Home Depot Inc. is exploring a national rollout for an inventive entrepreneur's plastic recessed lighting system.
LiteSpeed systems, now in 140 Home Depot stores in California, Nevada and Oregon, have 4-inch-diameter canisters and generic beam-spread, 20-watt MR-16 bulbs. A kit with three canister-bulb sets, instructions, wiring and hardware costs $90-$100.
In the do-it-yourself market, LiteSpeed is the only 4-inch-diameter product; others use 5- and 6-inch canisters.
``Another 12-volt system may cost about $200 for materials alone,'' inventor Alan Fujii said at his Santa Ana office.
Fujii is president of manufacturer Plastic Technology Group, proprietary product developer Power & Light LLC and contract design firm Design & Engineering3. He said his system is easy to install, which small contractors like, and doesn't even require a professional.
The project has some history. In 1997, MG Products Inc. of Chula Vista, Calif., funded a recessed lighting project through a business unit in San Antonio, but roadblocks surfaced. A U.S. firm proposed a plan 150 percent above targeted manufacturing cost with a lamp generating far too much heat. Then, a Chinese engineering house got costs down to 60 percent of target - with a part count of 47 - but could not solve the heat problem.
In 1999, Fujii took his turn and soon obtained patents. He reduced the lamp size, cut the part count to 14 and focused on insulation displacement and heat isolation. PTG used a metal reflector to dispel 98.6 percent of the heat and a molded silicone gasket to avoid conductive heat transfer.
``Effectively, we made a Thermos bottle,'' Fujii said.
Maximum outside fixture temperature was 320° F, and the finished design was 10 percent below the target cost.
A screw cap in the fixture's top captures an insulated cable tightly, and special piercing elements make contact with the conductors. No wire stripping or cutting occurs.
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. of Northbrook, Ill., tested and listed the LiteSpeed system - a first for plastic recessed fixtures, Fujii said. The bulbs operate typically at 255° F, and the system is light enough to install without hanger bars.
Fujii traded two utility patents in January 2000 to then-owner Rooster Products Inc. of San Antonio for the right to manufacture the product line. PTG has expanded the line from three stocking units to a family with 20 products, including one with a 50-watt MR-16 lamp.
PTG uses GE Plastics' Lexan polycarbonate for structural members and Ultem polyetherimide for the socket body and reflector housing, said John Cummings, Power & Light president. LiteSpeed accounts for less than 5 percent of PTG's molding activity.
PTG has 15 presses with clamping forces of 28-150 tons, said Daniel Hughes, PTG general manager. Fujii formed PTG in 1981 with an emphasis on engineering. DE3 is involved in at least one-half of PTG's manufacturing volume and also sells creative services to others.
Fujii's three businesses employ about 95, have 30,000 square feet of space and had 2001 sales of $9.6 million, about one-half from medical parts.