Chinese Lighting Manufacturers at LDI 2010

For the last few years, we’ve seen a rise of the Chinese lighting manufacturers at the lighting conferences in the United States – not just LDI, but LightFair International, the National Association of Broadcasters show, and others.  You can always tell where they are and who they are because of the giant cluster of little mini-booths with a red “CHINA” sign above each one, like in the image above here.

I do not want this post to be misconstrued for what it is not – it’s mostly commentary on the blatant re-engineering of products made in other countries of the world and their display at LDI.  I am seriously trying to understand the way that the Chinese lighting manufacturer booths are interacting with the rest of the LDI lighting community as a whole.  Not all lighting manufacturing that comes out of China is a bad thing – as a matter of fact, there are certain aspects of it that revolutionize manufacturing and engineering on a worldwide level.

It is no secret that the Chinese lighting manufacturers are a large (nay, HUGE) player in the world.  They make products that are cheaper than many, many of their international competitors – and many people purchase these cheaper products because, well, they’re cheaper than any other product in many instances.  Unfortunately as well, the ability of the Chinese lighting manufacturers to undercut the market is severe.  Also, and again, unfortunately, some of the products aren’t as high in quality, either.

What really gets me is the blatant copying and re-engineering of products that the Chinese lighting manufacturers exhibit at LDI and other tradeshows.  Two good examples would be the copies of ETC’s Source Four fixtures and the blatant copies of the Martin Mac 2000 units.  Like these:

Doesn’t that look just like a Martin Mac 2000?

How about this ridiculously blatant product, the “Mario 3000?”  I mean, WTF:

I’m sorry, but that’s just offensive.  There are stories that float around the lighting world about tradeshows where people from the Chinese lighting manufacturer realm will “borrow” a product, take it back to their booths, measure and reverse engineer the product before returning it.  Now how on earth does that happen, and how is this acceptable to the lighting industries?

Another thing on my mind with the presence of the Chinese lighting manufacturers is the blatant lack of care in both their booths and attitudes towards people who want to come and talk to them about their products.  I posted this image a while ago, of LightFair International 2010, and one of the booths with people simply sitting and ignoring all of the passersby:

On one hand, as a journalist, it’s nearly impossible to even get photographs of the products at the tradeshows from the Chinese manufacturers because they generally chase photographers away from their booths – I have had this experience seven times now, the last being at LDI 2010 in Las Vegas.  Nothing persuades these manufacturers to let you photograph their wares, the least of all being showing them your press pass.  Why do you think this takes place?  At LDI 2010, one manufacturer in the row of Chinese manufacturers told me that there “was no reason to take pictures of my product.”

I don’t understand!

I snuck this photo of a 10kW moving yoke fixture, after which I was essentially chased away:

Here’s another I snapped of a green laser, placed on a box in the aisle, shooting right directly into the eyes of passersby walking past that specific Chinese manufacturer’s booth.  How on earth was this an acceptable placement of a laser?!  Notice the junk piled at the back of the booth, not to mention the laser itself.  I would assume that if a company wanted their products to appear to be worthy of purchase that they would at least outwardly portray a level of organization and success, right?

What are your thoughts on this subject?  Please post below in the comments!  I desperately want to get a hold of the industry’s opinion of this very widely discussed topic.

4 replies
  1. Ben
    Ben says:

    Great post. I was wondering the same thing myself at Lightfair and LDI this year. I think that the people running (and making the money off of) these conventions need to kick out vendors who are reverse-engineering (stealing) other company’s products. Unfortunately, I doubt that will ever happen.

  2. Joey
    Joey says:

    Martin has a manufacturing facility in China, so they are partially to blame for this. Anything that gets manufactured in China gets stolen and copied. That’s the price you pay for lower costs!

  3. Dan
    Dan says:

    The thing that doesn’t make any sense to me is that once it’s on the LDI show floor it’s public. Hence why they shouldn’t even be allowed to say “no pictures”. The same goes for the other manufacturers on the show floor. Business is business, but “borrowing” a fixture during neutral time like a trade show is entirely unacceptable. It’s one thing to take a picture of the outside of a fixture, much less to take it apart and then take pictures for nefarious purposes!

  4. John Weishaar
    John Weishaar says:

    This is something thats been plaguing the Lighting industry (all industries for that matter) for a while. Orr patent system isnt helping any either. It really shows how inefficient and powerless it can be.

    On the plus side, are they really selling these items? I work on the product design side and I’ve never seen these products in use in the states. It really erks me that I go out of my way to not knock-off a product even when clients/bosses insist. I dont want it done to me so I return the favor to other designers.

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