Q&A with a Custom Products Guru: When does a custom fixture make SENSE?


Custom products guru, Tony Speltz, answers three questions about when custom is the right choice and how to make it a success. A custom-designed fixture isn't for every job but it can make all the difference for some. 

Q:  Why would I choose to do a custom luminaire? 

A:  There are many reasons you might specify a custom luminaire instead of a standard (or modified standard) design. 

  • First and foremost is that most clients want their project to be unique. A unique luminaire design, potentially with special lighting effects, is a great addition to a stand-out space.

  • Sometimes the scale of the luminaire needed may also drive you to a custom solution.Most standard luminaire offerings do not include options for large or small variations so you may be forced to consider a custom design to achieve the proper scale for the space.

  • With the continuing development of LED technology, we are seeing more luminaires that require special features, including RGB, RGBW, Tunable White, or a combination of these. Often, lighting controls become necessary in order to create special effects and meet ever more stringent energy codes.

  • And finally, for large projects which incorporate many luminaires types, you may want a unity of design to tie the entire space together.


Q:  Are Custom luminaires always more expensive? Why?

A:  Cost depends on many factors including the design, functionality, materials, finishes and the quantities needed. Let’s just be honest: not all projects have a budget for custom lighting. But when you have a client who aspires to creating that unique look or experience, the budget may be there for you.

  • Materials alone can greatly affect costs.Real bronze is much more expensive than aluminum with a tinted bronze finish and brushed stainless steel is more expensive than brushed aluminum.Many times, when projects encounter issues with budget over runs, we can offer alternate materials with finishes to simulate other materials.

  • If special tooling like glass molds, die castings, extrusions, or spinnings are required, the tooling cost is less burdensome if amortized over a larger number of fixtures. The same goes for UL testing and certification costs, which all must be absorbed by the total fixture budget.

  • Technology requirements can also play a big part in the cost of your custom luminaire.Changing from static white to RGBW can substantially increase the costs.

Don’t lose heart! If you are open to compromise during the budgeting of your custom projects, very often you CAN achieve that unique custom design and fit your budget. 


Q:  What sort of leadtime should I expect for a custom luminaire? 

A:  Typically, design and engineering will require two to three weeks.  Depending on the specific design, you should normally allow at least twelve weeks for production.  This production timeframe takes into account any special tooling for parts, manufacturing engineering to produce the luminaire, and any testing required.  Custom fixtures will most likely also require certification testing by UL or an equivalent agency.  Here is a good example of a schedule for a custom luminaire: 

  • 2 – 4 weeks for shop drawings and approval from the manufacturer (after the order is placed)

  • 2 - 6 weeks for approvals by your project teams and any resubmissions, if necessary

  • 12 -16 weeks for manufacturing and shipping of your custom luminaire after all approvals

Depending on the project complexity, these timelines may change but they are a good baseline.  More complex projects may require other deliverables such as finish samples, detailed part samples and mock-ups which will extend the overall lead times.  

Moral to the story:

If you work with your custom luminaire manufacturer and plan ahead, you can end up with a custom luminaire that will dazzle your customer while meeting budget and project timelines. 

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