Heated LED Headlights
By Marek Krasuski
In 1935, John W. Speaker began manufacturing repair parts and lighting products for the automotive industry. During the subsequent war years John Speaker’s resourcefulness caught the attention of the U.S. military after he developed the Heatab miniature portable stove and the P-38 GI can opener, both of which were widely used by the military during World War II and many years after.
John Speaker’s efforts to respond to customer need established a framework of success which over the decades has taken the company from a small enterprise to a leading manufacturer specializing in quality lighting products for OEMs and aftermarket customers around the world. Today the company serves multiple industries, among them on-road commercial, motorcycle, mining, construction, aviation and agriculture.
To describe itself as a leader in the lighting industry J.W. Speaker’s corporate profile is more than market spin. Indeed, the proof is in product development, guided always by John Speaker’s dictum to respond to customer demand. This is illustrated, most recently, by the company’s success in providing a solution to a problem which has for decades plagued the trucking industry.
LED headlights have not been widely accepted in harsh winter climates due to their inability to generate heat and keep snow and ice off light surfaces. J.W. Speaker has since solved this persistent problem with the introduction of heated lenses now available in standard headlight configurations. Tim Speaker, Co-President and Co-Owner of J.W. Speaker, draws attention to the benefits of this development: “SmartHeat™” technology features a heating system that responds automatically to temperature changes in order to effectively de-ice lenses and consume less power than halogen systems. The technology is more economical, ensuring a minimal premium for the aftermarket that makes heated lights more affordable than ever” he said. SmartHeat™ lamps are available in several models, including the new 4.5 inch all purpose work light, Model 670 XD, the 9800 snow plow light, the Model 234, 4 inch round stop/tail/turn, turn and reverse lights, and an upcoming new Model 8900 Evolution 2, 5 inch LED headlight.
The Model 8800 Evolution 2 includes both heated and non-heated versions. The SmartHeat™ unit combines electronic intelligence and a thermally conductive grid system to dynamically de-ice the lens on a real time basis without requiring any involvement from the driver. As a result, the Model 8800 Evolution 2 addresses the need for effective and speedy de-icing for commercial trucking. It also presents additional advantages such as improved sealing, superior condensation management, and a wider operating voltage.
The Model 8800 Evolution2, 4 inch x 6 inch heated headlights are another recent product advancement for the heavy duty trucking market. This new headlight is the industry’s first to meet proposed National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines for 5-Star NCAP-compliant low beam headlights. Mike Stoeckel, Director of Aftermarket Sales, says “We are pleased to deliver the industry’s first heavy-duty headlight that is not only ideally suited for this market, but it also meets NHTSA’s proposed requirements for lighting as part of their safety rating system. This gives the vehicle operator unparalleled performance in terms of visibility for maximum safety and comfort,” he said.
(Other popular headlight models for the trucking, construction, and other industries include: the Model 8700 Evolution 2 and J2 Series 7” round units, the Model 8790 Adaptive Series 7” round unit, and the Model 8630 Evolution 5.75” unit.)
These improved metrics underscore J.W. Speaker’s commitment to addressing unmet customer needs and solving problems. “J.W. Speaker,” says Stoeckel, “collaborates with key OEMs and distributors to collect VOC upstream in the development process to ensure end customer feedback is translated into desired specifications. We also partner with key customers for beta-site development and field validation to ensure products perform as intended.”
“J.W. Speaker’s solid modeling and virtual reality capability are major assets in developing and tuning beam patterns for the vehicle, market and application in scope,” Stoeckel explained. “Driving experiences can be simulated in our Virtual Reality Lab, enabling customers to provide feedback on a real-time basis, reducing time-to-market, and the cost to produce physical properties for actual vehicles. Customers can see how the light will perform with a birds-eye view as well as from other angles.”
Modeling advancements are complemented by the company’s own optics systems and circuit board design and assembly which employ Surface Mount Technology (SMT) for high speed manufacturing. Mike Stoeckel explains, “Photometry is performed in-house to verify that beam patterns are optimized in accordance with DOT and ECE requirements. Additionally, to complete the loop, optics are molded in-house using state-of-the-art injection molding machines capable of executing the precise tolerances as needed to ensure J.W. Speaker’s status as a leader in LED lighting technology. This turnkey capability is not only unique; it’s atypical for an LED lighting manufacturer to be doing this in the U.S.”
The end result of investment in such high tech design capabilities yields products unparalleled in the industry. In addition to industry-leading heated lights, J.W. Speaker’s Dual Burn™ function for new headlights makes seeing a whole lot easier. This technology combines high and low beam when turning on high beams. The combined optics provides the driver with both widespread visibility from a low beam light and extended foreground illumination of the high beam.
Dual Burn™ capability is yet another outcome of J.W. Speaker’s relentless pursuit of optimal beam patterns and its emphasis on conspicuity, an industry term denoting the ability to be seen. This feature, when combined with J.W. Speaker’s value proposition inherent to every product, namely visibility, durability and longevity, differentiate J.W. Speaker from its competition, attracting a wider following from OEMs and aftermarket customers. Confirms Mike Stoeckel, “Key customers willingly position us as their premium solution. The adage that ‘seeing is believing’ elicits a visceral response from end customers that, coupled with word-of-mouth references, serves to validate our value proposition. The fact that J.W. Speaker can deliver a solution to a problem or need, and taking a product or system from concept to completion ensures we will remain relevant in our core markets.” To be sure, lighting products from J.W. Speaker are firmly positioned in the product offerings of strategic distributors such as Kenworth and Peterbilt dealerships, Fort Garry Industries and Grandwest Enterprises.
The zeal with which company founder John Speaker strove to meet customer demand still stands – today under the stewardship of his grandsons Tim and Jamie Speaker. In over eight decades of operations J.W. Speaker has progressed, while always adhering to the customer service principle, from a small parts automotive manufacturer to a global leader of emerging lighting technologies proudly engineered, manufactured and assembled at its headquarters in Germantown, Wisconsin.
For more information on how J.W. Speaker can meet your industry needs, contact the company at www.jwspeaker.com.☚