Thanks to two major acquisitions in the past two years, Visual Communications Company, LCC (VCC) is now positioned as one of the broadest product line manufacturers of indicators, expanding its product portfolio beyond LED technologies to include neon and incandescent lamps. The company acquired the indication and illumination product lines from Chicago Miniature Lighting and the Leecraft and Littelites indicator product lines from Lighting Concepts and Solutions.
"VCC is a very forward thinking company that was solely focused on LED technologies, developing methods of mounting LEDs to panels, LED light modeling, and custom light pipes,” said Mark Baker, director of business development, VCC, Poway, Calif. “The two acquisitions broadened our bandwidth of product offerings so now we can offer all-in-one indicator solutions that have lamps and neon technology.”
The Chicago Miniature Lighting product portfolio includes a broad range of miniature lamps, panel mount indicators, circuit indictors, LED modules, neon indicators, incandescent lamps, lamp sockets and lenses, discrete LEDs, and light pipes that can be used in a variety of applications. These include automotive applications particularly for the miniature lamps and industrial panel-mount styles for the MRO market. The all-in-one panel indication products that combine lighting technologies expand VCC’s customer base for plug-and-play solutions.
The Leecraft and Littelites acquisition added a wide range of miniature lamp sockets and also a broad range of LED indicators and neon lamps. These product lines, which were previously assembled in the Dominican Republic, are now manufactured and assembled at VCC’s advanced manufacturing facility in Tijuana, Mexico.
The acquisitions also extended VCC’s distribution network, adding leading distributors including Arrow, Digi-Key and Future Electronics. Prior to the acquisitions, VCC had about eight active distributors, and today it has 14 distributors selling its products.
Solving Two Needs with One Product
In addition to increased demand for indicators that meet the ruggedized NEMA standards, VCC said both OEM customers and distributor partners are looking for product lines with a wider range of options that are available as single part numbers. This simplifies the purchase of indicators for buyers, while reducing the number of parts that need to be stocked in inventory on the distributor’s shelf.
VCC plans to launch its NEMA-rated Flexvolt series, encompassing a new CNX 714 series and revised CNX 722 series of panel indicators next month that will provide a range of voltages from 5 volts to 28 volts. “They can order whatever color they want and the voltage will already be configured,” said Baker. “This will also help distributors because they don’t have to stock multiple part numbers.”
“Many of our competitors have multiple part numbers for different voltages and different colors. What we’ve done is narrow that down by offering wider voltage range products that will allow the customer to have a wider rating without having to buy different part numbers for voltage ratings such as 5V, 10V and 25V,” said Baker.
The new CNX 714 is a NEMA 6P rated product that features a quick and easy thread, allowing for easy assembly in applications such as control cabinets and instrument panels in aircraft, transportation dashboards, and vending/gaming machines. It’s available in six colors, and can be used in outdoor applications, direct sunlight, and in some corrosive environments. The series will be launched in June, and available through VCC’s distribution network.
In addition to standard products, VCC offers custom product development. “If a customer can’t find the exact solution that they are looking for we can customize an indicator specific to their needs. We have engineering staff on hand including optical engineering capabilities,” said Baker.
VCC will work on modified standards but the company tries to focus on “more encompassing products, or ‘super value-add.’ We have distributors that can do value-added services such as adding longer cable harnesses,” said Baker.
As part of its custom product services, VCC offers rapid prototyping with its Flexfire series of flexible light pipes. The light pipes allow engineers to prove-out design concepts for indicator applications that need light to extend from the board to the desired surface via bends and turns. The biggest benefit is a shortened development time.
"If an engineer needs to bring light from a printed circuit board (PCB) to the panel, it often cannot be achieved in a straight line,” said Baker. “The light pipe has to flex and manipulate around other components. Our Flexfire light pipes provide an easy method for transmitting light from the PCB to the front panel.”
The Flexfire flexible light pipe is all about reducing a customer’s time to market by easily enabling them to prove the concept and to see if it makes sense from both a design and cost standpoint, he added.
Baker estimates a 60 to 80 percent time savings for an engineer using Flexfire rapid prototyping. This shortens development time by two to three weeks.
The Flexfire light pipes are well suited for use in the prototyping process prior to committing to a custom part that would require a tooling investment, said Baker. “The idea behind this product is to make the prototype as quickly as possible and take the frustration out of figuring out how to move light from point A to point B and then utilize our products like our flexible light pipes to help illustrate what a final production product would look like,” said Baker.
The Flexfire Series light pipes work with surface mount, 3-mm and 5-mm LEDs, and have optional lens configurations that can be IP67/NEMA 6P rated for harsh environment and industrial applications. Standard fiber lengths range from 2" (50.8mm) to 12" (304.8mm), with custom sizes available.
With a 160-degree viewing angle, the surface mount or through-hole LED light pipes easily extend light from the board to the desired surface, said VCC. The light pipes can be ordered in square, round or rectangular panel connections.
VCC’s design services group can help OEMs solve application lighting challenges for a variety of applications including aerospace, medical, automotive, other transportation, safety and industrial.