspective than a traditional ID might, having spent the early years of my career in a César Pelli design studio in New Haven, CT (now Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects), who was one of the most prolific designers of skyscrapers in the world. Of course, the context and scale of a skyscraper is much grander than a product you can hold in your palm, but I really drew inspiration from that linear, sleek look of skyscrapers. Having already worked on Lutron's Palladiom shade product line, I was looking to incorporate the same minimal, timeless look into the Lightbar’s design for a cohesive feel.
MB: I lead the engineering department here at Ketra, which means that my team is responsible for the overall product—the linear itself— as well as the control system and Lightbar’s ability to integrate into Lutron’s larger systems. I also have a somewhat untraditional background, having spent several years at architectural lighting company, Focal Point. I spent time not only on the engineering side, but on the business side as well, which helps color how I approach my work.
2. This is Ketra’s first new product since acquisition—what was the inspiration behind the design?
VP: Well, the value proposition of Ketra has always been the quality of the light first, and in this case, we wanted to place that high quality light within the smallest possible profile. We want people to experience the light, not necessarily the lamp. This product is the first step in filling out the remaining areas of our portfolio—lighting that is low profile, high utility and indirect. Like all our products, it also needed to be elegant and highly flexible.
MB: Lightbar Slim is particularly exciting for me, since it's my first product for Ketra that we built from the ground up. Since our target profile was so small, we had to completely reengineer—or develop from scratch—some of the parts used inside. But what really stands out from the engineering aspect of Lightbar is that it’s not just a single product, but an entirely new platform. This new design opens the door to a whole new set of possibilities that are pretty much limited only by our own imagination.
I love that not only is this product built to integrate, but it is entirely manufactured in-house. It is incredibly rare to be able to say that all the components of a solution come from a single manufacturer. And I do mean everything: the light source, core lighting and drivers, SMT, mounting clips, endcaps, calibration of all the core components and final assembly.
3. How is the LS0 Lightbar Slim built to integrate with Lutron systems like Athena and HomeWorks?
VP: I’ll be honest; this is really more in Matt’s wheelhouse than mine, but I can tell you this: We recognize that it's of great value to our customers to have a full set of human-centric technology—controls, lighting, shades and sensors—that are entirely integrated with each other for ease of installation and seamless operation. And we design every new piece of technology with that in mind.
MB: As we mentioned earlier, this is the first product built from the ground up, even though Lutron and Ketra joined forces in 2018. There’s a good reason for that—it was critical to have what we called a “stabilization period” where we worked on envisioning what our future products were going to be and establishing a solid technological foundation that spanned the strengths of both brands. Building our products now, with that holistic vision in mind, allows us to be more creative and adapt more quickly to new engineering advances or fresh design trends.
4. Describe some of the challenges you faced during product development.
VP: Size, size and size. Seriously, packing all Ketra’s lighting technology into such a slim form factor was tough. There were so many times we were tempted to say, 'oh, it’s just another .1” or .05”, we can make it a little wider', but we stuck to our guns and of course, now are all very glad we did. We kept running through typical installation scenarios—corners, shelving, end-to-ends (and other more edge cases)— so that we could keep the profile clean and easy to install onsite while future proofing as much as possible. You won’t find many products out there that give you a clean set of solutions right out of the gate like Lightbar Slim does.
MB: I’ll second everything Vlado said about the size. And keeping it that small led to lots of engineering challenges—and innovations. For example, we needed to create a controller that was as low-profile as the Lightbar itself. We started with a traditional LV controller, but the locations for the Lightbar installs simply did not fit with the aesthetics of the conventional transformer. So, our team had to pivot, and with a lot of hard work and creativity, were able to keep the complete system looking uniformly sleek and elegant. We also had to make a new emitter, develop a new wire communication protocol to connect to the Clear Connect Type X system and even develop new calibration software to test control of the color and spectrum of the lighting.
At just .65" wide, Lightbar Slim is smaller than three pencil-widths
5. What aspect of the design are you the proudest of?
VP: I have to go back to the size aspect again. Everything revolved around the set target profile of .65” x .65” profile, and the precision necessary to fit integral components into that profile while ensuring physical and visual uniformity. I’m proud that we persevered and made it work. We also worked to get the details right like extra-small seams and lightly chamfered edges. To that end, I want to commend our resident Mechanical Engineering team for their drive and belief. All that hard work means that hopefully the lighting designers who use this product will be blown away by both its elegantly unobtrusive profile and the powerful, high-quality light that it provides.
MB: I love that not only is this product built to integrate, but it is entirely manufactured in-house. It is incredibly rare to be able to say that all the components of a solution come from a single manufacturer. And I do mean everything: the light source, core lighting and drivers, SMT, mounting clips, endcaps, calibration of all the core components and final assembly. I’m especially proud of the way that this product has been future-proofed, because it was designed as a platform and not just a one-off luminaire. We can pivot very quickly to create new products that our community needs and wants.
6. What lesson will you take from this product?
VP: I’d say it’s truly recognizing the value of putting the work in now, on the front end, so that we can design lighting technology that will last—not only in this product, but in every product we create moving forward.
MB: That having a pause in development, as we did when we were worked to integrate Lutron and Ketra, can be a really positive move. By taking the time to get the technology right, we have created something in Lightbar Slim that is both platform and product. That is going to prove invaluable both to us and our customers moving forward.
To learn more about the new LS0 Lightbar Slim, visit its product page. And stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes interviews plus other exciting features, coming soon.