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Category Archives: Technology

10 reasons LED displays aren’t created equal

LED displays (aka Electronic Message Centres), have been described as “the future of signage” and are continually being adopted by many businesses and organizations, both indoors, and out. But when you begin your search for your own you may discover that the price can vary drastically for what appears to be the same thing. You may even see two different LED displays demonstrated and both pictures look exactly the same, but the price difference is 300%! What is going on here? This post will give you a very brief overview of why that is, and how all LED displays aren’t created equal.

 


1. SMD vs DIP LEDS

LED displays generally have two different kinds of LEDs. Surface mounted device and dual in-line pin are the two different ways to package LED chips. SMD is a newer technology and is now about the same price as DIP. It provides a greater viewing angle, higher resolution (as they can be made smaller so you can fit more LEDs into your display), and depending on the manufacturer may not be as good outdoors. DIP LEDs generally can’t go smaller than 10mm pitch because each pixel is made up of 3 separate LEDs (1R1G1B).  DIP have been around for a lot longer and are seen as very reliable and bright, and have a smaller viewing angle due to the lens of the LED packaging being much sharper than an SMD LED.

 


2. LED chips

There are many different brands of LED chips, Osram, Cree, Epistar, Nichia, Philips, Silan, and Sanan to name a few of the most popular. Chips are made all over the world with the main manufacturers in the US, China, and Japan. The LED chips are the actual light emitting diode(s) itself and the quality of the chip will affect such things as: color uniformity, brightness loss over time, brightness capacity, stability, and viewing angle. Drastic differences in price of an LED display can come down to what brand of chips are being used.

 


3. LED packaging (encapsulation)

How the LED chip is packaged affects the quality of light that comes from the LED, the viewing angle, the weather resistance, the level of heat transfer and other factors. Is it packaged with silicone which helps with heat transfer leading to longer life span, or is it epoxy which doesn’t transfer heat as well? Is it creating white light via a blue LED chip with a yellow phosphor coating, or is it utilising 3 LED chips (red, blue, and green) to do so? The quality of each of the components used to construct the LED will determine how long your LEDs will last, and the quality of the light being emitted. You may even find some suppliers boasting about the LED chips they use, but the LED packaging may be substandard so this chip won’t be properly housed and thus you won’t get the quality and longevity expected from the LED chip. As you can see from the diagram below of an SMD LED, the packaging is multi layered and each of these layers can be made from different quality materials. Also, the quality of the process in which the LED is put together is vitally important. It’s just like building a house, you might have the best quality materials, but if  you cut corners in construction, over time this will show in a leaky roof, or other problems.

   

 


4. Warranty

How long you are protected from things going wrong with your LED display is vitally important. Even amidst prices dropping significantly in recent years, LED displays are still quite an investment. Electronics tend to have higher error rates at the start and end of their lifecycle, so quality LED display manufacturers will “age” their displays before selling them allowing errors to happen so they can be remedied. Having a 1 year warranty on your LED display is not enough, and you should require a minimum of 2 years for parts AND labour. After the 2 year mark the rate of problems has flattened and you are generally only susceptible to spontaneous random problems that can still happen with electronics today (like when your smart phone or internet browser freezes and you have to reboot). How long a warranty is will affect the price of the LED display.

 

 


5. Pixel Pitch

Pixel pitch is the distance between each pixel in millimetres. The lower the pitch, the higher the resolution/definition (more LEDs are being crammed into the same area). Are people willing to pay more for an ultra HD 4K TV than a standard high definition TV? Yes. However, because the viewing distances can vary greatly with outdoor LED displays it isn’t completely comparable to TV definitions where the viewing distance is pretty much always less than 30 feet. From 100 feet away an ultra HD 4K TV and an HD TV would look exactly the same to the human eye. For a large billboard sign beside a highway, you would be throwing money away if you got a pixel pitch less than 10mm as no one would be able to tell the difference who is driving by. However, if you have a sign outside your church and people walk right by it, then you could go lower than P10 and that would still be worthwhile. So obviously this will be a big factor in the price of an LED display, if one business is giving you a quote for P16 this will be a lot cheaper than another business which is offering you a higher resolution screen of P10.

 

 


6. Software and Connectivity

Different electronic message centres will use different software to control the displays. Not all software is created equal and you will want to ensure that what you want to do with your new LED display can actually be done with the software provided for the sign. Also, if you want to connect wirelessly to your sign from your building, or home for that matter, you will want to make sure the sign has this capability before purchasing it. As technology is continually reaching new frontiers, more and more capabilities are being built into LED displays and the software accompanying them.

 

 


7. Loss of brightness over time (attenuation)

Loss of brightness (lumens) over time for LEDS is directly related to the temperatures they are consistently exposed to. The ability of an LED to dissipate heat comes down to chip quality, phosphor, and whether or not the heat is able to be released smoothly through the pins and packaging. Also if driving current is greater than the rated value the LEDs will be running on overdrive and heating up more than they are made for which will result in an increased rate of attenuation. Knowing that your LEDs are going to last for years and will still be able to be viewed in bright sunlight is crucial to the effectiveness of your sign. This rate of attenuation is affected by quality of the LED and it’s component, the way the sign is built and protected from weather, and it’s ability to remain cool as heat is the greatest factor in attenuation rates.

 

 


8. Brightness

Different LEDs are designed to be able to emit differing levels of brightness. If you are going to have an outdoor LED display that faces direct sunlight you will want it to have a brightness of over 6000nits. For indoor you only need around 1000nits (up to 2500nits if indoor and still in direct sunlight). For outdoor signage where ambient light is continually changing, you will need to have a light sensor that will auto dim your screen according to the current brightness of the environment so that your LED screen isn’t blinding passersby because it is still displaying maximum brightness even though it is the middle of the night! One thing to be aware of is that with LEDs that aren’t rated for high brightness, you can still reach extreme brightness levels by increasing the power to the LED, this will work fine in the short term but will lead to them losing their brightness rapidly over time as they aren’t designed to operate at that level.

 


9. Contrast

Brightness isn’t everything. The sun’s brightness when viewed directly is around 60,000nits, if you had a completely reflective sign, then no matter how high you managed to get your LEDs nits, it would still be overpowered by the sun. So reducing reflectivity of LED displays is important so that the contrast ratio is suitable. Contrast ratio is the ratio of white to black. The higher the contrast ratio the more readable the content of the display, just like reading white letters on a black background is easier to read than grey letters on a black background. In the below image you can see that the display on the right has a higher contrast ratio (the difference between the darkest black and the whitest white is greater) leading to a crisper image, even though both screens are still just as “bright”. The implications of a good contrast ratio are significant, as it means you can run your LEDs at a lower brightness and get the same readability which will reduce the heat of the LEDs leading to increased longevity and power savings!

 


10. Cooling

Considering that heat is the main contributor to the degradation of LEDS and their level of brightness, the ability for the sign to remain cool is very important. There are many different ways to cool the sign, from simply having vents in the LED display cabinet, to having fans that cool the display, to air conditioning untis inside the cabinet, to having higher quality components in the LED itself and the PCB to help with heat transfer. A sign that has air conditioning units compared to one that just has some simple fans (pictured below) is going to be a lot more expensive!


 

Now you have a glimpse into the world of LED displays and how these aren’t simple products that are easily comparable. Make sure you talk to someone who knows the ins and outs of LED displays when you decide to step into the future of signage with your very own Electronic Message Centre.

 

Click here to see photos and videos of some of our Electronic Message Centres.

 

 

Jordan Taylor

905 802 5741

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LED vs Fluorescent: What’s the difference?

Times are changing in the sign industry. Not so long ago, fluorescent lighting was a business owner’s only option. Today, with continuing technological advances in the LED (Light Emitting Diode) industry worldwide, prices are continuing to fall.

When you think of LEDs, the first thing you may think of is energy efficiency, but there are more to LEDs than just better energy use. Check out the table below as to why LEDs should be your only choice for your on-site signage.

As you can see, there are more cost savings than just energy efficiency, maintenance issues are a huge factor. Next time you are driving past businesses in the early morning or at night (especially along a highway) have a look at the illuminated signs – a lot of them will have dark spots. Generally, this is failing fluorescent lamps that the busy business owner isn’t getting around to fixing. Bad move. This sign is supposed to represent your quality business! Even though we are told to not “judge a book by its cover,” people do it all the time, without even realising it.

Marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, why? Because it works. Affecting people’s perception of something is powerful. So what do people think (and more importantly, feel) about your business by glancing at your sign? Is it time for an LED retrofit?

Jones Neon regularly retrofits and installs signs with LEDs. Contact us today for a free quote for upgrading your sign (and brand) by implementing LED illumination technology.

 

Jordan Taylor

905 802 5741

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LED vs neon. What’s the trend in the sign industry?

Chemistry. Not the first word that comes to mind when you think of lighting, but it was, in fact, two chemists that discovered neon gas in 1898 which led to a French engineer sending this gas through electrified glass tubes in 1902 birthing neon light! Just over 100 years later, the use of neon for lighting is fading rapidly. After being a technological advancement in its day, which led to the relegation of incandescent bulbs as the favourite of sign makers all across America, now advances in LED technology are seeing neon lighting becoming a relic, a vestige of a different era.

This last decade has seen rapid changes in the lighting industry. In America in 2007 signs illuminated by neon was 33%, and 23% by LEDs (survey by Signs of the Times magazine). But by 2010, just three years later, LEDs were lighting 40% of the signs, whereas neon had dropped to only 18%. Nowadays we even have such things as “Neon Museums” which shows how iconic neon signs have been over the years, but it also reveals that neon is truly becoming a thing of the past.

Some proponents of neon lighting draw attention to how neon gives off a unique warm glow and that this cannot be imitated by newer technologies. However, with continuing advances in LED technology, you can now get LEDs to give off pretty much any colour in any kind of way. There is much greater versatility with LEDs than with neon and this will be even more so in the days ahead.

Jones Neon Displays Ltd has been around for over seven decades and has continually adapted to the advances in the sign industry to best meet our customers’ ever-changing needs. Give us a call today if you have any questions, whether they are about neon, fluorescent, or LED lit signs; we are here to help you make informed signage decisions.

 

Jordan Taylor

905 802 5741

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