Editorials

LEDs Continues Sign Industry Push

With two online news publications under one umbrella, Solid State Lighting
Design and LIGHTimes, we strive for the right amount of overlap to address the
audience interests. LIGHTimes covers the broader LED industry spanning the supply
chain from materials and technology, through equipment, chips, packaged LEDs
and modules. LIGHTimes also covers the applications space for the non-general
lighting LED-based applications, including areas like backlighting and displays, transportation, industrial applications and signage. SSL Design is focused on LED lighting/solid
state lighting designed for the built environment, starting from the packaged
LEDs and running through light engines, replacement lamps, and fixtures/luminaires,
as well as the applications stories that bring it to life.

Most of the LIGHTimes readers already know this, but not all the SSL Design
readers might. Most of our commentary finds its way connected to SSL Design’s
space, but it’s important to recognize that much of the LED volume is directed
towards those non-general lighting arenas. The volume in those applications
spaces are bringing down costs for all applications, and lower costs increase
market opportunities. Whether you’re on the lighting or non-lighting side of
the LED market, it only makes sense to stay aware of the general happenings
in all the arenas in order to keep ahead of the information curve so you can
spot the trends in time to take full advantage of them.

Separate from the cost/volume topic, while LED lighting is doing a better and
better job of not looking like LED lighting, applications that do look like
LEDs continue to help bring credibility to the technology. Traffic signals happily
doing their reliable job, without dead strings and aside from the rare snow
cover, are good industry PR. Similarly, adoption moves that can be perceived
as “less risky” into the commercial/industrial space also help commercial/retail
operators to believe in the capabilities of our technology to get the job done
well, and to save them both operating and maintenance expenses, while contributing
to enhanced revenues. Whether it is direct view billboards, internal or backlighting,
or neon replacement approaches, signage is one of those applications spaces
that help boost the industry credibility with the prime lighting decision makers.

Following is a quick Q&A with Carey Burkett, President of Lumificient
Corporation. Founded in 2000 and subsequently
acquired by Nexxus Lighting in 2008, Lumificient has made its name with LED illumination
solutions for the sign industry.

The sign industry was an early adopter of LED technology, why?
LED technology addressed some of the challenges dealing with neon and fluorescent
lighting, including shipping and breakage issues, ongoing maintenance expenses
and high energy costs. From a sign company’s and an end customer’s
perspective, that was important. As LED technology has advanced, it has become
easier to make a strong business case for LED over neon or other forms of sign
illumination based upon the significant savings that can be attained from lower
energy and maintenance costs.

What is driving the movement to LED in signage?
There seems to be three factors that have led to the rapid adoption of LED technology
for the sign industry.

First, the ability for LED to meet the requirements of a sign company and its
end customers related to the level of brightness and the uniformity of illumination.
First and foremost, LED systems had to meet that standard. Today, there are
LED systems that can achieve excellent, even illumination and color consistency
that meet those requirements.

Second, the high maintenance costs of neon systems. End customers are often
required to sign up for costly maintenance contracts for these systems. To fulfill
the contracts, sign companies offer labor or service warranties at considerable
expense. With LED technology, maintenance requirements are limited. This will
lead to significant savings for the end customer.

Finally, it is also about the efficiency of LED illumination as compared to neon illumination. That difference represents substantial energy savings, and obviously that is a significant story these days.

What are the indisputable advantages of LED adoption, short and long term?
The advantages of LED illumination are many, most of which result in direct
savings. LED lamps produce brilliant light but consume significantly less electricity
when compared to neon lighting. They offer a much longer life in illumination
for the sign. As solid-state devices, high quality LED illumination systems
are durable and damage-resistant, requiring minimal maintenance. LED systems
are also environmentally sound.

What are the specific industry challenges that exist today within signage
that relate to LED usage?

With today’s economic uncertainties, signage as a whole has contracted.
Large big box retailers and multi-site retailers are not developing new sites
at the rapid pace that they once were. Retrofitting programs in some cases have
dropped off. Single site entrepreneurs or new business start ups have slowed
down, as well.

As a result, sign companies are chasing a smaller overall pie. It places a burden
on Sign Companies to respond with sound business solutions and services that
will allow them to grow during a difficult time. Sign Companies can win by offering
superior products and services that will significantly improve end customer
results — results that can be quantified based upon the benefits that LED solutions
provide. It’s a solution that provides value to both the Sign Company and
the end customer.

We consistently urge sign companies to resist the temptation to consider lower-priced
LED solutions as a way to attain improved margins and/or business results. Low-priced
LED solutions will lead to higher overall costs, for the end customer and often
for the sign company. Having your end customer’s best interests in mind
is what will lead to long term success. Low-priced, high problematic LED solutions
will not lead to long term customer satisfaction or to long term success.

Where is LED signage not cost effective?

The up-front cost of LED illumination tends to be higher than that of neon.
That said, the total costs over the life of the sign will be substantially lower
for systems that are illuminated with LED. Neon will always have its place in
various more artistic or decorative signage where LED simply cannot play.

Are you finding that companies are adopting LED signage chain-wide or testing
in key markets? What kind of business category could benefit most from this?

LED adoption within signage is quite far along at this point. There are many
companies that have specified LED illumination for all of their new signs and
some companies that have come out with defined retrofit programs that involve
replacing neon in their older signs. So, there is broad acceptance within the
signage marketplace for LEDs.

All companies can benefit from the use of LED signage; the long-term savings
are significant even for an individual proprietor with one sign for a storefront.
Large multi-site businesses with a significant number of sites and signs stand
to save the most considering the overall cost-saving factors per sign, per overall
sites, times the years that the signs will be in service.

================

Don’t miss the SSL Summit Series, kicking off September 14-15 in
New York City, conveniently in Manhattan. It’s all about quality, so if you
are a luminaire manufacturer that would like to connect with some of the top
lighting decision makers in the area, you won’t find a more efficient two days
during this year. Any luminaire manufacturer receiving product visibility is
being vetted for basic quality criteria, but if your company doesn’t quite have
those LM-79 reports and datasheets all matched up yet, fear not. You’re absolutely
welcome to attend for the top-level networking and “how to get it done”
discussions that can make it even more critical that you find your way there.
Visit www.SSLsummit.com for series details,
or jump directly the NY overview here.

Luxeon Color

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