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Pacific Scientific Creates Fluorescent Bulb That Dims

October 04, 1994|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT BEACH — Pacific Scientific said Monday it has developed the first screw-in fluorescent light bulb that can be dimmed, making it a potential energy-saving substitute for incandescent lighting.

Edgar S. Brower, chairman of the electric products maker, told a group of Wall Street analysts in New York that the product could add $50 million to $100 million to his company's annual sales within two years.

Trading in Pacific Scientific's stock was heavy Monday, with 221,400 shares changing hands in New York Stock Exchange trading. That was almost 15 times the average daily number of shares. The stock closed at $29.50, up $1.875.

The company, based in Newport Beach, said its new Solium compact fluorescent bulbs will provide the usual features of fluorescent compared to incandescent lighting. They will last 13 times longer, he said, while using a fraction of the electricity.

But their big edge will be that they can be dimmed from the incandescent equivalent of 100 watts of light to only 20 watts, simply by twisting a blue band that surrounds each large bulb.

"No one else can do that," Brower said. "It's quite a breakthrough."

Terry MacGowan, manager of worldwide applications for GE Lighting, a division of General Electric Co., called Pacific Scientific's new bulb "a step in the right direction." Devices have been available since the 1950s to dim fluorescent lights, he said. But the equipment has been expensive and has never been developed for household use.

"We know the consumer wants that--they have told us--but it has been difficult to do," MacGowan said.

GE, he said, has been working on a similar idea that would dim a fluorescent with a separate attachment, rather than building the feature into the bulb.

The secret to the Solium light, Brower said, is a microchip that makes the dimming feature possible. He said he expects the light will be priced competitively with other screw-in fluorescents, which range from $5 to $20 each depending on size and shape. Manufacturing is expected to start by next spring, he said.

The light was developed by Pacific Scientific's Fisher Pierce division in Boston. Brower said he expects that the bulb components will be manufactured on the East Coast, then marketed by a major light-bulb manufacturer. Details are still being worked out, he said.

Pacific Scientific makes a variety of electrical products, ranging from the motors that power exercise treadmills to devices that switch on street lights automatically. It also makes fire suppression equipment for aircraft engines and cargo compartments as well as seat belts and restraints.

For the six months ended July 1, the company posted a profit of $3.9 million on sales of $77 million.

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