Illuminated signage: a brightly lit future?

The use of LEDs in signage illumination has transformed the signage industry since the initial arrival of bright and commercially viable LED technology. The passage of time hasn’t slowed the pace of transformation, either, with a range of innovative technologies coming to market over the past couple of years. Read on to find out what you need to know about these developments and avoid staying in the dark.

A brief history

Human beings have sought and created technologies to bring light to darkness since the beginning of time, starting with fire, when the ability to see what was lurking in the dark could have meant the difference between life and death. Fast-forward to today, and while our lives are very different in most ways, the question as to how to provide light to an object to make is visible is still just as pressing, albeit for different reasons.

We’re no longer concerned with sabre-toothed tigers, but we do need to make our companies, shop fronts and advertisements as visible as possible in order for our businesses to survive and prosper by outshining the competition. It was this need that has long driven innovation in lighting technology, and that led to the creation and relatively rapid adoption of LED technology for signage illumination.

Lighting an object can be achieved in two ways. The first technique is simply to shine a light at it. While this is straight-forward, and without a doubt a popular method, it does carry with it numerous drawbacks, such as the issue of reflectivity, as well as issues of expense given the inefficient use of energy. The second means is to shine light out of the object, in the context of signage a role historically played by neon lighting and fluorescent tubes. The advent of LEDs has led to an explosion of creativity and flexibility that has forced a complete re-writing of the rules for illuminated signage.

Achieving the impossible

Advances in the technology underpinning LEDs have provided a number of alternative ways to illuminate a signage product, and have allowed the construction of internally illuminated signs that simply weren’t possible before. Take, for example, the manufacture of a very large display on a shallow frame – perhaps a flex-faced sign. Using traditional methods, it is almost impossible to light the frame uniformly as the lamp, usually a fluorescent tube, must be placed very close to the image due to the shallowness of the frame. This leads to dark areas and bright bleaching around the lamp.

The advent of chain LED lighting technology has provided a far more reliable, easy-to-install and energy efficient option. The market leaders in this segment can produce brightness of over 235 lumens with a high efficiency of 120 lumens per watt. Advances in optics design mean that only four LED modules, using a total of 10 watts, are required to uniformly illuminate 1m2 of signage. The super-low power consumption allows the use of just one power supply unit to light a sign of 17m2.

The growth of the signage industry as a result of advances in LEDs has had a knock-on effect in that end-users are seeking new ways in which to stand apart from their competition, increasing their budget spend for displays and signage and developing an interest in concerns such as the appearance of the sign at night versus the day.

Knock-on effect

The pace of the rise and fall of trends in illuminated signage has also accelerated. A year or two ago, ‘retro’ was very much in fashion, and not just in signage. Think of the vintage clothing boom. For illuminated signs, this trend meant a return to neon-style letter signs and fairground light installations, both of which are drastically improved by LEDs.

The fairground light effect is very effectively achieved using warm white LED bulbs, which on average use just 10 percent of the energy of their older incandescent counterparts. Likewise, whereas traditional neon lighting consists of a solid glass tube, the LED equivalent is built inside a flexible acrylic tube which can be repositioned and restyled whenever the user wishes to breathe some fresh life into their display. Solid acrylic assemblies are also in production at higher-end signage manufacturers. These displays come in a wide variety of colours with very strong, bright light. Their comparatively low voltage also means that they don’t require a fireman’s safety switch, unlike neon lighting.

Lamp manufacturers have also noticed the growth and future potential of the illuminated signage market, and continue to develop products specifically to meet the demands of the signage industry. Majert, a German manufacturer is one such company, launching and periodically upgrading its Chiplite range of LEDs designed for signage.

Their latest upgrade sees the CL-XI LED module replaced by the CL-XOL, boasting improved optics with a light distribution angle of 160 degrees. The high angle of light distribution makes these modules particularly effective for illuminating sign lettering, especially complex serif typefaces with small flourishes and corners. The CL-XOL thus allows the effective and uniform illumination of sign lettering of a depth as shallow as 30mm.

Where next?

These developments and innovations are just the tip of the iceberg, and it seems reasonable to say that signage illumination, in terms of both the technology powering the sign and the aesthetic appearance of the finished product, will continue to remain a fast-moving sector. The flexibility and substantial energy efficiency improvements delivered by LED technologies are of particular interest to signage makers and to end-consumers.

You can rest assured that here at The Sussex Sign Company, we will be keeping abreast of all developments and can offer tailored advice as to the most appropriate illuminated signage solutions for each of our clients in order to ensure the best possible return on investment.

We carry out work on all LED installation, throughout London, East and West Sussex, Kent Hampshire and the Home Counties, call us today on 01273 417057

Image of – Internally illuminated aluminium sign tray with acrylic push through letters and internally illuminated Projection sign – Sussex Signs image of – Halo Illuminated letters on an internal bulk head with built up stainless steel letters – Sussex Signs Image of – Fairground style LED Signage – Sussex Signs