Sign & Digital Graphics

September '14

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • September 2014 • 77 everyone in the industry. The acceptance and traction for using LEDs in sign cabi- nets is still in its infancy overall, but it has become generally accepted. Sign cabi- nets require a more robust product with more lumen output than channel letters. You're not trying to illuminate a 4-6 inch depth in a channel letter; you're trying to illuminate 3-4 foot depths in a pylon sign. The product also has to have more structural integrity. LED products for cabinet signs are usually on some type of an aluminum extrusion so that there's no movement and it gives them the rigidity needed for a large cabinet. It's not a mat- ter of just taking a channel letter product and putting it on a stick of aluminum; it's a totally different engineered product." Growing Market Moreover, LEDs for other sign appli- cations are gaining traction because cor- porations are beginning to adopt LEDs for facility and office lighting. As Stone puts it, companies like EXXON, as well as architectural firms US LED works with on office fixture lighting programs, are now "seeing it for real," and are thus more open to signage applications. "The largest architectural firm in Houston has installed a bunch of our LED fixtures in their offices. Now you have people who are doing the design from the ground up sitting there with LEDs above their head. A year or so ago that wasn't the case," says Stone. Stone adds that US LED currently offers its Tandem2 LED system, designed to replace fluorescent lamps in sign cabi- net lighting applications, but is preparing to launch a new sign cabinet product this month that will further reduce the cost of the system. Designed to install on 24" centers, center-to-center, it will cover two square feet instead of one. "It won't cost any more per foot of raw product but will deliver coverage of twice the amount," says Stone. Despite the fact that cabinet sign LEDs require more engineering than the more simple stick-on channel letter LED systems, Stone says they're actually a bit easier and quicker to install. "Our aluminum extrusion has a sim- ple mount bracket that slides on at the bottom and top, the extrusion is there and you're done. We do all the layouts for everyone, as most people do, that tells them how many sticks they need and where to put them," explains Stone. "It's very straightforward; I'd rather do a cabinet sign than channel letters because there's more space to work in. If you know how to deal with installing a face, LEDs are a no-brainer." In addition to providing layouts of where to place the LED system, and like most LED system manufacturers, U S LED also provides instructions on laying out the power supplies, which are typi- cally 24-volt or 12-volt systems, depend- ing on the sign. LEDs Vs. Fluorescent Paul Southard, managing director of AgiLight Inc., based in San Antonio, says it's important to take a holistic view of lighting for sign cabinets. In other words, choose the light source that provides the best performance and total cost of own- ership over the life of the product. Because AgiLight manufactures LED lighting systems, Southard is obviously biased toward LEDs as the best lighting source. However, he freely admits that when it comes to sign cabinets larger than 8' x 8' other light sources, such as fluorescent, will often provide a cheaper alternative for the customer, but that too will change as the technology improves, the price goes down and potential regula- tion forces more alternative lighting like LEDs into sign cabinets. As it stands now, Southard says that anything up to 8' x 8' should be fair game for LEDs, citing a number of advantages LEDs have over other light sources: ease of installation and maintenance, more efficient use of light output, long life, energy efficiency and wider operating temperatures. Bitro offers its RGB Lattice product for large cabinet sign installations. (Image courtesy of Bitro Group) GE Lighting offers the Tetra LED lighting systems family for shallow cabinet signs. The Tetra EdgeStrip and MiniStrip are designed to replace T8 fluorescent tubes. (Photo courtesy of GE Lighting)

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