Trailer Talk

You Don’t Need to Hammer on These Thin LEDs to Appreciate a Bright Idea

Plate-thin, these new lights are the latest thing in light-emitting diodes.

March 10, 2014

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Think thin and strong, as in thin LED lamps for trailers and truck bodies. They’re from someone you might not have heard of – Innotec, in Zeeland, Mich. – and somebody you probably know -- Phillips Industries in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Phillips is a long-time maker of wiring harnesses and connectors, but lacked the lamps end of the business. This was becoming a problem because many customers today want to simplify their business dealings by buying products from a single source, said Rob Phillips, president and a third-generation member of the company’s founding family.

This was emphasized last September when the Technology & Maintenance Council of ATA issued a recommended practice that urged a “whole-systems” approach when specifying new trailers to minimize electrical problems. 

Phillips knew engineers couldn’t quickly design an entirely new line of decent lighting products, so, he told a group of reporters on Sunday, the day before TMC’s annual meeting opened in Nashville, he did the wiser thing: He pursued a partner already in the lamps business.

He found Innotec, which makes many LED fixtures for auto builders and supplied exterior lighting for Wabash National Corp.

Those lamps are called BoardFree because they have no circuit boards, Phillips explained. The light-emitting diodes and their joining circuits are directly bonded to acrylic plastic.

While most LED lamps are about 1.5 inches thick, a BoardFree product  is only 0.26-inch thick, or 1.059 inch with a tube containing connector prongs. These will mate to Phillips’ Sta-Dry connectors and harnesses.

The diodes are cool-running, but because they are close to the surface, what heat they do make is better able to melt snow and ice, something many LED lamps have trouble doing, Phillips said.

The acrylic plastic is also very strong. Phillips showed a video of a guy bashing competitor LED lamps with a hammer. All broke in not many swings, but the Innotec lamp took more impacts and the hammer’s wooden handle broke on the final blow. See it below.

The lamps will come in tail-stop-turn, marker and cleanrance-turn signal types, and all meet federal standards.

The partnership gives Phillips the right to exclusively market the thin truck lamps, so as of March 1, it sells them to Wabash, which obtains its wiring harnesses from another supplier. The BoardFree lamps with Phillips harnesses are now available from most trailer suppliers.

This summer the company will start a line of retrofittable products. And who knows, if you decide to switch to these new thin-but-strong things, maybe Phillips will send the guy with the hammer to help you remove the old lights.


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Author Bio

Tom Berg

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Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.


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