14 Oct 2020

UNITY – the Combining of New Technologies

Unity: the state of bringing together different entities into one. This was the philosophy behind a project that LSC Lighting embarked upon in 2016. Following on from the success of the GEN VI range of professional dimmers with combined power distribution, the team at LSC decided to extend into producing modular cabinet installations for large-scale projects.

Presented by LSC Lighting Systems

The market was crying out for a product with the combined ability to dim conventionals and LED fixtures, control power switching to fixtures and remotely set-up, configure and monitor the system.


Whilst UNITY was still in the development stage, LSC was approached in 2017 by Ptarmigan Technologies (Hong Kong) to design, manufacture and supply a large-scale dimming and power distribution system.

“We were first approached by Simon Fraser from Ptarmigan about the possibility of supplying a large-scale dimming and power solution for their client, Warner Bros, for a theme park in Abu Dhabi,” said Pete Floyd, LSC’s International Sales Manager.

“The brief was for a system to control large amounts of complex LEDs, traditional fixtures and DMX controlled relay circuits. We already had plans in motion for a dimming/power cabinet, so this was the perfect catalyst to forge ahead with the design.”

The scale of the project was massive – six different themed immersive lands under one roof, covering 1.65million sq. ft.

In conjunction with the project design specification from Ptarmigan, the final channel count requirement was over 5,000 channels of both dimming and power switching to control in excess of 16,000 fixtures – one of the biggest installations of its kind in the world.

UNITY install mode

LSC already had a solid reputation for being at the forefront of industry trends and wasn’t fazed by the magnitude of the challenge and delivered a formal specification for a new, multi-purpose power distribution cabinet.

The task was somewhat daunting though, with a brand-new design of dedicated LED control, dimming and relay switching modules (utilising TruPower – another LSC first) in both 48-channel and 96-channel cabinets needed – all within a strict delivery schedule.

This, coupled with the added complexity of a ground-up design for a control module that was able to monitor circuits, report individual channel information and seamlessly integrate with all major control protocols and third-party devices, had to involve the entire R&D and production team at LSC Lighting.

However, LSC’s Managing Director and Senior Software Engineer, Gary Pritchard, set his team to work on designing a radically updated dimmer/distribution system for the installation market.

“This new design allowed us to introduce a number of firsts to the industry including zero-cross switching. This eliminated nuisance tripping caused by earth leakage and inrush currents and provided the fixtures with a much longer life due to less stress being placed on PSUs when powered up,” said Gary.

A new specialised power control circuit was devised to enable the Pulse Transformer Fired Dimming circuitry (PTFD) to be controlled via the software, reducing the number of components required, thus also reducing hardware costs and the overall weight of the system.

“This was the first time LSC had developed a large-format install dimmer and therefore, we wanted to ensure it was going to be a system that could be commissioned and maintained with minimum effort,” Gary added.

The need for swapping out modules in a quick and efficient timeframe was paramount.

A simple Camlock system was designed with integral micro-switches to allow for quick power-down and release of the modules, thereby allowing the user to swap out any of the switch, dim/switch or LED modules any time.

“Acoustic noise was also a factor in the design, and it was an absolute requirement not to have a large and loud single-source fan controlling the airflow.

“Instead, we opted for an individual fan in each module with ‘whisper fans’ on the top of the cabinet to manage the temperature and reduce operating noise significantly. In fact, with a full load the cabinets are virtually silent in operation,” he said.

From a user’s perspective, living in such a connected world, it was also important to constantly monitor the system remotely from a third-party device and receive SMS messages reporting any fault conditions in a live situation.

As always, the main challenge was time. To embark on a project that would bring new innovations to the market seemed like an impossible task given the tight time constraints.

“Within five months of the first prototype being tested and the great working relationship we have with our suppliers, we managed to ship all of the cabinets to site on time and on budget.

“This really was a fantastic achievement by the entire LSC team,” said Gary.

The success of this mega install has resonated around the world and LSC has since completed the supply and installation of UNITY systems in major theatres in Europe, opera houses and television stations in Australia, and a second large-scale installation in a new theme park under construction in Qatar.

With other traditional manufacturers relying on technology and system formats developed 20 years ago, LSC’s UNITY is truly the premium product of its type in the world today.

And now, the touring version of UNITY, UNITOUR has been announced. The worldwide challenges of 2020 have not quelled the creativity and determination of the team at LSC.

CX Magazine – October 2020   

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