1. Introduction: What is a LED strip?
LED strips are low voltage (5V, 12V, 24V) lighting devices, used typically in architectural lighting, sign letter lighting, concealed lighting, perimeter lighting and many other applications as a replacement for older and less efficient technologies such as incandescent, fluorescent, halogen or neon lighting and they are typically at least twice as bright as other decoration options such as rope lighting fixtures.
They are available in single color and RGB versions, the main manufacturers can offer White, Warm White and Red, Green, Blue and Yellow mono color strips, but some of the top manufacturers also offer different versions of White or Warm White adjusting the light output and color temperature.
2. LED Strip Types
LED strip light is one of the fastest growing areas of the light emitting diode market. There are several subcategories within this category:
a. Rigid Strips: with or without waterproof protection, with PCB board finishing, encased in plastic or with aluminum backside (also known as LED bars) and using high power SMD or older LED technologies such as mounted diodes.
b. flexible strip: with or without waterproof protection, with or without adhesive tape on the back and using either SMD mounting technology (several options depending on power) or older mounting technologies (which are less and less common).
The biggest share of the category is taken by the strips LED flexible and that is why we will focus on them primarily (since SMD is the main technology and by far the most efficient we will focus on that too).
3. Flexible strip LED
Flexible Strips consist typically of low profile surface mounted diodes (SMD), which are the same type of chips used in latest fluorescent LED tube T8 but in the case of the strips they are attached to a flexible conductor strip. Power is then applied to one end of the strip and the diodes emit a smooth lineal light.
Since the mounting base is flexible, they can be installed in multiple areas and they offer one more advantage vs rigid strips (LED bars), they can be cut to custom size, and reattached or interconnected if needed, either by simple soldering at marked soldering spots or by the use of Fast connectors, which are offered by the main manufacturers. Normally flexible strip LED are manufactured in reels, of typically 3 to 5 meters, and based on the type of chip and design of the reel connections, they can be cut every 2 to 6pcs of chips.
The possibilities of design for the strips are limitless, although small companies focus on just a few of them. Main suppliers can offer different PCBs finishing (transparent – Brass circuits or White, and even Black – Originally the PCBs holding the diodes were copper colored. New generation LED strips have white coated PCBs, which give a more uniform light distribution.), also different widths, from 5mm for thinnest strips which are mostly focused on specific lighting functions, such as side view lighting, to 8mm and 12mm, which are by far the most common, and wider strips for more complex strips, such as the intelligent strips which range between 15 to 17mm.
Obviously the width of the strip depends also on its casing and therefore, on its waterproof rating. The thinnest versions are IP20 (some top suppliers also offer IP64 which is a very good and recommended alternative to IP20) and the widest are IP68, which consist of a complete silicon casing surrounding the strip. We will analyze in more detail the different main features of the flexible strip LED.