The headlights on the Ford Bronco Sport might not look radically different from those on other recent vehicles. But they are unique in that they use a full LED projector that increases total light output with improved distribution, packaged in an iconic retro round design to evoke Ford Broncos of years past.
The technology is anything but retro.
Lighting supplier Hella has been moving the needle on LED lighting for a decade, and this year's Bronco display represents the culmination of years of R&D. Hella's new systems are innovative on two fronts: the technology of the lighting itself as well as the manufacturability of the component, said Steve Lietaert, president of the German company's U.S. operations, Hella Corporate Center USA Inc.
A decade ago, early LED headlamps dazzled the market with 84 pixels. Today, Hella is working in the range of 30,000 pixels. And rather than crafting lamps with the electronic pins to connect them, Hella works with its semiconductor suppliers to print the necessary connections in miniature.
The light is more complex, but its design and manufacturing is simpler.
Thanks to the growing ability to make the systems more compact, Hella can use a more flexible design to create a modular headlamp that can be adapted to customers' different lighting specifications. The light output can be altered through software changes, allowing for a lamp with a single part number to produce different outcomes.
The result is a flexible family of lights, Lietaert said, so that Hella and its customers do not have to reinvent the wheel for each new application.
"We did one common development, one common validation and more or less one design," Lietaert said. "So we have the benefit of scale. We can have higher volume for all the purchased materials from our supply base, and we can spread its amortization over higher volume."