Lighting and LED - Jan 2009

Designing a sign – remember to think about the effect illumination can have

Janice Fairfield of Fairfield Displays and Lighting Ltd gives some pointers on what to think about when considering lighting.
Spotlights on an internal front window hanging sign It may sound obvious but the whole purpose of a sign is to be easily seen. How many times have you gone into a building and got lost due to poor signage? It’s not only the position and style of the sign that you need to consider, but also how the sign will be illuminated.

So what do you need to consider when selecting a light source for your sign? The objective of illumination is to highlight a sign against the general background clutter, encouraging the eye to focus naturally to the signage. Before starting to design the sign you need to decide how you are going to get electrical power to the area and what restrictions there may be. You may discuss with your customer general ascetics, brightness levels and what staff are available to maintain the sign. You will then be able to supply a quotation that gives them information on running costs and longevity of the light.

Lighting is normally measured in lux (a unit of measurement) and refers to the brightness to a set area in relation to the beam spread. For example, if the spread of 2000 lux illuminates a square metre set at two metres from the source then the measured lux level could be 1000 lux, if you take the same measurement over four metres it is likely to be 250 lux.

The choice of light sources seems endless, including fluorescent tubes, Dichroic lamps, LED strips and individual extra bright LEDs, as well as new light sources continually coming on to the market. In this article I consider illumination in the context of a sign rather than a light box.

For years fluorescent tubes have been used as an economical way of illuminating signs from above. The tubes are normally positioned just above the sign and give out a stark light that appears lifeless and may have a yellow tinge. Fluorescent tubes give a whitewash effect that is functional but not eye catching or attractive.

A more natural white light can be achieved by using SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lighting, which gives a very white light. Remember, when specifying a specialist tube your customer must be able to get hold of replacements easily.

LED strips or individual extra bright LEDs are the current hot topic to use for lighting but be careful, you must really think about what you want to achieve with this type of lighting. It has an attractive visual appeal and does have a great strength of light but it is does not transfer the light to the surrounding area. LEDs are excellent for short range lighting e.g. panel edging or for creating special effects and creating a shine.

The subtlety of lighting signs is a careful balance of illuminating signage but without spilling light into unwanted areas.

Dichroic are directional and you have much more control of light and are excellent for illuminating all types of signs. They enable you to create feature lighting using standard white lamps or transform the appearance of a sign by using a mixture of colour lamps. For brightness and economy dichroics are still excellent value especially when you use lamps that can have up to 10,000hrs of lamp life.

A sign suspended in the window with dichroic lamps positioned above suspended cables allows the lighting to be positioned in the correct place to give the best possible results. Consider what type of light spread do you want to achieve? Is the light to just illuminate 500mm high x 600 mm wide panel or does it need to illuminate a sign that is 2000 mm in height?

The above is an extract. To find out more, book a place on one of Fairfield Displays and Lightings’ free seminars to help signmakers and large format graphics companies use lighting with confidence. The next seminars are on 21 January in Fleet, Hampshire and 28 January 2009 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Full details can be found at or telephone 08451 665201.

Walls + Forms - New Lights Alive displays

The new versatile Lights Alive floor stand display from Walls + Forms. Walls + Forms now has a new range of cost effective, versatile Lights Alive backlit floor stand displays that are available in illuminated or non-lit styles. They are a definitive highlight for retail, banking, tradeshow, P.O.P. display, showroom, advertising, shopping mall, and additional applications as vast as one’s imagination.

Lights Alive features an exclusive low profile aluminium framing system that enables the production of virtually any size high quality lighted display. The simplicity of design allows for matching to any store décor or corporate colour scheme including marble, wood grain, and more.

The Lights Alive backlit floor stand displays are available in two, three and four sided formats at a budget price. They feature slatwall panels that can be used for merchandising product or for literature holders, and offer easy changing of advertising images. Black is the standard colour, with alternatives also available.

Lights Alive floor stands offer a variety of options by tier. They can feature a permanent tier logo or product section at the top “tier” or alternatively in the middle or on the bottom. This is ideal when the floor stand is used as a standalone POP display or as an attention grabber alongside a kiosk or store entry. Any of these tiers (or panel sections) can be built with a permanent insert. This insert can be a silk screened or print graphic containing the customer’s logo, company name, or product name.

The permanency of the panel is important to many product sellers who want the display to be used exclusively for their brand or product and don’t want to worry about a dealer or retail store converting the display for other purposes. A changeable graphic tier is the same as the permanent tier description, while allowing any or all the tiers to be made to receive graphics from the side or top of the frame. A merchandising tier allows you to insert pegboard, slot, panel, or slatwall into the frame.

Lights Alive offers a multitude of options at the point of sale, also featuring standard sizes of single and double-sided light boxes with free standing and hanging options and a ceiling mounted model that steals existing light from the fixture.

For further information, go to the website or telephone +1 972 745 0800.

Robert Horne - New Year brings more.

LED's Early in 2009 Robert Horne Group will be extending its LED Solutions range of products.

With the success of the Enlite and Enlite Grid there is now a growing acceptance of the huge benefits of LED technology to lower energy bills and reduce maintenance costs. The sign and display industry now understands that the initial higher costs of LED based lighting can be far outweighed by payback times of as little as 12 to 18 months. So for that reason new products will be added to the Robert Horne Portfolio to replace old technologies like fluorescent tubes for back illumination of signage and displays.

The first new product will be a direct fluorescent tube LED replacement called Green Tube. The new LED Green Tube will come in the same sizes as standard fluorescent tubes but offers all the benefits of LED technology.

The second new LED product will be Bright Green Matrix and Bright Green Edge from Bright Green Technology Ltd. An innovative LED solution which is extremely easy to install, it lasts upwards of five maintenance-free years, before requiring simple and safe LED replacement. Better still, when the system eventually reaches the end of its natural life, it is 98 per cent recyclable.

These new product additions will widen the already impressive LED solutions, which include Philips LED range, the Robert Horne Group offers to the sign and display marketplace.

For further information, go to

OMC Flexistrip: Solving the problem of misleading LED prices.

OMC' Flexistrip - 5 strips of LED's in different colours. With increasing numbers of end users requesting LED illumination in their signs, and ever more signage component suppliers adding LED lighting to their range, it has become increasingly important for signmakers to understand how to compare what is being offered. In a recent market study, LED lighting manufacturers OMC (UK) Ltd concluded that many signmakers may not be getting their money’s worth. Here’s why.

LEDs for signage are often sold on a "price per metre" basis. OMC found that a large number of users therefore compare LED products metre for metre, on the assumption that a metre of one product is roughly the same as a metre of another, and will illuminate one metre of letter edge. But many LEDs are sold in module form, consisting of blocks of LEDs joined up into strings separated by wire - so with prices being compared on a "per metre" basis, it is very tempting for manufacturers to put bigger gaps between LEDs in order to reduce the apparent unit cost by reducing the number of LEDs in one metre of product.

The problem is that in order to achieve a bright, even beam, products with large spacings must often be fitted much closer together inside a letter, bunching up the wire to reduce the gaps between the LEDs. This means that a metre of product "as sold" does not give a metre of illumination around the letter, as this illustration shows.

In the example pictured below, the letter has a perimeter of about four metres and needs to evenly illuminate around the edge with a halo effect. If the modules are spaced out as sold (left hand figure), the illumination will suffer from bright and dark patches, as well as a low overall brightness. To achieve a satisfactory effect, the LEDs need to be bunched much closer together (centre figure), which in this example results in about 2.5x the LED meterage being required, as well as a considerable increase in labour cost.

OMC says it has solved this problem with the Flexistrip™ range of LED signage illumination components. Originally introduced to the sign market by OMC in 2004, Flexistrip now has more than twice its original brightness at approximately half the original cost.

Diagram showing different methods of using LED's to light up letters.

The core OMC Flexistrip range consists of flexible strips of ultrabright LEDs which can simply be fitted in a single run to the inside letter return. With up to 90 LEDs per metre, this product achieves a brightness and beam uniformity that is very difficult to match when using modules. Simplicity of pricing as a key benefit, as one metre of Flexistrip equals one metre of illumination around the letter (see right hand figure).

As a result of its study, OMC has two important pieces of advice to give to signmakers when obtaining quotes on LEDs. The first is to ask for the number of LEDs per metre and to work out the price per LED. The second is to ask for the light output in lumens per metre, this will tell how bright the product is, to be sure that the LEDs are of a good brightness grade. As an example, OMC’s front-firing Flexistrip in white offers about 300 lm/m.

View the OMC range at or telephone 01209 215424 for more information.

Sondia Lighting - From marine light fittings to global market

Lighting from Sondia Sondia Lighting was established in 1965 as a Division of the Humber Electrical Engineering Company Ltd, a company then largely associated with the shipbuilding industry.

Sondia Lighting began by manufacturing marine light fittings for shipyards and marine electrical engineers based in the UK with the occasional export contract to supply complete ships lighting packages.

In the mid ‘80s Sondia Lighting used its experience in the marine market to develop a weatherproof sign illuminating fitting, in response to the needs of a local sign manufacturer for a contract supplying signage to MFI. MFI liked the product and specified Sondia’s fitting for use on all its stores, providing exposure throughout the country that later led to the fitting being selected for commercial and industrial premises of other major companies across the UK.

In the late ‘80s with the marine market in decline and shipyards around the country closing, Sondia Lighting diversified, firstly undertaking general sub-contract sheet metalwork and secondly the design, manufacture of standard and bespoke light fittings to other established lighting companies. The diversification proved successful and in the early ‘90s the company invested heavily in market leading CADCAM system and CNC machinery.

The experience gained in designing robust, well engineered light fittings for the marine and sign industries and responding to changing markets has served the business well. Today Sondia employs more than 20 staff and manufactures fittings for a variety of applications. As a sub-contractor has developed its own comprehensive range of catalogued products and is currently working on the next generation, which includes a colour change LED trough light.

Customers include UK and foreign based companies and a recent project involved producing stainless steel LED floodlights on extended arms to illuminate the name boards on a luxury super-yacht.

One of Sondia’s best selling lines at the moment is Recessed Modular Fittings. The standard range of 600 x 600 and 1200 x 600 fittings are available in three and four lamp versions incorporating switch start, H.F. and H.F. dimmable control gear.

Sondia recognises the new challenges presented by the global market and remains determined to take the business forward by increasing it customer base and moving into new markets.

Go to to view the full range and find out more.

Portland Lighting - Affordable LED trough lighting

Ledlux trough lighting Portland Lighting, a leading manufacturer and supplier of innovative products, successfully launched LEDlux, the first LED trough lighting system for the UK sign industry in spring.

Previously, the difficulty in achieving sufficient light spread evenly over an entire surface without the spotting normally associated with LEDs, had prevented development of successful LED trough lighting at a financially viable cost.

Portland drew on its extensive research and development expertise to overcome these problems and create the exciting and stylish LEDlux at a price affordable to the sign trade.

Ledlux uses high power 3.6 watt LED modules in ‘chip on board’ technology combined with broad 140 degree light distribution and a specialist magnifying extruded lens to achieve bright, uniform lighting. Illumination is comparable to conventional fluorescent trough lighting but operating costs are reduced by more than 50 per cent.

A lit sign for the Liverpool FC Club StoreSealed to IP64, together with IP67 power converters and protective coated LEDs, which have an integrated current source to stabilise luminous flux and outstanding lamp life, Ledlux offers enviable reliability of service and maintenance-free costs. A projected LED life of more than 50,000 hours could mean that fascia signs only half illuminated because fluorescents have not been replaced are a thing of the past. In addition, Ledlux has clear added value in the protection of valuable natural resources.

Portland designed the attractive casing to also house fluorescent lamps. The unique clip-in cover enables easy retro fitting into the signlux system, giving flexibility and the option of utilising a traditional light source or the new LED technology in relighting programmes.

Ledlux joins the Portland family of Microlux, Adlux, the original and ever-popular signlux, and the Bullet spotlight, to provide an unequalled range and choice within the sign industry.

For more information, go to or telephone 01922 721133.

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