Digital or analogue RGB?

Being able to control the colour of your Neon Flex to your customers’ very specific branding requirement can be the deciding factor in you getting the commission. Single colour Neon Flex comes in pre-determined colours: cold white, warm white, red, green, blue, yellow, orange, pink and purple. These colours are determined by the jacket colour (made from coloured PVC pellets) or LED colour and whilst these colours can be configured for a customer, it can only be done on large custom orders. It is also no guarantee that you will get your exact colour since mixing a custom PVC colour is more art than science, whilst the temperature of the LED chip colour is slightly reduced by the milky white PVC jacket.

With RGB Neon Flex you are generally able to produce exact colours which your customers demand.

LUMUL produce two ranges of RGB Neon Flex: analogue RGB (often referred to as 7 colour RGB) and digital RGB (often referred to as 16 million colour RGB). The difference between these two may confuse some people, and the terms 7 colour and 16 million colour are quite misleading.

Analogue RGB

LUMUL analogue RGB Neon Flex is made with Epistar tri-colour 5050 SMD chips. The chip packaging is square measuring 5mm by 5mm, and is quite special in that it contains three Epistar epi-wafers inside, one red, one green and one blue. Analogue RGB Neon Flex is recognisable by using connector pins with 4 pins : Red, Green, Blue and a common anode. The 5050 chips are wired together in a way that all the green LEDs are controlled together as one, all red as one and all blue as one. The result is that you can turn all green LEDs on at one time, all red on at one time and all blue on at one time. You can already guess that the Neon Flex can easily be red, green or blue, and by lighting a combination of these colours, can also be cyan, magenta, yellow or white.

Red+Green = Yellow

Green+Blue=Cyan

Red+Green+Blue=White

Red+Blue=Magenta

And this is where the term “7 colour RGB” comes from.

The cheaper RGB controllers with built-in programs often allow one of these 7 colours to be lit, sometimes with patterns and effects. What many people don’t realise is that these 7 colours are not a hard restriction. The current flowing through each colour chip can determine its brightness, and through that, a whole range of Neon Flex colours can be unlocked. To achieve these ranges of colours all you need to do is use a more sophisticated RGB controller. LUMUL offers a range of controllers (12V and 220V) which are able to intricately control the 5050 tri-colour chips unlocking a palette of millions of colours. In practise, the controllers use PWM to dim each colour rather than limiting the current, since LEDs actually stop responding when the current flow reaches a particular low threshold.

Summary: With analogue RGB Neon Flex you set a single colour for the entire length of Neon Flex, and using the right controller you can achieve almost any colour you require.

Digital RGB

Digital RGB gets its name because it contains IC (integrated circuit) chips for controlling the LED chips. Digital RGB is sometimes referred to as pixel-chasing because individual “pixels” on the RGB Neon Flex can be controlled through controllers and software. The colour and brightness of individual pixels can be controlled along the Neon Flex length creating stunning effects. The “pixels” can be either 1 LED or 3 LEDs together; LUMUL digital Neon Flex contains 3 LED chips per pixel. Single LED pixels are more expensive to produce and consist of a WS2811 controller per chip, either mounted on the FPC or mounted within the 5050 chip package (WS2812B for example).

Digital RGB is never available in 220V – only 24V, 12V or 5V which means only shorter runs are possible, generally up to a maximum of 10m.

Digital RGB Neon Flex is generally recognisable by the connector pins containing three pins: positive, negative and data. It is controlled through digital data signals which instruct each pixel. A stream of data is published to the Neon Flex followed by an instruction to “activate the stream”. For WS2801 IC chips, there would be 4 pins, for positive, negative, data and clock.

Controlling a data stream is actually quite simple and can even be done through a Raspberry PI or Arduino board, or equally using a more professional SPI controller such as those sold by LUMUL, even a DMX SPI controller. LUMUL offers  range of controllers for our 12V digital RGB Neon Flex.

Summary: With digital RGB Neon Flex you can control the colour and brightness of individual pixels, which are either 1 LED or 3 LEDs.

Digital RGB Neon Flex

Digital RGB Neon Flex