ARC Flashlight FAQs
The Arc LED flashlight product line is made by MTD LLC in Phoenix Arizona. The first product to be offered is the improved Arc-AAA. This is based on the previous Arc-AAA made by the now defunct Arc Flashlight LLC company. The same designer of the light, Peter Gransee, now works for MTD as their product designer. Previous Arc flashlight designs have won several awards and this is a practice we hope to continue.
This is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) reference for anything pertaining to MTD’s Arc LED flashlights. If you are a new owner of an Arc product, we recommend that you read this FAQ to get full use out of your flashlight.
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What is it?
The Arc-AAA is a small, keychain sized LED flashlight designed for Every Day Carry (EDC). It is powered by a single AAA cell.
The Arc-AAA is available in two grades: Standard and Premium. Both grades use a hand selected white LED but the Premium produces more light. Please note that the Arc-AAA is smaller than it may appear. The actual diameter is less than an AA cell and about 1/2 inch longer.
What to expect when ordering the Arc-AAA.
The Arc-AAA use a 5mm Nichia LED part number NSPW500BS/CS. Like all good LEDs, Nichia bins these LEDs by tint and flux. The Standard Arc-AAA uses S flux and B2 or B3 tint. The Premium Arc-AAA uses a U or V flux with a B2 or B1 tint. The difference between the Standard and Premium is the Premium is brighter. All white LEDs tend to have a blue center and the Nichias are no exception. Here’s a picture of the beam.
When white LEDs first became available, manufacturers were estimating a lifespan of 100,000 hours. However, as LEDs have gone into widespread service, those estimates have been reduced to 8000-10,000 hours in some cases. Not every flashlight manufacturer has updated their literature to show these new estimates however.
LEDs have various failure modes; they can suddenly go dark, start flashing, shift in color or most often, just fade slowly over time. How the LED is used in the application influences how long it lasts. Compared to some applications that run the LED continuously for long period of time, flashlights do have the advantage of being used for less time per use. They also tend to have smaller clusters that operate at cooler temperatures.
For the Arc-AAA, we use the latest Nichia 500 series. These have some of the best longevity in the industry. We figure that most users will get over 10k hours of usage. If the light was used for 15 minutes a day, every day of the year, this would equate to over 100 years of usage. The average flashlight usage is less than 5 minutes per task. We feel that the LED will last long enough that it can be sealed in the unit. This makes the overall flashlight more durable, simpler in construction and less likely to fail. If the LED does ever fail, we will replace the unit under warranty. Owners of our lights should be at ease using the light for as long as they want (leave it running for several days if you want), knowing that their light has one of the most durable LEDs on the market and it is backed up a lifetime warranty.
What is the LE?
The Limited Edition (LE) is an early designation for the Premium Arc-AAA. Starting in 2003, Arc changed the designation of the LE to Premium Edition. Except for the inscription, the flashlights are identical in finish and LED.
For the Arc-AAA, we recommend you use the least expensive alkaline cell you can find that does not leak. We use and recommend Duracell brand for our lights. We recommend you check and change the cell from time to time to prevent the cell from leaking and damaging the Arc-AAA. Premium batteries will provide a longer run time but are not worth the extra cost in our opinion. The 5 hour run time estimate for the Arc-AAA is based on continuous use with a fresh Duracell Alkaline.
Rechargeable cells will work in the Arc-AAA and produce a slightly dimmer output. The self discharge common to NiCad and NiMH cells may cause the flashlight to not be ready if left unused for an extended period of time. Because an alkaline will last for several month of normal use, we recommend an alkaline cell over a rechargeable.
Cold Weather Performance of Batteries
Over the years, we have accumulated some experience with various chemistries in cold weather use. The quick answer to cold weather use is Lithium’s are better at handling the cold than Alkaline, Rechargeables, etc.
With Alkaline, anything below about 40 degrees Fahrenheit could cause the light not to turn on or only dimly. Since all of our lights are designed for personal use, they typically are carried in a warm pocket. This will help with cold weather use. If the light is not carried in your pocket and it won't start because the battery is too cold, remove the cell and warm it up in your hands. Once the cell is warm enough to start the voltage converter, it can be exposed to colder temperatures. This because the converter can operate at a lower voltage once it initially starts and also the light and battery produce a small amount of heat in operation. The Arc voltage converters have a lower startup voltage requirement than most of our competitors. So for given battery and temperature, the Arc is more likely to make it work.
Lithium’s can operate at 30-40 below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Startup and rundown performance is excellent.
We conservatively estimate the run time with a good cell at around 5 hours. Although, your results may vary and many users report run times of over 6 hours. Every Arc model will continue to produce light after their rated run time but at less than 50% brightness. The Arc-AAA for example will still be producing a diminished output after 12 hours of use. With typical usage each cell will last several months. The Arc-AAA will produce a longer total run time than 5 hours if used intermittently.
The Arc-AAA includes an electronic regulator circuit that helps maintain a more consistent output during the life of a battery. Compare this to conventional flashlights that more noticeably dim as the battery is depleted. The regulator in the Arc-AAA is a very compact design optimized for "partial" regulation. Please see further down in this FAQ for a more detailed description of regulation.
Basically, "Sun" mode is the bright operation of the flashlight and "moon" mode is the dim light produced by the light when the battery is nearly dead. When stating run time for our lights, we list the "sun" mode length for a given battery type. The Arc-AAA is capable of producing about 5 hours of sun mode.
With only 40% of the remaining capacity left in the AAA battery, the Arc-AAA will still be producing about 80% of its original brightness.
The transition from sun to moon is fairly smooth on the Arc-AAA with most battery chemistries and you may not notice it very easily. With alkaline cells, it is not an abrupt change. Here’s a graph showing a worse case runtime from a fresh Duracell:
Links to Reviews (more to come)
The LED Museum (Premium Arc-AAA review)
Here's a video showing the difference in efficiency between the Arc-AAA and the Mag Solitaire.
Arc efficiency demonstration (".wmv" 818kb)
Notice the battery is the same in both cases. There are many differences between these two lights. The reason the Arc is brighter is that is uses a LED and other "new" technologies.
The Arc-AAA is now shipping with a pocket clip and a split ring.
See the DIY Arc-AAA Maintenance page on how to maintain all the various parts of the Arc-AAA.
Thickness of Lanyard Lug wall
From time to time, we have people ask us if the lanyard hole on the back of the flashlight has too thin of an outer wall. They are worried that it will break or wear through in time. The hole is designed to be that distance from the rear surface and with that thin of a lip for two reasons. One is to provide enough internal room for the rivet and the other is to reduce scratches when installing the split ring. It also reduces the chance the split ring will be bent out of shape during installation.
Update: An engineering friend did a finite element analysis simulation on the lug and it indicated a max pressure from a split ring type load of 38.5lbs with no failure. Of course, a typical split ring will unravel before that type of load was reached but some people may find this information useful.
Why isn't there a glass or plastic lens over the front of the Arc-AAA?
The LED has an integral lens. By recessing the LED inside the reflector, we protect it from most types of damage without the problems of a separate lens (scratches, breakage, less brightness).
There are several user modifications of the Arc-AAA.
So far, I have seen mods including:
N-cell version LS versions brass bodies double ended version C, D cell candles
Not all of the version history of the Arc-AAA is remembered. Arc has upgraded this light many times in the past 4+ years.
1.0 First offered in May of 2001. Had gasket instead of o-ring. Type II finish.
1.? Switched to O-ring which made the units waterproof
2.5 Switched to Type III anodize
3.0 Added chem. Kote
3.1 Added roll crimp to increase reliability
3.2 Change circuit design and layout to slightly increase output
3.3 Changed inscription to "Arc" only, circuit to fix regulator stalls
4.0 new tapered head, SS rivet, CS LED, brighter laser marking, new production line, new PCB layout
How do White LEDs work?
White LEDs work differently than the other colors because current white LEDs actually use a blue LED with a phosphor cap to produce white light. The phosphor converts some of the blue light into red/green which mixes with the blue to produce a white light. Getting this mix is a black art for the LED manufactures and there is currently quite a bit of variation from LED to LED. This also explains why a white LED has a blue cast to it.
LED Bin Codes Explained
In the manufacturing of semiconductor products, there is a variation of performance around the average values given in the technical data sheets. In LEDs, the variation is even greater than traditional CMOS found in your computer.
Like snowflakes, no two LEDs are alike. There are variations in color (tint), brightness (flux), forward voltage (Vf) and beam distribution/artifacts. Most LED manufacturers sort their LED by machine into bins. Each bin has a rank or window of values that all the parts in that bin fit within. In spite of the fact that only some of the variables are binned and the bins are fairly wide there can be quite a few bins. For the Luxeon Star, there are over 400 bin variations. A typical flux bin (Q for example) can have a 10 lumen window which means there will be an appreciable difference between parts even in the same bin.
From one extreme to another, a typical LED from the same production line can have a 300% variation in one value alone.
In some flashlights, regulation is used to provide a more consistent output. This feature typically appears in more expensive flashlights because it requires either an electronic circuit or some other type of regulator system.
A typical flashlight (without regulation) starts dimming as soon as you turn it on. This is because the battery voltage drops as it is drained. After 15 minutes or so, a typical light could be as much as 1/2 the brightness as when it was first turned on. The rate of dimming varies with battery type, flashlight design, etc. LEDs are even more prone to dimming compared to incandescent (bulbs) when used in high brightness designs. This is because incandescent bulbs have a slight self-regulating effect.
Some manufacturers advertise their LED flashlights with incredible claims like, "over 50 hours of run time!", etc. Yes, these lights will produce light for over 50 hours but the light will be quite dim at that point. Didn't you buy that light to be as bright as when you bought it at the store?
Regulators cause the light to maintain a consistently bright output, even as the battery becomes depleted. As a result, regulated lights have a shorter advertised run time but the run time is more realistic for what you buy a light for.
Another advantage to regulated lights is that is makes it easier to use your batteries up completely. Non-regulated lights may be begging you to change out the batteries when there is still 50% power left.
There are several types of regulation. 3 types in particular are voltage current and power regulation. The Arc-AAA is partially current regulated.
There are many threads in the Arc forum on the CPF about regulation. Use the search function of the forum to find relevant topics.
A "step-up" is an electronic circuit that multiplies the battery voltage to a level sufficient to brightly power the LED. Including a step-up in a flashlight allows the designer to use fewer cells, thereby making the light easier to carry.
A lot of simple LED flashlights just have three cells and a resistor to run the LED. The manufacturers tout these as "high tech", etc. Sometimes, they make the light small but cheap by using hard to find batteries that have higher voltages. However, these odd batteries usually provide poor "bang for the buck" and also are hard to find in an emergency.
Using a "step-up" allows the light to be made small enough to carry but not require unusual batteries. Step-ups are known as, "DC-DC Power Converters" by those in the electronic trade. Within the converter family, their are various topologies available. The Arc using a switching boost topology.
Sometimes a regulator is included with the step-up to provide a compact and consistent system.
Arc flashlights are compatible with various battery chemistries including:
Each cell has advantages and disadvantages. You may want to search the CPF forum for user experiences with various chemistries. With the Arc-AAA, we recommend alkaline cells.
Every Arc flashlight is coated with Type III Hard Anodize. This HA finish is the hardest of all anodize types. It is substantially more scratch resistant than the softer type II anodize use on cheaper lights. Furthermore, we use the hardest version of type III, which is the clear (no coloring added) version. This is sometimes called “Natural” or “Clear” and has a grey color.
The following are general safety guidelines when operating an Arc Flashlight:
Peter Gransee picked the name, “Arc” because the first time he saw a white LED it reminded him of the color of an arc welder. Peter started the original Arc Flashlight LLC Company in May of 2001. That company was closed in 2004. The MTD Company is based in Phoenix, Arizona USA. It was started in March of 2005 by Peter and Merri Gransee and an investor group.
Where to buy
You may buy factory direct from our website. We accept credit cards and paypal. International customers may have a dealer in their country. Please check our website for a current list of importers.
If purchased factory direct, Arc will ship your light via FedEx. Regular shipping to US addresses is $6. Please check our site for shipping costs to other locations. Yes, we ship internationally.
Why do we only use Fedex, have we every heard of the USPS? Yes, we have tried USPS, UPS, Airborne, DHL, Bax, etc. All these other options ultimately made the product more expensive because they lost quite a few shipments. Claims were drawn out or not paid, etc. Yes, we are quite happy with FedEx. Thank you. If you want a more detailed explanation, feel free to call me.
All of our flashlights are covered under our Limited Lifetime repair/replacement warranty against manufacturer’s defects. It also has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. We encourage you to check your Arc thoroughly within this 30-day period to make sure you absolutely love everything about this light. If you need repair/replacement or have any questions:
Mega Tech Devices, LLC.
The Arc-AAA/Arc-AA was completely designed by Peter Gransee of Tempe, Arizona. All Arcs are made in the USA. This includes the machined housing, coatings, PCB, PCB assembly, rubber components, split ring, clip, packaging, laser marking, final assembly, etc. Only the LED and some of the discrete electronic components in the head are made overseas.
We hope you get many years of faithful service from our lights!
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