Technical drivers of quality of Neon Flex

Given you’re on our Neon Flex website reading this article, the odds are good that you’re either in the industry or looking to purchase Neon Flex. No doubt you’ve looked and found a few neon flex offerings available, and perhaps you’ve been left wondering what differentiates the different offerings apart from price. In this article, we’ll explore some of the important considerations you should make to help you decide on the product best suited to your needs.

At LUMUL we only focus on quality products – if you ask us to source a cheap and cheerful product for you, we’d politely decline, so we like to feel like we’re qualified to provide you with insights on quality.

LED Chip Type

It’s important to know what make of chip is inside your Neon Flex.

Did you know that there are really two types of LED Neon Flex available: DIP and SMD LED flex? The differences between the two are stark. You can guess that one uses DIP LEDs, those “old fashioned” LED bulbs, and the other uses SMD LED chips. DIP LEDs are old technology. Although invented in 1927 they entered mainstream use in the 1960’s and have not developed a heck of a lot since then. Fundamentally they remain the same today as in the 1960’s apart from possibly being smaller and brighter. SMD LEDs are a much more recent technology and as such they are much more efficient than DIP LEDs. Not only are they more efficient than DIPs but they last longer and generally have better CRI. LUMUL LED Neon Flex is always made with modern SMD LED chips.

But not all SMD LEDs are equal. there are a variety of SMD chips in the market, generally noted as different size chips. In actual fact it’s the “packaging” that’s a different size, that typically white body with a yellowish lens. It’s not always true that the larger the chip the brighter the chip or better the chip.

Different SMD LEDs consume different amounts of power, and different SMD LEDs emit a different amount of light. You cannot assume either based on the size, you need to look at the chip spec from the packager, as they can use different internals (epiwafers) and different phosphorous mixtures, which would affect the brightness and the power consumption. One ideally wants bright LEDs drawing little power.

If the above were not complex enough, you need to be very conscious of heat. Heat is the enemy of an LED and reduces the lifespan of the LED, basically reducing the brightness, so it’s essential that heat is dissipated away from the LED as effectively as possible. Newer SMD LED chips, like the 2835 chip, have better heat sinks and thus draw heat away more effectively than say on a 3528 chip. In terms of L*B they are the same size, however the 2835 can be brighter and far more efficient (lm/W). LUMUL LED Neon Flex is made from 2835 SMD chips for our single colour ranges, and SMD 5050 chips for the RGB offering.

The chip manufacturer is very important. There are quality chips and inferior chips, and the difference is stark. Quality chip manufacturers are able to manufacture chips which retain their brightness for years, can achieve high brightness and which offer great efficiency – names like Epistar, Bridgelux, Cree, Samsung, Nichia, Philips. Then there are many Chinese chip manufacturers whose LED chips are simply poor: poor brightness, poor colour accuracy, poor efficiency and importantly, high lumen decay. LUMUL Neon Flex contains Epistar SMD chips – the same brand used in all your LG LED televisions.

There is a real science behind mixing the phosphorous for the different colours of SMD LED chips. The light colour is a combination of the epiwafer and the phosphorous mix. Some companies will only use a high quality phospherous mixture, mixed by top chemists, whilst others use a cheap mixture. The difference is stark. the poor quality phospherous will result in poor CRI and inconsistent colour. LUMUL LED Neon Flex has a CRI of over 80Ra for our white colour Neon.

PVC Jackets

It is important to choose a Neon Flex with a PVC which is UV-resistant, especially here in South Africa with our harsh sun. It is important to remember that no Neon Flex will be impervious to the radiation from our sun, so all will over time start to lose their colour and perish. Good quality Neon Flex will last much longer in the sun as it will contain UV-inhibitors. the coloured jackets contain a dye, which the factory engineers mix. Skilled engineers will be able to mix colours consistently, so that your order of red today will be the same colour as your order of red in a year or two. Colour consistency is easier to attain with coloured LEDs with a milky white jacket neon flex than a coloured jacket neon flex. LUMUL LED Neon Flex always contains UV-inhibitors.

Flexible Strip

Inside each SMD Neon flex is an LED flexible strip. Heat dissipation again becomes important, given you have a strip of SMD chips on a copper FPC and the heat needs to go somewhere. The thickness of the copper FPC is important as the thicker it is the better the heat dissipation. Many Neon Flex manufacturers use a thin FPC as it’s cheaper,. LUMUL LED Neon Flex contains a minimum of 3oz copper FPC.

Running through the length of Neon Flex are two to four wires for power connection. Cheaper Neon Flex will contain a thinner, lower grade copper wire, and sometimes not even copper. Copper conducts electricity better than most other metal wires used, and the thicker the copper the better in terms of voltage drop. LUMUL LED Neon Flex contains copper wire.