Lighting - July 2015

Applelec - LED Light sheet

striking effect of the sign set against the natural wood cladding LED Light Sheet

Applelec have created a patent protected LED Light Sheet, which they describe as having a slim profile and is easy to install. The LED Light Sheet has an etched grid, which transports light from embedded LEDs across the surface of the sheet to deliver "bright, even illumination".

It's versatile as can be used for a range of signs such as fascia signs; projecting signs; hanging signs; feature walls; and fabricated totems. The light sheet is made by the team in the UK, in their new anti-static assembly room in Bradford.

There are a variety of benefits using the light sheet for sign projects says Applelec, such as it reduces the sign profile, and material and labour costs. This is because traditionally lit signs, with fluorescent tubes or LED modules need a back tray to hold the components in place. So for when there is not much space or the client wants a slim profile, the Light Sheets look like a great option.

All Round Sounds chose this technology for their project creating signage for a sawmill in Fort William, Scotland.

Jamie Ball, project manager at All Round Signs, said: "Our client was keen to establish a strong corporate impression at their growing site in Fort William and we designed signage to be displayed on a large timber building facade. We chose Applelec’s LED lighting systems for the project as we wanted to add impact by using illumination but also create low maintenance signage due to the busy site location. As one of the largest projects we’ve been involved in, working with Applelec provided the support we needed to bring the project together, and ensured we were confident we could deliver."

The BSW logo was adapted slightly by All Round Signs to make sure it would be visually successful when illuminated against the natural wood cladding of the installation site. Making use of the timber background, the identity signage was created in several individual parts using fabrication styles appropriate to each element of the sign. A built-up rim and return style was chosen for the ‘BSW’ lettering whilst the tree logo and K2 sawmill site logo feature built-up flat faced construction styles. A fabricated sign tray with radius corners and a stencil cut face was used for the ‘Timber Group’ lettering.

Illumination to the stencil cut faces of the tree logo and fabricated sign tray was achieved using their LED Light Sheet, which was chosen for its ability to provide bright, even light. Green halo illumination came from Applelec's stocked SloanLED V-Series modules, which were selected for their five year warranty periods. Throughout the construction reverse fitted back trays were painted white to enhance the halo illumination with all LEDs fully wired-up and bench tested by Applelec.

Sam Armstrong, Applelec sales director, said: ‘We are extremely pleased this project has been such a success for All Round Signs. They have shown creativity in adapting their client’s logo to make sure it would be suitable for its intended location and worked towards future-proofing the installation by choosing LEDs with three and five year warranty periods. Their focus on the longevity of their customer’s purchase sets them apart and shows they are a company with the very best interests of their customers at heart.

Castleton Signs discuss their projects

Lit up Yobu sign Scottish Gas sign at night

Award winning signmaker, Castleton Signs, who have been operating for more than 75 years, started out as a traditional signwriting company and have evolved into a full signage consultancy. They manage projects from their inception through to installation, including: surveys, strategy, audits, product design and specification, manufacturing and print. They won the prize for Illuminated Sign of the Year at the BSGA British Sign awards in 2014.

Their clients include major brands in the property, retail, leisure and services sectors both private and public. Much of their work is commissioned through sign specifies, such as designers and architects, shopfitters, main contractors and commercial interior specialists.

Some of their clients are: Google, Innocent, British Gas, Royal Albert Hall, National Maritime Museum, Western Union and Giraffe Restaurants.

Rob Winterborn, Managing Director, feels strongly about what they can deliver: "When it comes to illuminating our signs we never compromise on the quality of the lighting system. Previous experience has taught us that although there are cheaper options on the market its nearly always a false economy."

For illuminating letters they use Orbis LED’s from Oshino which are what they used for their award winning Scottish Gas job. For this project they used over 500 Oshino F-LED 335 modules inside the letters to give a crisp bright, cool white illumination that the client was looking for.

These were powered from 4no. 200W transformers dividing the sign into approximately four equal sections; and allowed for any voltage drop from the long runs up to the roof where the solar power supply was sited. They collaborated with Scottish Gas regarding transferring the power from their solar panels (fitted to the roof of the building) to make sure there was enough constant power to the sign.

To enable the sign to illuminate “white” at night and “blue” in the day they applied 3M Colourvision vinyl to the face of the letters. The film was printed to match Scottish Gas corporate blue and matt laminated. The flame was to remain the same colour whether night or day so had a matt laminated print on translucent white to match the corporate flame guidelines.

Rob said: "The importance of the quality of the LED; the transformer; the support in choosing the right LED for the right application; the quality and diffusion of the light emitted; the add-ons like colour changing ability; and even apps that let the end user set the brightness and colour changing options on their iphone, are paramount when choosing the right LED and LED supplier.

"It is widely known that under the Minamata Convention the use of mercury will possibly be banned entirely by the year 2020, which could put an end to neon. With the resurgence in the 'retro' look of neon, alternative LED versions have to be found and they are becoming better and better as suppliers are looking to fill this market.

"Even when illuminating light boxes we would always guide our clients to use LED’s. Even they may still be a little more expensive than fluorescent lamps, the running cost and maintenance costs are much cheaper over time. We also used light sheets regularly when the depth of the sign needs to be kept to a minimum. The diffusion is excellent and it benefits from all the other qualities of LEDs. We feel LEDs are now the illumination method of choice."

There are challenges when it comes to sign lighting, comments Rob, mainly around managing customer expectations and getting an understanding of brightness and colours, for example warm white versus cool white. That along with getting the correct diffusion without any spotting so the illumination is constant rather than patchy.

Rob said: "With the massive range and high quality of LED’s available today, and with better experience we have attained by using them for some time, mean the rules are easier to follow to get the required results. The days of trial and error are now gone."

Vink Lighting assist with animated Rubiks Cube

AgiLight Pro 160 LED Lit up giant Rubiks cube

Vink Lighting sell a range of sign illumination products. Their impartial service means they can help sign makers choose the best type of LED product or accessory for a huge range of applications. Jamie Whitehead, Technical Sales Representative from Vink, said: "Alongside providing the best materials, we also pride ourselves on assisting our customers with up to the minute technical information and creative advice, as well as inclusive ideas and knowledgeable technical support from our team of dedicated experts.

Our free in house design and quotation service is provided by a team of specialist technicians, providing full layout drawings for your particular application."

Their LEDs are made by Agilight; GE Lighting and OSRAM, supplied because Vink say that because they last longer, it reduces labour and maintenance costs. They maintain their many advantages over using fluorescents such as that LEDs perform better in cold temperatures, but the initial costs are higher. Vink sees a future where LEDs will get brighter and more energy efficient, and if graphene (a form of carbon) makes its way into the manufacture of signage modules, this will further improve the lifetime of LEDs.

One project that demonstrates Vink's expertise at supplying the right lighting for a project, took place from one of their dedicated LED distribution centres in Europe. Every Vink centre has been set up to provide full technical and logistical support on all aspects of LED installation into signage products. So when the team in Budapest were approached with a particularly complex project, they were "well placed to rise to the challenge".

Alukol KFT, a Hungarian signmaker and aluminium fabrication company manufactured and installed a large animated ‘Rubiks Cube’ to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its invention by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian sculptor.

The Rubiks cube is a 3D puzzle made up of 54 different squares in six different colours. The faces of the cube can be rotated in three dimensions, and the object is to have all nine squares on each face of the cube the same colour. Since its invention in 1974, more than 350 million cubes have been sold worldwide.

This particular cube was planned to be installed as part of a new recreational area in the centre of Szazhalombatta, a town near Budapest. The cube was manufactured with 3mm Opal acrylic face panels and measured 2100mm x 2100mm x 2100mm overall. Each face was sub-divided into nine squares 650mm x 650mm; and each square was covered in one of six different colours of translucent vinyl (white, yellow, orange, green, red and blue). Each colour was illuminated separately by a different colour of LED module. It is also required to flash on and off in a seemingly random pattern.

The technical department at Vink firstly needed to decide which LED system, in which colour, would provide the optimum level of illumination through the translucent vinyl. The saturated colours, red, blue and green, were best illuminated by their respective LED colours. But the white, yellow and orange each required different colour warmth of white LED, to make sure that these hues were as vibrant as the saturated colours.

Vink opted for the GE Tetra MiniMAX range of LEDs. This particular product was chosen due to its "inherent reliability, performance and longevity". The wide range of colour options, including four different shades of white, made it the clear choice for this particular application, says Vink. Each separate square was illuminated with 20 LED modules, making a total of 1080 modules for the complete installation.

The next step was to provide and configure control gear to create a random flashing effect.

They calculated that the required random pattern across each face could be achieved by installing a nine channel flashing controller programmed with 20 different flashing sequences. This was specially developed for the project. Each channel was powered by a GE PS12-60D dimmable converter and each converter was then linked to six separate coloured squares strategically spaced throughout the cube. The resulting effect gave the impression that all 54 coloured squares on the six visible faces of the cube appeared to flash on and off without any repeatable sequence.

Zeta Specialist Lighting - various illumination topics

The Pier Head nine metre high totemThe Pier Head four sided directional monolithSolar powered lit up sign ECOLUX SOLAR  Billboard

Another advocate of LEDs is Adrian Dennis, Managing Director of Zeta Specialist Lighting.

He said: "There is no doubt that LEDs are leading the way, providing sign makers flexible and reliable solutions for illuminating signs. The benefits have been well documented, LEDs produce uniform lighting, are longer lasting. Zeta’s Embedded LED Panels for example, last for 40,000 hours (average rated life), which is almost three times longer than a traditional fluorescent and energy-efficient. When used on-grid, Zeta’s LED signage solutions consume up to 80 per cent less power than traditional lighting systems.

"Plus, as the cost has come down considerably, the business case is much easier to make, with end clients benefit from a much shorter payback period than previously. And as they are essentially maintenance- free, lifetime costs are significantly lower than conventional solutions.

"From our perspective, the biggest advantage of our LED solutions for signage are that they can be used with our solar powered lighting systems. In many cases, the cost and time associated with laying the cabling required for traditional lighting is often prohibitive. However, we combine solar panels, clever control technology and batteries with LEDs, to produce world beating solar powered signage solutions.

"The ability to provide an off grid solution that delivers superior lighting performance, really opens up the opportunity for sign makers to offer clients the ultimate energy saving and cost-efficient way to illuminate monoliths, totems or billboards; as with solar power the ongoing running costs are zero."

Zeta first developed a solar signage solution back in 2004, something that came about after Transport for London (TfL) approached them for a solution to illuminate its bus stops and timetables. They developed the patented PS800 Energy Management System that is today an integral part of their LED solar powered solutions. It regulates the amount of power consumed by the LEDs at night and maximises the power going to the batteries during the day, for year round operation.

Their in-house developed portfolio includes the Zeta Solar Signage Kit for outdoor totems and monoliths, which was voted Sign Product of the Year at the 2014 British Sign Awards. Each bespoke kit incorporates discreet and flexible solar panels; LED embedded panels; light guide panels; Zeta’s patented EMS; long life batteries and, if required, PIR movement sensors can also be incorporated.

IS Group used the Solar Signage Kit when extending the wayfinding system at The Pier Head on the Liverpool Waterfront from the neighbouring Albert Dock. Three, nine metre high totem signs and 10 doublesided and one four-sided directional monoliths were illuminated using LED solar powered lighting. The smaller monoliths incorporated PIR sensors so that they only light up when visitors approach. The bill to lay the cabling required for traditional lighting at this location would have run into a six figure sum, meaning that an on-grid solution was prohibitive cost wise.

Another client, Tara Signs, approached them to explore options to illuminate new monoliths they were installing at two of The Hargreaves Group’s commercial property developments in the South East.

Dave Rossetter, Sales Support Manager at Tara Signs said: “The existing V sign at Hamilton Business Park had two elevations, that were outdated and unlit. We were keen to explore options to illuminate a new monolith as this would significantly improve the kerb appeal as visitors entered the site; however there was no mains-fed power supply.”

He said: “The decision to include signage at the front of the Solent Trade Park was made after construction of the new car park had been completed. Hargreaves had a preference for the sign to be lit, but channelling into the freshly-laid tarmac to install cabling to power the sign was not an option.”

Using the Solar Signage Kit, Tara Signs installed a new, modern 6.6 metre high monolith at the entrance to Hamilton Business Park with the names of the businesses located within illuminated. And at Solent Trade Park the newly installed solar powered monolith included the name of the park on the header unit and logo on the lower panel.

Clear Channel UK was the first company to use the newly launched ECOLUX SOLAR, the industry's first LED trough lighting system that’s entirely powered by solar, to illuminate two advertising billboards in Birmingham.

Developed with Portland Lighting, the ECOLUX SOLAR incorporates discreet and flexible PV solar panels which harness the sun’s energy throughout the day; long life maintenance-free batteries; and Zeta’s innovative Energy Management System (EMS); which releases the stored energy and uses it to power the high intensity LED trough light and illuminate the sign or billboard.

A spokesperson for Clear Channel UK said: “We are extremely proud of the introduction of our first solar-powered billboard in Birmingham. This represents the latest in our commitment to combining the latest Out of Home technologies with our responsibility to the environment. It allows us to create innovative products that promote sustainable development and offer dynamic advertising opportunities.”

Goodwin and Goodwin - Focus on typography

Theatre Cafe neon signCoca Cola sign The Goodwin and Goodwin team

Goodwin and Goodwin have made a name for themselves with their bold, beautiful typography that has a nostalgic, retro style. When they first started making bulb letters around two years ago, they were "hugely popular" and no-one else offered them. This style is still as popular as ever and chosen by clients who want something unique. There's a good chance you've seen their work as their signs have appeared in the Strictly Come Dancing TV show, in high street shops, and on many a music stage. They make signs for well known brands such as Coca-Cola, GQ magazine, Ted Baker, MTV and Spotify and were winners of the Small Signmaker of the Year award at the BSGA British Sign Awards 2014.

They’ve been featured in many design magazines and sites, on advertising agency walls, and their art graces the interiors of the "hottest and hippest" hotels and restaurants; private clients include pop stars, celebrities and even members of the royal family!

One of the directors, Viviane Goodwin, said: "For our clients our work is different to the usual corporate signage that’s on offer and they like that everything we make is hand crafted. Our slogan is ’Signs with Soul’ reflecting that everything we make is hand crafted.

"All our signs are numbered and a label is fitted with the person that made it, much like Aston Martin do with their cars. A whole record is then kept that tells the history of the sign, who made it and what parts were used. "All the letters are bent by hand in our London workshop. We have a custom built spray shop so we can apply any finish; rust and distressed are very popular finishes. We do as much in-house as possible so that we can control the quality; we work with a local neon company that comes and fits the neon glass into our channel letters. This is a respected craft and takes years of training to be any good at it."

Most of their bulbs are LEDs that they developed themselves to have the warmest colour possible and be the closest match to an incandescent bulb, which are slowly being phased out.

"Our focus has always been on good typography and design and I think its what helps set us apart," says Viviane.

"There are a lot of design conversations and visuals back and fourth that happen with a client before a sign goes into production. We spend a lot of time on Pinterest researching old signage. Sign makers in the past put much more effort in to typography back then so its really good to get inspiration from. With lighting signage a lot of inspiration for us comes from the US, particularly around New York in the 50’s/60’s. We put a lot of our own ideas in to production first as a source of inspiration on our ‘Wall of Fame’, on our website."

The Sign Group - LEDs with the look of Neon

Arrow made from neonplusNeon Tropical nights sign The Sign Group neon sign

When talking about retro signs that make a huge impact, nothing beats neon, made famous by American sign makers who used it prolifically to light up locations in their vast country. It's still revered today and has made it's way back to the modern landscape as lots of people enjoy its appeal and cite the advantages of using it. But one company that has combined the striking look of neon, with modern materials and technology, is The Sign Group with their NeonPlus range, which combines LEDs with the look of neon.

Graeme Hoole, Production Manager, said: "Our NeonPlus letters/logos give you all the advantages of traditional neon without any of the drawbacks. Because of this, NeonPlus can be used in places that traditional glass neon can't, such as low level displays, uncovered, and at touching height. It doesn't get hot and there's no shock of any kind. All low voltage. It's a dream for creative types that were hindered by the limitations of neon."

They launched it at the start of 2014 and found that the demand has grown rapidly. Because of the impending limitations to be put on mercury based glass neon in 2020, businesses have been looking for alternatives. Through their contractors, the Sign Group have been asked to provide neon signage for all types of common high street retailers as well as, TV and movie sets, music festivals, exhibitions and art installations.

Some of the advantages of NeonPlus include; low voltage (12v and 24v); very bright; tough and hard wearing; seven static colours and RGB options; and can be DMX controlled and dimmed.

Graeme considers neon's popularity: "Traditional neon was always popular up until five to 10 years ago. It nosedived for general signage then, and a lot of skilled neon fabricators had to go and find other jobs. Then a few years ago when the 'retro' trend came back in, neon became really popular again. But with only very few manufacturers it seemed to drive the price up, which meant the only neon signs you really saw were the high end expensive jobs. Since then, more fabricators have reappeared, but again because of the impending limitations, it’s stunted the rejuvenation which has meant people have looked at alternatives, and landed on our door."

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