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LED strip makers expand decorative lighting selection

Line targets indoor and outdoor installations dominated by neon and incandescent types. Automotive use is also pursued.

Widening application drives R&D and production of LED strips in China as suppliers target various indoor and outdoor uses in general, architectural, signage, advertising, ornamental, mood and emergency illumination. They are leveraging the technology’s energy-saving and environment-friendly attributes to take advantage of rising demand in these segments and displace conventional neon and incandescent types.

LED strip

King Star's model KS.F.F36.WP112.001 flexible LED strip with 30 5060 SMD diodes boasts 300 to 390 lumens luminous flux.

Manufacturers are also eyeing opportunities in the automotive market particularly the captive domestic sector, amid projections of China becoming the world’s top carmaker in the next five years. Man Jia Technology Ltd, for instance, began testing its new product that can be installed under or above the headlights or under the track door through a double-sided adhesive tape. The 12V model utilizes side-view LEDs, is flexible and foldable, and has anti-shock properties and low power consumption. Its operating and storage temperatures are 5 to 50 C and -20 to 50 C.

To enhance selections, companies are boosting light intensity and life span. They are adding diodes or turning to high-brightness variants, with the latter enabling 300 to 850 lumens luminous flux. Units that exceed 100,000 hours or 10 years are also among latest releases. Mainstream versions have 50,000hr.

In addition, makers are introducing more color effects. Shenzhen Betop Electronics Co. Ltd has unveiled such products with color-shifting light. The enterprise’s BT-1210FX120-12WW model is a double-row unit with 240 3528 SMD diodes per meter. It has a 24VDC operating voltage and 48W power consumption. Buyers can select from different hues.

Besides product-driven efforts, a number of manufacturers are boosting marketing via participation in trade shows to raise revenue. These include the China Sourcing Fair, LED China and Shanghai International Lighting Expo. Foshan NationStar Optoelectronics Co. Ltd, a key local player with tie-ups with Panasonic, LG, Sanyo, TCL, Konka and Skyworth, will attend exhibitions in France, England and Italy.

This year, most suppliers expect to surpass the 20 to 30 percent rise in output achieved in 2010. They are counting on steady orders from major markets Europe and North America and expanding reach in emerging destinations such as South Asia, South Africa and Australia. The local industry also hopes to benefit from the temporary shift in orders from Japan as a result of the earthquake.

Some companies are planning to increase capacity to meet the projected climb in demand. Man Jia added two new production lines in 1H11, while Dongguan Sourcechip Opto-Electrical Tech. Co. Ltd has doubled capability since the second quarter.

The line accounts for 20 to 30 percent of China’s total sales for the entire diode segment. The aggregate industry value reached $18.5 billion in 2010, and is expected to post more than 30 percent CAGR in the next five years.

LED strips are pursued by about 100 manufacturers, including local operations and joint ventures. The number will climb as the low technology threshold facilitates entry to the line, even as some players are shifting to high-profit categories such as LED tubes, bulbs and lamps.

The majority of makers are based in the Pearl River and Yangtze River Delta regions. More than 80 percent of them are operating in the first, particularly in Guangdong province’s key cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Zhongshan.

Companies export 50 to 60 percent of output to Europe, the US and Asia. OEM and ODM projects account for 10 to 20 percent of orders.

Product gallery

LED strip selection

Products from China suppliers are mainly classified into flexible and rigid based on construction. Depending on the type of LED used, there are DIP and SMD options, the first available in piranha and other forms, and the latter in 3528, 5050 and 335 side-view varieties. The last is widely used in flexible versions.

Further, there are single-color LED strips, which come in red, yellow, green, blue, white or warm white, and RGB and multicolor units. By number of diodes, models with 30 or 60 per half meter are the most popular.

Flexible LED strips dominate output in China. These adopt SMD diodes, flexible PCB substrates and silica gel sleeves. Epoxy material is used for the housing of water-resistant units. The length and the number of LEDs vary depending on buyers’ requirements. Typical 30cm-long models have 18 or 24, and 50cm versions 15, 24 or 30. The maximum diode quantity per meter is 120 for single-row configurations, which use relatively low-power 3528 SMD kinds each consuming 0.06W. The substrates come in 5, 8, 10, 12 or 15mm width. Flexible LED strips are widely utilized in logos, interior decoration and home cabinets.

King Star Opto-Electronic Co. Ltd’s new model KS.F.F153.XS112.001 flexible LED strip allows color and brightness adjustment. With a controller and an IC, it can change lights from warm white to white and cold white. The water-resistant unit operates on 12VDC and consumes 24 to 36W.

The best-seller at Shenzhen Betop is a series of flexible configurations with side-view 335 SMD diodes mounted on 5mm PCBs. The strips can be installed on vehicles as head, signal or brake lights.

Rigid versions, meanwhile, are used where no bending is required, usually in vehicles and display cabinets. These have aluminum or plastic bases and superflux, high-power, DIP or SMD LEDs. Units employing the last come in 12, 18, 24, 30, 36 or 54-diode models, while it is 18, 24, 36 or 48 for DIP-based counterparts.

Makers in China also offer great wall LED strips, a special type with DIP diodes soldered on the side of the flexible PCB substrate. With three LEDs, these can be cut freely. The bend direction is opposite that of common flexible variants, allowing for a different effect. Based on silica gel or PVC with an IP65 rating, the 12V releases can be used outdoors, rendering them suitable for cars and motorcycles.

There are also versions that produce color effects through a controller, which can operate a 5m LED strip. Man Jia has launched the MJ-QC505QT30-F12W12 model, which has 114 effects. It boasts 30 superbright 5050 SMD diodes and a 120-degree viewing angle. The unit has a life span exceeding 50,000hr, 21W power consumption per meter, -25 to 55 C operating temperature and 0 to 95 percent relative humidity. The typical rating is 12VDC, but 5V versions are also available. Indoor varieties are IP20-rated, and outdoor counterparts IP67. The strip can be cut after every three LEDs, and each segment relinked by soldering or mating connectors.

Makers also provide accessories to offer a one-stop solution. At Shenzhen Betop, these include single-row sockets, connectors and great wall strip holders.

To ensure quality, suppliers use high-precision chip placing, wave soldering, and automatic gluing and light color splitting machines. They conduct repeated testing. Products comply with CE and RoHS guidelines. Some have FCC or ETL approval.

The main inputs in making LED strips are DIP or SMD diodes, PCBs and adhesives. For water-resistant variants, there are glue and silica gel.

Some high-end models use LED chips, controllers and amplifiers. The first is usually sourced from Taiwan suppliers, including Epistar, Genesis Photonics, Opto Tech, Arima and Formosa Epitaxy. For adhesives, many mainland China companies turn to 3M for its pressure-sensitive kinds.

The other inputs come from mainland vendors or are made in-house by some makers. FR-4 material is preferred for PCBs, with some enterprises offering them in white, gold, brown and black to match installation requirements.

Although the cost of some materials increased by 5 to10 percent, product prices have remained generally stable, with slight fluctuation if any. Several enterprises predict a 5 percent decrease in the months ahead due to fierce competition. The downward trend could persist as LED strip adoption progresses.

LED strip

Ledtech's LY11GL model has 19.8cd luminous intensity and a 120-degree viewing angle.

Taiwan: LED strip line highlights decorative use

LED strips from Taiwan suppliers target mainly decorative applications in the automotive, building and interior design sectors, and digital signage illumination. These adopt mostly 3528 and 5050 diodes.

Units come in various colors and have 12/24VDC input and 30,000 to 50,000hr life span. Most are bendable to allow more design flexibility. Outdoor-use models are water-resistant.

Versions measuring 30 to 50cm are popular in the DIY market, utilized as decorative lighting in vehicles and gardens. Longer varieties are usually for commercial applications in buildings and bridges. One to 5m strips are the best-sellers in this segment. The products have a connectible feature to extend the length and can be cut to fit various installation requirements.

LED strips for display backlighting are also available. These are typically from large companies with a good relationship with display manufacturers because the type has more complex standards to follow. Everlight and Taiwan Surface Mounting Technology are among those offering the variant.

To enhance their selections amid competition from mainland China and South Korea counterparts, businesses in the island have lined up cosmetic design and cost reduction measures. They are confident of meeting this goal as LED strips are easier to produce than upstream components. At present, prices in Taiwan vary from $10 to $60 per unit, depending on the diode used and the strip length.

About 70 small and midsize operations constitute the supplier pool of LED strips in Taiwan. Companies expect the line to continue growing together with advancements in MOCVD machines, which are key to the mass manufacture of high-brightness diodes and therefore help lower LED costs. This in turn will pull down outlay for LED-based products, making them an attractive “green” alternative to traditional lighting devices.

LED strip

Sunlighting's model SL-F1N-3528R-300-D2 flexible LED strip uses 300 3528 LEDs per meter and has 1,350 lumens luminous flux per reel.

ong Kong: Selections yield flexible, rigid LED strips

Flexible and rigid types make up the selection of LED strips from Hong Kong. These come with 15 to 400 diodes in warm white, daylight, blue, yellow, green, amber and red. RGB units are also available.

Releases in flexible configurations are shipped in 5 or 10m reels. Most integrate 5050 and 3528 SMD diodes. Water-resistant kinds have a PVC, epoxy or silicone casing. Wide-angle DIP-based varieties are also on offer.

Recent flexible models have side-view diodes mounted on either or both edges. There are also units encased in transparent round tubes and marketed as rope lights for decorative use.

Rigid LED strips are typically 0.25, 0.3, 0.5, 1 and 1.5m long. Mainstream high-power and -brightness variants employ rigid boards. Many are linkable and come in a casing made of polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA. Screw mounting is an option. Those with aluminum or plastic frames may include a diffuser.

The majority of rigid strips adopt white LEDs, making them suitable for more conventional lighting, architectural and commercial applications. Some businesses eyeing the consumer electronics market offer versions in retail packaging. Each has nine to 30 white, color or RGB diodes, and is bundled with an AC adapter, a power switch and connectors.

Automotive-use LED strips in watertight casings are available in 15 to 40cm units that derive power from the vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket. These may come in a kit that includes connectors and a power switch.

Under efforts to broaden lineups, makers use PCBs in various colors. These include copper, gold, brown, black, red and white.

Luen Yick Electrical Mfg Co. Ltd provides linkable mini LED white and blue. These have a built-in electronic circuit and a PMMA casing. The supplier has more than 30 years of experience making lighting devices.

Sunlighting Opto-electronic Technologies (HK) Co. Ltd’s selection consists of flexible and rigid types. The enterprise utilizes chips on heat sink encapsulation technology to improve thermal dissipation and slow down brightness degradation in its LED products.

Toyo LED Electronics Ltd manufactures standard and water-resistant strips with 3528 SMD diodes. Its LED catalog also includes 7-segment and dot-matrix displays, lamps, bulbs and tubes.

LED strip

Product gallery

C.C. Ohm Enterprise Co. Ltd

Model: 600
Description: Rigid type; 4,100, 6400K color temperatures; 100 to 240VAC; 12W; aluminum body, light guide plate; 50,000hr life span; 570x28x19mm

LED strip

Lei Yueh Enterprise Co. Ltd

Model: TransColor Micro LED Light Strip
Description: Flexible type; RGB LED; color-changing effect, 1.6 million color grades; weather-, impact-resistant

LED strip

Man Jia Technology Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: MJ-QC505QT30-F12W12
MOQ: 10 units
Delivery: 7 days
Price: $13.53 per 5m
Description: Flexible type; SMD LEDs; 114 color effects; >50,000hr life span; cuttable every
3 LEDs; 10 assembly clips, 20 screws for clips bundled

LED strip

Shenzhen Betop Electronics Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: BT-5050FXWP15C-12RGB
MOQ: 100m
Delivery: 10 days
Price: $8 per 1m
Description: Flexible type; RGB; 30 SMD LEDs per meter; color-changing effect; 12VDC; 36W; 12mm PCB width

LED strip

Toyo LED Electronics Ltd
(Hong Kong)

Model: TY-LLBD12-UR30S
Description: Red; 30 3528 LEDs; minimum 60 lumens luminous flux, typical 68; 120-degree viewing angle; AlGaInP; 12VDC 170 to 200mA; 500x12x1.6mm

Note: This article "LED strip makers expand decorative lighting selection" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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