Signs are designed to capture attention and therefore it comes as no surprise that illuminated signs and signage tend to be more effective than non illuminated signs. We all respond to bright lights and colour after all.
Ways of providing illumination for signage have always mirrored evolving technology. Fluorescent signs were first introduced in 1923 and soon neon signs – neon is the gas used in the fluroescent tube – became the ‘must have’ for every retailer on the High Street.
The next big breakthough came with the advent of electronic solid state devices. The first LEDs (light emitting diode) were produced in the 1960s but it has only been relatively recently that technical developments in brightness and colour availability have made LED illumination the technology of choice for use with signage.
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How LED illumination works
Light emitting diodes are just that, semiconductor diodes that emit light. They do so by emitting photons when an electric current is applied across the semiconductor junction. Fortunately they require less power to produce light in this way than say a fluorescent tube does. Different colours are produced either by using different semiconductor materials which emit photons of differing wavelengths or by combining the light from multiple LEDs to produce the required colour.
Advantages of LED illumination
Energy efficiency – LED illumination is more energy efficient that lighting from other power sources. Typically an LED powered device will consume only a third of the energy required by more traditional lighting methods. That of course also means only a third the amount of CO2 is produced.
Durability – LED power cells are normally rated for continuous use for up 100,000 hours. Not only does this provide cost savings in terms of replacement costs, it also delivers savings in reduced servicing time.
Low heat output – LEDs produce light while producing very little heat. Not only does this contribute to their energy efficiency, it also means they are safe to use in public access areas without costly screening.
Colour and brightness – A wide range of colours are now available from LED sources, and by using suitable mixing schemes, almost any colour can now be matched. Colour and brightness used to be a limiting factors but the bright new colours from LEDs now outshine their traditional rivals.
Weather and environment resistance – Being electronic devices with no fragile, moving or consumable parts, LED illumination lends itself to outdoor use. The design of weather resistant illumination if far easier and more cost effective with LED powered signs than with other illumination methods. Even for indoor use, the ability to protect an LED powered device from its environment can be valuable especially in challenging locations such as near fountains in shopping malls or adjacent to swimming pools in leisure centres.
Affordability – the cost of LED technology is continuing to fall in line with that of most electronics devices.
Technology – the over-riding advantage of LED illumination must be its easy compatibility with intelligent signage, including digital signage and near field communication technology. This is a rapidly developing and rapidly expanding area for which the display devices must almost of necessity be LED powered.