Sign & Digital Graphics

April '20

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S D G M A G . C O M • A P R I L 2 0 2 0 • 2 3 have bottomed out. They are pretty much at the lowest price they can go." Much of the quality versus cost discussion can also be placed on the manufacturer. Is the company reputable? Do they stand by their products? Will they work with you as a partner and consultant? "When it comes to other sign-related LED products, such as true LED fluorescent lamp replacements, and LED HID replace- ments, I still see a larger variance in the quality and parts used, so buyer beware," suggests Riley. "If you buy cheap on these you could pay dearly in return visits from lamp failures. I suggest buying from your local sign distributor who vets the quality and has a close working relationship with their LED lighting vender. In this case, going to the internet and buying the cheap- est product will come back to bite you." The Price is Right Getting deeper into the discussion of price, much of the reason for the affordable costs these days is attributed to heavier competition in the market and the domination of LEDs as a light source. "When I first started in the industry 16 years ago, I could sell a standard four-foot by eight-foot display for around 60 percent more than what it is currently going for," says Salitrero. "Prices have dropped so much that this drives consumers to want higher resolution displays, because they can now afford them." For what may have been sold for more than $30 per foot 20 years ago, LED modules could be had for as low as $1-per-foot. "Pricing has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years," confirms Vincent. "Historically, the LEDs inside the module were well over 75 percent of the total cost. Today they represent less than 25 percent of the cost to manufacture a module. As prices of packaged LEDs are commoditized, LED modules are now at a price bottom. LED module integrators are now look- ing for constructs such as optics and configurations to reduce the number of modules required to further drive cost savings to the sign maker." Courtesy of Keystone Technologies. Key Areas of LED Development B Y B R Y A N V I N C E N T , P R I N C I P A L L E D Lifetime improvements. LED life has improved as a result of better manufacturing processes, improvements in semiconductor and phos- phor materials, and packaging techniques. Twenty years ago, a 5mm white LED would last only 10,000 hours at best at their rated drive cur- rent. Today, using modern SMD packaging, white LEDs can perform up to 100,000 hours under ambient conditions. Efficiency. LED efficiency of the chip itself has improved as well. Today, white LED SMD lamps can be purchased that achieve more than 200LM/W, an improvement of four times over the 50LM/W just 15 years ago. This means that less power (and less LEDs) is required to achieve the same light output. Chip size and cost. The general lighting market has driven down the cost of LED lamps and in turn larger chip packages that can handle larger currents are readily available at low prices. In the sign industry, distributed lighting is more important than high lumen levels; therefore, LED modules for signs using these larger chips are often operated at currents well below their rated current, improving the life of the module.

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