Rüdiger Szak and his son Felix are setting impressive trends in architecture, interior design, store fittings and booth construction with their custom-made LED surface lights made from PLEXIGLAS®.
Large-scale LED lights give rooms and buildings a striking appearance and create a special atmosphere. That’s why Rüdiger and Felix Szak manufacture individual lighting solutions with their company axis. Their Lightpanels are suitable as ceiling panels, flooring or for outdoor use, and thanks to PLEXIGLAS® the brand acrylic glass from Röhm, they light up uniformly even when bent. In an interview, the designers recount how an initial idea has become an entire product family.
How did the idea for your first Lightpanel come about?
Rüdiger Szak: An artist and physician approached us because he wanted to optically combine photographs and radiographs. He wanted to illuminate the motifs and was looking for a way to generate a particularly flat surface that would be illuminated uniformly. It should look like a picture on the wall and not like a massive light box, which was being used in illuminated sign advertising at the time, for example. So then we set about looking for a solution. That was ten years ago.
How did you proceed?
Felix Szak: When we receive a request that we cannot handle with our existing product range, we often develop a new technical solution to make it possible. At the time, we had already been working a lot with light in our company axis, but we were mainly using fluorescent tubes, which were simply too thick for very flat designs. But at that time, LEDs were becoming more powerful and we quickly realized that LEDs would open up completely new design possibilities.
Felix Szak: LEDs are significantly more compact than other illuminants, but still very luminous. We then found a way to couple the light of these energy-saving illuminants via the edges of a light-scattering material and a way for the light to be emitted from the entire surface. This made much flatter constructions possible.
Construction of a Lightpanel
The construction of a Lightpanel by axis basically remains the same as when they developed the idea more than ten years ago. An aluminum frame (1 + 6) provides stability and functions as a cooling element and LED support. The light distribution of the LEDs (5) is provided by a side-light-emitting plate made from PLEXIGLAS® LED (3) with a reflector disk positioned behind it (2) and a diffuser made of PLEXIGLAS® Satinice (4) as the top surface. The Lightpanels are available in a format of up to 3 x 2 meters.
The core element of the Lightpanel is two light-scattering panels made of PLEXIGLAS®. What requirements does the material need to meet?
“Without PLEXIGLAS® the uniform light distribution of our Lightpanels would not be possible.”
- Rüdiger Szak
axis company founder
Rüdiger Szak: It has to distribute the light in such a way that the entire surface is illuminated evenly – even in different sizes. In our tests, PLEXIGLAS® LED, thanks to its high light output, proved to be by far the best solution for the disk, into which we feed the light via the edge. Another crucial factor was the different reference sizes of the acrylic glass, which offer an optimal and as bright as possible light distribution for each size – and cost-effective pricing.
Felix Szak: In addition, we use a diffuser made of PLEXIGLAS® Satinice to further reinforce the uniform light effect. This material also offers a very nice and high-quality feel, which our customers greatly appreciate. For example, there are no reflections and the surface appears to be velvety. After all, our LED surface light is not a lamp that you simply hang from the ceiling. Our product is a very high-value, custom-made solution for architectural lighting.
The basic model of the Lightpanel family is the light panel original. With an overall depth of only 30mm, it looks like a luminous image enclosed by an aluminum frame. In combination with PLEXIGLAS®, colored or warm white light provides a pleasant atmosphere.
This variant appears to be frameless thanks to its white, powder-coated aluminum frame and it enables particularly uniform-looking designs – such as for this fashion store on the legendary Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The Lightpanel plus range offers a variety of different possibilities: plus INVISION, for example, combines light with translucent decorative materials, such as natural materials, metals or fabrics. Combinations with other translucent surface materials, printed graphics and even thin natural stone panels are also possible....
Your Lightpanel original was awarded the iF material award in 2010. Since then you have developed many other Lightpanel variants. How did that happen?
Design panel – elements for innovative architecture
In 2010, Rüdiger Szak (axis) and this brother Andreas Szak (acrysign) established the brand Design panel to market innovative product developments from both companies. The combination of surface materials developed by acrysign with the Lightpanels of axis creates unique design elements for architecture and object design.
Felix Szak: We follow the requirements of our customers. When we presented the Lightpanel at Euroshop 2008, there was less interest in surface lights than there is now. Uniformly illuminated surfaces were mainly exciting for lighting advertisers. Things have changed since then, because architects have discovered surface light as a medium for design. We now receive inquiries from quite different areas and each project has completely different requirements, which means that new Lightpanel variants continue to emerge.
Why is one product not sufficient to cover all customer requirements?
Rüdiger Szak: The requirements are simply too diverse: For example, our customers have particular demands for the light quality, they want to realize curved surfaces or flooring that can be driven on for motor shows. That is why we have developed further light solutions over the years – for example those that are suitable for outdoor use, those that enable free-form shapes, those that can be engraved or a Lightpanel combined with translucent materials.
Lightpanel iso – for outdoor applications
Lightpanel iso was developed in 2011 by axis in cooperation with Okalux, Röhm and Osram and in 2013 it was awarded the prestigious gold iF DESIGN AWARD. Lightpanel iso is a seemingly transparent glass pane that turns into a colorful light wall at the push of a button. PLEXIGLAS® LED creates a uniform luminous surface that is protected by a layer of glass.
Lightgraphics are LED design elements made of transparent PLEXIGLAS® with uniformly illuminated, laser-engraved lines through which white or colored light shines. Lightgraphic offers a variety of application possibilities in architecture, interior or product design, for example as an illuminated panel for a wall covering or transparent, ceiling height room dividers.