Monday October 15, 2012
The art of combining magnetic levitation and lights
By MENG YEW CHOONG
Put the principle of magnetic levitation and lights together and you get functional forms that are also works of art.
THE drive to reinvent the table or floor lamp for homes is an ongoing one, with many innovative designs coming out of Europe in the past few decades. It was designers from that part of the world that gave us intriguingly artistic designs such as the Arco floor lamp, and the Artichoke and Pistillino lights, just to name a few.
A new design recently joined the fray with an unique selling proposition: a seemingly magically floating lamp holder! The “magic” is actually the result of magnetic levitation, a concept that uses magnetism to lift and even move items; readers might be more familiar with the concept’s abbreviation, “maglev”, a combination of the words “magnetic” and “levitation” that is used to describe train systems in China and Japan.
Ger Jansen seems to be the first person to have thought of applying the concept on a smaller scale. The engineer, who retired from lighting giant Philips (but still lives in Holland’s “Philips town”, Eindhoven, where the company’s headquarters is located) co-founded Holland-based Crealev BV six years ago to market Crealev lamps as well as other items he has designed that use magnetism.
After tinkering with electromagnets and magnets for many years, Jansen has developed multiple systems that are able to levitate objects using the opposing forces of magnetism. The modules consist of a base fitted with electromagnets, while the disc that floats above it is equipped with a permanent magnet.
This floating disc can be integrated in objects ranging from shoes and wine bottles to notebook computers, creating one of the most innovative ways to display new products. But it is in table lamps that this form of levitation technology has found the most success. Jansen’s series of stylish lamps that are instant conversation starters has created quite a buzz among homeowners and connoisseurs of designer furniture.
“Some people refuse to believe that the top half is totally suspended in the air without any attachment or wiring,” relates an amused sales assistant at the Gudang Damansara outlet at Bangsar Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur, which stocks two of Crealev’s bestselling table lamp models. The other retail partner in Malaysia is Linds Furniture, which has branches along KL’s Jalan Bangsar and in MidValley Megamall, KL.
The “magically” floating top half of the lamp invites curious customers to touch and feel it for themselves. The levitation is continuous and the floating half remains steady even when lightly touched. Just for fun, you can give the lampshade a slight twirl, and it will keep spinning for hours as there is nearly zero friction. Alternatively, give the top a light tap and watch it bob up and down for a few minutes before it settles back into its original position, guided by the invisible push and pull of magnets and electromagnets installed in the base below it.
Thankfully, levitating using electromagnets is not an energy intensive job, with only 3W needed to hold up the floating portion. When the LEDs (light emitting diodes) that are part of the design are turned on, power consumption can go up to 15W, but this too can be moderated by dimming the lights down from the maximum level of 300 lux (brightness inside an average office).
Adding to their green credentials is the fact that the lamps are meant to last a lifetime – they are most certainly not intended to be the throw-away-and-replace-with-a-new-one-every-few-years sort! Every single component is painstakingly crafted and assembled in Holland to provide many years of sustained enjoyment. For example, the glass lamp stem of the Eclipse model is not the run-of-the-mill mass produced glassware but is handcrafted by a master glassblower. The custom-built LEDs are rated to 50,000 hours, or close to 20 years of service, if they are used for seven hours each day.
A director of Crealev Asia, the local distributor for the lamps and levitation kits, Leong Shang Wei, says he was surfing to find out more about magnetic levitation trains when he randomly ended up on a Crealev’s page on levitating lamps last October. “I was very wowed by what I saw, but then, decided to sit on it for a week to see if I would still be as excited later. Prior to that, I had always been interested in Dutch design after my solo cycling trip in Europe allowed me to see many interesting designs in Holland.”
After rounds of phone calls and e-mail exchanges, Leong flew to Holland in February to meet Jansen, as well as to see for himself whether the lamps looked as good in real life as they do on the Internet. Not only was he impressed but he believes that the lamps and levitation kits are in an entirely new product category. “No doubt there will be challenges along the way, and this is a leap of faith,” acknowledges Leong, who is now the exclusive distributor of Crealev’s technology across Asia (19 countries including China).
Apart from the lamps, Crealev’s levitation technology to offer unique ways to present products in stores, shop windows, and trade fairs as it has the ability to levitate objects weighing from 1kg up to 10kg, at heights ranging from 2.5cm to 9cm. The levitation height can be adjusted according to the weight and shape of the object to be levitated – for the best impression, of course, the object should be as high above the base platform as possible, while maintaining stability.
The technology was recently deployed at a Nike shoe launch event in Singapore, as well as in the world’s first floating 3D table clock, the Emit, which is manufactured and sold by Karlsson Clocks.
For more information, go to crealev-asia.com.