First-Light USA’s Jeremy Ross, CEO, discusses the tactical lighting landscape, emerging trends in the lighting industry and what it means for you.
Read his full Q & A below.
What aspect of innovation related to tactical gear and lighting is biggest on your radar today?
Without hesitation it is size and weight. As the military has stated for years, ounces add up to pounds and those pound are exhausting to carry. It’s exciting to design products that maximize utility and minimize cube and mass. There are several ways to go about it. First, we identify how to reduce weight by combining the capabilities of multiple devices into a single device (i.e. weapon mounted lighting tools, hands-free lighting tools and handheld lighting tools). Then, we analyze the power source, not only from what it might weigh, but also from the aspect of the length of operational capability it provides. If we can keep a customer from having to carry a large supply of spare batteries we’ve knocked out a few of those ounces. Technology is going micro, and eventually nanoscale, and this will greatly benefit manufacturers looking to reduce size while maximizing performance.
There have been some pretty significant advances in LED technology as of late. How do they affect tactical professionals and flashlight enthusiasts?
The lumen output versus the required current that some of the latest LEDs produce is very impressive. When we started the company 60 lumens of light from two CR123s at a runtime of 20-25 minutes was the norm. Now those same batteries can power the latest LEDs to incredible levels of output for several hours. Outside of high intensity white light, surface mounted colored LEDs are enabling designers to change the shape of illumination devices, which is really cool. These are super low profile and don’t require much thermal management, so they can be placed in the thinnest of structures. At First-Light USA we’re out to change the definition of a flashlight by redesigning it and eliminating the “tube”—and these advances in technology are definitely assisting us on our mission by allowing devices to be shaped into the best form factor for the given requirement.
What excites you most about the future of tactical lighting?
The fact that the radical designs we’ve been putting on the market over the past several years have become mainstream excites me. We were the first company to focus on ergonomics in tactical lighting and now several others including the largest in the industry are following suit. That motivates me. Validation feels good, but continuing to outpace our competitors’ best efforts feels better—and I’m committed we do that. I’m really excited with what our company will soon offer when it comes to innovative lighting tools – stay tuned.
What makes you nervous regarding the tactical lighting space?
The state of the U.S. economy and how it affects domestic manufactures concerns me—it needs to improve. With almost all consumer electronics, including the overwhelming majority of flashlights being produced internationally, it becomes increasingly difficult for U.S. manufacturers like us who have no interest in moving any part of their production overseas to compete on price. The lower price point of foreign lights is coupled with lower quality, which is obvious when you directly compare our products to those made overseas. At First-Light USA, we know our customers want rugged, top-quality lights that carry an exceptional warranty, which is why we do what we do. U.S. Made. Lifetime Warranty. I get nervous when I think about those that consider a light as a potentially life-saving tool, being forced to consider cheap foreign lights due to the bad economic conditions. Hopefully things improve soon.