Products like MITRA seldom appear out of thin air, instead they’re the culmination of hours and hours of work from people all across the company. From R&D to sales, almost every department has played a role in ensuring that MITRA not only meets, but even exceeds our customers’ needs and desires. We had the chance to sit down once again with our Director of Product Management and Engineering Karin Dankis to talk about the physical design process for MITRA in a little more detail.
This is part two of our deep dive series on MITRA, a series designed to take you through the entire design process for our MITRA lighting platform. From concept to grow room, this series aims to reveal the ways in which we approach consumer problems and find ways to solve them through our suite of solutions. If you missed part one of the series, click here to check it out!
It begins with us continuously doing interviews with customers, that’s how we can initially see what they need, and what the market is currently lacking in. From there, it’s about what we can supply and our needs in order to make that happen. The point at which we can see all of these lines converge is where we can say “there’s a problem worth solving here” and that’s when the design work really begins. - Karin Dankis, Director of Product Management and Engineering.
Just as we mentioned in the first installment of these articles, our goal is to always employ a customer focused and application driven approach to our design philosophy and process. It’s only by maintaining direct conversations with customers that we’re able to keep a pulse on changes in the market and the needs of growers, which in turn allows us to design solutions tailored to what they really want and need.
Eventually common denominators start to pop up between conversations and it becomes increasingly apparent what the market is looking for. This is the turning point that Karin refers to when an idea really begins to take shape. “My team and I start to work on developing the concept and really clarifying the target specifications. We then work on a product council basis where the entire management team can weigh in on the direction we should be taking.” From there the concept goes through iteration after iteration, each subsequent change bringing solutions – and problems with them. CAD models are put together, mockups are built and simulations are run all to try and achieve the best solution possible.
It’s at this stage (early prototyping) that our horticultural experts and plant lab team are involved to a much greater extent. Karin says it’s imperative that they weigh in heavily at this stage so that we can ensure that not only the correct spectral qualities are being targeted and achieved, but also the correct intensities. After all what’s the point of an LED grow light if the lighting isn’t up to scratch? These desired spectral qualities are a massive focus for our company and we’ll be discussing the R&D process behind them at length in an upcoming article, so stay tuned for that!
Creating a solution like MITRA, something that is genuinely different, involves overcoming a whole myriad of different challenges and problems. “One of the really big challenges that we faced was the heatsink design. We knew from the beginning that we wanted MITRA to be IP67 rated, so going with a passively cooled design was the best option. But, we wanted to still make sure that the thermal properties were consistently good, while also minimizing the weight and size of the heatsink itself.” Karin goes on to say that thermal challenges like these can occur and require extensive work to solve properly. In order to still meet the targeted higher efficacy figures, the team had to come up with a host of alternative approaches to still ensure that the thermal performance of the light was where it needed to be.
Fast forward to the present and now that MITRA has gone through the full suite of third-party tests, it’s safe to say that the product engineering team really overcame the challenges they faced. MITRA has not only been fully certified for IP67 as was targeted but has also achieved a market leading efficacy value, all while still remaining cool.
"When it comes to testing, we do all our first validation tests in house. So, things like spectral measurements, intensity, footprint, thermal simulations, and stress testing. Once we’ve worked our way through those, we hand the lights over to our lab team to performance test the lights on a biological level. Once we’re finally satisfied with the design, we get the lights tested via third parties to get the most accurate results possible. We always strive for honest, accurate results so we never end up over-lighting or under-lighting when we come to a customer installation." - Karin Dankis, Director of Product Management and Engineering.
At last, we’ve reached the final stage of the design process – quality assurance and testing. Karin talks about the stringent market compliance testing that we put our solutions through in order to make sure that they’re compliant with regulations all over the world. One of our main goals during the certification stage is to make sure that our solutions are produced to a standard which allows our customers to certify their facilities to GMP standards – a certification which is becoming increasingly more important for growth facilities to hold. Karin says we’re able to meet these standards by being highly selective over the partners that we choose to work with. Our supply chain team works to ensure that the partners we work with are always producing within the relevant ISO standards, and are upholding stringent production standards.
While the certification process usually marks the end of the design process, we’re never truly done with a solution – no matter how good it is. As we now begin entering the production stages for MITRA, Karin and her team are continuing to brainstorm new ideas for what the next iterations of MITRA and other solutions could look like. Together with the spectral developments that our plant lab team are working on, it’s safe to say that there are some big things on the horizon. Stay posted for the next article in this series which will focus on the ways in which our plant experts approach spectral optimization and figured out precisely which spectral options to target for a solution like MITRA!