Kessil Lighting - A look inside the company behind the Kessil LED A150

Discussion in 'LED Aquarium Lighting' started by Matt Rogers, Jun 13, 2011.

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  1. Matt Rogers

    Matt Rogers Kingfish

    Dec 31, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    Few aquarium LED lamps can match the current buzz of the Kessil A150 LED aquarium lamp. On the surface, a lot of it is due to rave reviews from the select individual hobbyists and local fish stores that have been testing the Kessil A150 over their aquariums. But dig a little deeper and a bigger story is the company behind the name. Kessil Lighting is a brand under the DiCon Lighting division of DiCon Fiberoptics Inc. The massive 200,000 square foot headquarters of DiCon Fiberoptics is located in Richmond, California and this 3reefer recently got a look inside.

    DiCon Fiberoptics Inc.

    Founded in 1986, DiCon is “a recognized industry innovator in thin-film coating, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), micro-optic design, fused fibers and advanced packaging.” They have expertise in mechanical, thermal, optical and electrical components for markets such as optical communications, bio/medical and the military.

    All of the research and development for Kessil Lighting occurs at the DiCon Fiberoptic headquarters. What is so unique about Kessil is that nearly every single component of the A150 LED lamp is designed and developed there with the only exception being the power supply. Quite incredible when you think of all the re-branded LED lamps out there with parts from whom knows where. The volume of their manufacturing is done at a 88,000 square foot facility in Taiwan. This facility is a 100% subsidiary meaning Kessil/DiCon have 100% control of everything going on there. It is ISO-9001 certified. The DiCon headquarters is AS-9100 and ISO-9001 certified.

    I was actually a bit intimidated approaching DiCon. The building is so large and on a sprawling 16 acre campus. Clearing security, my nerves were quickly put at ease when David Lowry, the affable Kessil PR man, came down to greet me. I met David at BAYMAC and he is the right guy for his job. He can not only boil down the mechanics behind the Kessil A150 for us aquarium guys - he is an aquarium guy - with a 29 gallon BioCube reef tank at home. His latest tank pics are ready to show off on his phone and it’s a nice tank!

    Right away the tour started as David pointed out some of the history of the Kessil A150 still at work in the lobby. There were long fiber-optic neon tubes adorning the trim of the large stairway. The sheer length of the tubes made me think there was something powerful driving them. I was surprised to find out from David that the small hardware driving it shared the same heart as the Kessil A150 aquarium Lamp. Cranking out the neon was a Kessil FL2100 FiberLamp, the genesis of the A150 designed for decorative lighting on pools, hotels and some fancy homes.

    FL2100 FiberLamp shares the same dense matrix LED as the A150



    The Fiberlamp and the A150 share the same dense matrix multi-chip LED. Right away I thought the A150 must crank too. However the FiberLamp sports one serious controller. Not only can it cycle through every color under the sun and dim - it is programmable via a computer. The FiberLamp also has active cooling. These features do not come cheap as the FiberLamp retails for $850. In my opinion, Kessil made a smart move foregoing all of that to keep the price of the A150 within reach of the average aquarist. Keep the guts, have quiet passive cooling and have the price at a third of the FiberLamp.


    From the lobby David and I went through the first of many long - very long - hallways to check out some of the labs. I’ve never seen longer hallways in my life. You really get a sense of the scale of a 200,000 square foot building walking through those. Good thing they are a fiber optics company so one could communicate around there!

    Generation I (The Prototype)



    Now the labs. Intense. I was not allowed to take photos at many of them as they were R&D labs but let me try to describe… there were people in white lab suits with masks hard at work and serious hardware everywhere. This was stuff from movies. Some of the labs I could go in but others were look through the window only. I had no idea what I was looking at half the time but David pointed out some ‘hot of the press’ multi-chip LED wafers. They were paper-thin and a bit faded at the edges. Each chip was an LED at a particular wavelength/spectrum. Cool. In another lab I was shown the completed dense matrix LED mounted on a board. In yet another I peered through a strong microscope and got a sense of the architecture going on an incredibly small scale. The same lab had a hardware tester going through its odd billionth cycle. It had been going since 1996 I think it was. Somebody cares about quality control here.

    Ultimate DIY - The machine shop at DiCon Fiberoptics

    Although pictures were not allowed in the R&D labs, I was able to snap one of DiCon’s massive machine shop. I was drooling. You could DIY anything from this shop from any material. I saw metal I-bars, plastics, wood… you name it. I was imagining some engineer at DiCon scribbling an idea on a napkin, showing it to a co-worker, then running off the machine shop to fabricate it the same day. You gotta love that.

    Kessil developed their 150 series of LED lamps with horticulture and aquariums in mind. They cut their teeth with horticulture first with their H150’s and with great success. It showed in the lab I saw. The test plants were so green I thought they were fake. David handed me a basil leaf and I was stunned by the fragrance from it. Rubbing it between my fingers the smell was incredibly strong. I was starting to think David was Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka. Surreal.

    H150 Test Lab


    As does the A150, the H150 LED lamps come in a variety of color temps. Within the horticulture test ‘tents’ - plants were spaced with some directly under a lamp of one temp and others in between and under a lamp of another temp so they could determine the affects of different spectrums on growth rate, etc.


    There was an engineer on a computer nearby recording it all.



    The Kessil A150 LED Aquarium Lamp

    From the labs, David and I went to a conference room to discuss the Kessil A150 aquarium lamp. What follows are some of what he covered in our conversation with more details added from a talk he gave at the Bay Area Reefers meeting recently.

    The Kessil A150 is vertically intregrated - meaning that all components in the A150 - EVERTHING - except the power supply is designed and developed by Kessil. One of the advantages is that they can tune in all components to work most efficiently for maximum life of the lamp. For example it has well-designed driver circuits that convert electricity to light more effectively and use less energy.

    Kessil Dense Matrix LED

    • Multi-chips (21) under 1 large glass lens
    • Metalized bonding process
    • Patented multi-layer metal carrier - dissipates heat quickly

    High Brightness LED Chips

    • Patented photon extraction methods
    • Proprietary chip manufacturing processes
    • available in non-standard wavelengths

    High Density Arrangement

    • Available in 4,9,14,21,23 and 50 arrays (21 on A150)
    • High density R.Y.G.B. UV and phosphor white
    • Multi-channels for variable colors

    Thermal Management

    • Specialized metal bonding
    • multi-layer metal circuit board (MCB) that conduct both electricity and heat (patent)

    Metal and glass prolongs life and efficiency.

    Better thermal management than others -

    • Many other LEDs use epoxy lens that turn yellow and degrade reducing light by 20%
    • Many other LEDs use epoxy carriers that limit reliabilty
    • Impacts LED efficiency and lifetime
    • High temp will degrade light output and shorten LED lifetime

    In addition to 1 glass lens, the A150 has a single reflector to focus the light intensely over a confined area. Traditional individual LEDs in a fixture spread light quickly.


    The A150 has a 12” - 24” coverage area.
    Coverage not determined by end of light, but end of useable, intense light.

    The A150 can get good growth from SPS as deep as 18”.


    • 6” - 9” above water for average 24” deep tank
    • 10” - 12” for shallow tanks

    Available color temps

    • 3000k
    • 6700k Amazon Sun
    • 10000k Sky Blue
    • 15000k Ocean Blue
    • 20000k Deep Ocean

    The A150 LED contains UV, Blue and White.
    15% UV in the A150.
    No red - lowered white to compensate. Tested with red - even 1 red chip was noticeable and came out orangey

    The A150 is equivalent to a 150 halide in growth rate.

    The driver is 32 watts. 34-36 watts total consumption.

    High Quality

    • Sealed lens so you don’t have to worry about dust / maintenance
    • Military grade coating on components to protect from humidity
    • 2 year guarantee - twice industry standard - exchange if issue
    • 7 year lifetime estimate based on ‘reef time’ of 12 hour days. (30,000 hours total)

    Tester Feedback

    • The Kessil A150 was tested for over a year by a network of select hobbyists and fish stores.
    • Kessil changed external lens to glass based on feedback. Pre-production lens was harder to clean and would warp over time from touch EDIT (warping was only caused by damage, the glass was less prone to this).
    • Kessil also made an adapter for goose-neck mount to hold future lamps as well.


    • First batch of 300 sold out.
    • Next batch available end of June, early July. There will be 3000 this time.
    • Will be distributed by some major online retailers and some fish stores.

    As a halide/T5 guy, I’ve been a bit cynical of the LED hysteria in our aquarium hobby. The Kessil A150 LED lamp might be the big persuader. Kessil addresses many of my fears with tested components built in-house, a company that will be here tomorrow and great feedback by fellow hobbyists. With the experience, expertise and resources of DiCon behind it, Kessil is poised to make big waves fast with a high-quality, affordable LED lamp that appears to actually work as intended. If you can get your hands on one.


    Kessil Lighting- The Spectral Revolution
    DiCon Fiberoptics ~ Directing light with MEMS Technology
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2011
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  3. homegrowncorals

    homegrowncorals Ribbon Eel

    May 31, 2008
    north carolina..obx
    WoW...... that looks like one cool place to tour.
  4. BoBo65

    BoBo65 Torch Coral

    Sep 10, 2010
    Las Vegas,NV
    wow that seems like an amazing place to tour!!!!

    Thanks for all the info, that was cool to read :D
  5. Seano Hermano

    Seano Hermano Giant Squid

    Apr 7, 2010
    Northwest Ohio
    Boy I bet you had a plot of fun looking around there!

    You can bet I'll be getting these lights for my reef! :D
  6. Seano Hermano

    Seano Hermano Giant Squid

    Apr 7, 2010
    Northwest Ohio
    Great writeup btw Matt.
  7. gcarroll

    gcarroll Zoanthid

    Sep 30, 2010
    Anaheim Hills, CA
    Now that is a real company. To think, they actually make what they sell right here in the US. Definitely a rarety in our hobby when it comes to lighting. Big ups to Kessil.
  8. Click Here!

  9. thepanfish

    thepanfish Flying Squid

    Jan 1, 2010
    +1 to that! And their website idn't full of marketing jargon!
  10. rc_mcwaters3

    rc_mcwaters3 Clown Trigger

    Dec 18, 2010
    Valdosta, Ga
    looks great ;D

    what will they retail for?
  11. Tadpole1mill

    Tadpole1mill Purple Spiny Lobster

    Mar 29, 2009

    i was dying of curiousity when you mentioned a kessil surprise coming soon :p

    Great write up! This just further confirmed the vibe i got from speaking to them and my research they look like a great company.

    Can't wait to get my hands on one -.- been trying for a few months now, once they take off with mroe distribution i'm sure it'll be a huge hit, the msrp is very affordable can't wait to see more on this light.
  12. Gresham

    Gresham Great Blue Whale

    Nov 7, 2002
    SF/Monterey Bay Area, CA