Scaling up: The new opportunities for LED

With high resolution LED now available at lower cost and at lighter weights and in flexible configurations, it can be used on a big scale and in more creative ways to deliver digital spectaculars says Adrian Pennington.

How do you make content stand out in a world of screens? Digital screens used to be flat, framed and square but new flexible LED technologies are freeing designers to get creative with format and to showcase more artistic content.“With flexible and freeform LED the creative possibilities are virtually limitless,” says Michel Buchner from creative technology provider, Nexxt Technology.

“The only problem 
is that the majority of designers and architects are not aware of this yet. Once they think beyond the frame and more about animated wallpaper, patterns,and textures blended as elements in their designs we expect a large rise in the use of aesthetic media with projection mapping and flexible LED.”Only five years ago, LED technology was best known for large format outdoor installations but in recent years, the miniaturisation of LED components has made it possible to obtain increasingly fine pitch at affordable prices such that it is now replacing LCD inboard rooms.

“We recognised the value of flexible LED a while ago especially because of the work we do in retail,” says Adam Wilson, director of digital media solutions provider Intevi. “We did our first proper digital art in 2014 in Covent Garden for Galleria Mellisa. It was a statement piece more about digital art than a display but they didn’t want just a big TV. The only way to achieve it was with fine pitch LED.

“That said, it’s always been a challenge to get customers to think about screens beyond a 16x9 frame and ultimately to think beyond a TV shape and be a bit more images going around corners.”

The first examples of flexible printed circuit boards (PCBs) shown in a ribbon configuration were presented at ISE some years ago.

Arguably, the real shift was 
the custom fabrication of PCB shapes which permit the design of any cut shape. From circles to complete logos and even domes- all made to spec.Some companies are putting a lot of R&D into refining custom PCB design products. It’s the smaller manufacturers who tend to offer this service rather than the larger manufacturers who are more focused on volume,identifies Buchner.

LED ‘sheets’ exhibited at ISE2020 from Spanish company Flying Screens can be combined to create custom-size screens for installation in unconventional locations such as on curved surfaces. The company claims the technology allows design and features which are currently impossible to reach with traditional LED panels.China’s LianTronics showed an ultra-thin and lightweight LED display for OOH offering 8,000 nits, and 14-bit greyscale.

Its new RM series is for the rental market and weighs 25kg per sq m to be spliced into shapes such as concave, L-shape, curved and dislocation. 


Projection versus LED

LED and projection have their own uses, pros and cons. An immersive experience with no daylight where people are close to the image would not make sense with curved LED. An airport with an advertisement column with ambient daylight could work with flexible LED but certainly not with projection.

“Projection still has its place,such as for a transparent image display where projection has no rival,” says Wilson. “Equally,there are certain scenarios where you can’t use projection without problems such as in window displays or areas of high ambient light.”

Jones offers that projection may beat LED if you’re trying to map content onto complex shapes like cars or shoes, but there’s no beating LED when it comes to using video as an architectural feature.“If you want to put a ring on top of a skyscraper, build around about on the outside of an arena or wrap a stage in video then LED is your product of choice.”

"We did our first proper digital art in 2014 in Covent Garden for Galleria Mellisa. It was a statement piece more about digital art than a display. The only way to 

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