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Need Help Adding LEDs to laser cut acrylic letters

mgiara

New Member
Hello!

I've been tasked with adding LED's to some laser cut acrylic letters that we plan on installing on the side of our buildling.

I wasn't sure what style would work best, so I ordered 5-10 different kinds for testing.
The two main categories I found were high voltage (not sure if AC or DC but they measured roughly 110v with the DMM on both modes) where the LED's and silver wire are completely enclosed in a stiff, thick rubber tube:
ropes1(sq).jpg
ropes2(rnd).jpg
sq_tube2.jpg

I printed some fingers to hold these tubes onto the acrylic and it -kind of- worked.
image_67221761.JPG

Obstacles with this style of LED:
-The cut segments are restrictive: minimum segment length they can be cut to is 1m without having to do extra wiring
-Cutting the rubber casing is not easy; if you wanted say 30 1m segments for 30 signage characters, there's a huge labor factor exposing the leads from inside the rubber encasement
-Not easily dimmable, though this isn't really a drawback for most who will run their lights at max brightness
Advantages of this style of LED:
-Most robust housing/enclosure I've come across. As long as you properly seal the ends, these would very likely last the longest.


Style 2: Low voltage
These are your standard flat ribbon/pcb typically rated for 12 or 24v DC except they have a thin rubberized coating covering the LED's and top side of the ribbon strip.
thin_coating.jpg

Advantages:
-Much more flexibility in cutting small lengths/segments
-Far brighter (at least the ones I ordered)
-12 and 24V DC are easily dimmable
Disadvantages:
-Adhesive is really not great, even when applying to a perfectly clean and oil free surface
-Waterproofing really doesn't seem like it's going to last

Style 3:
Continuously illuminated soft glow, I have no idea what these go by besides "silicone tube"
I'll add photos to the next post since I'm limited to 5.
 

mgiara

New Member
continuous2.jpg
continuous1.jpg

The long and short of it is, I didn't do any testing with these because they seemed difficult to understand and likely very difficult to chop up and modify. Maybe I should have given it a go.

Here are the acrylic letters I have to illuminate:
IMG-4094.jpg


And here is my work thus far attaching the Style 2 LED strips:

IMG-4092.jpg


What I'd like to ask is, am I going about this completely wrong and are you all able to guide me some?

I wanted to make sure to give this an honest attempt before lazily coming to an enthusiast community for advice.

These LED strips I've used so far just don't seem like they're going to last the test of time (minimum 5 years) out in the elements.
Should I just blast them with tons of clear caulking?

How about adhesion? More caulking?

If I'm way out in left field and not even close to doing this the way you experts would, please let me know! I'm here to get this project done, but also to learn. I respect the wisdom you all have and thank you in advance for taking the time to read my post.

-Mikey
 

DL Signs

Never go against the family
Best way to do halo lighting is to have sides on the letters, or whatever you're lighting, like the image attached. The recess forces the light to be reflected toward the wall before it spreads out. Without it the light just shines out the sides and just washes everything out, and the lighting won't be as even. The deeper the sides, the more focused the light will be off the wall, plus it also adds a little built in protection for the lighting. Make sense?

7660da9902764ae1be8c861d7459adc4.jpg
 

mgiara

New Member
Best way to do halo lighting is to have sides on the letters, or whatever you're lighting, like the image attached. The recess forces the light to be reflected toward the wall before it spreads out. Without it the light just shines out the sides and just washes everything out, and the lighting won't be as even. The deeper the sides, the more focused the light will be off the wall, plus it also adds a little built in protection for the lighting. Make sense?

View attachment 162111
Thank you.
I'm not sure how we would fabricate/manufacture sides on the letters. I entirely agree that it looks FAR better, but I think my boss is okay with the less-appealing appearance, so long as it lasts.
I do see that you mention it adds some protection from the elements. I wonder if there's a way to better adhere and waterproof the LED strips we have without adding sides.
If not, I'll have to get a quote approved for whatever I'll need to fabricate those sides.
Yes, makes complete sense. Thank you.
 

DL Signs

Never go against the family
Thank you.
I'm not sure how we would fabricate/manufacture sides on the letters. I entirely agree that it looks FAR better, but I think my boss is okay with the less-appealing appearance, so long as it lasts.
I do see that you mention it adds some protection from the elements. I wonder if there's a way to better adhere and waterproof the LED strips we have without adding sides.
If not, I'll have to get a quote approved for whatever I'll need to fabricate those sides.
Yes, makes complete sense. Thank you.
Make sure the lights are mounted good, whether you channel them or not. Adhesives can come loose from heat, and since you're putting these exterior, black letters get pretty hot when the sun is beating down on em'. A little silicone here and there helps.

If this is something you are planning on diving into I suggest looking into LED modules like these. You can put as much light as you need, where you need it. There's a ton of options, lumens, colors, voltages, way better than the run of the mill LED strips, and more versatile.... They're made for the sign industry and available through most sign supply vendors that carry electronics. These are what we use for channel letters, halo lighting, cabinets, etc....
 

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mgiara

New Member
Make sure the lights are mounted good, whether you channel them or not. Adhesives can come loose from heat, and since you're putting these exterior, black letters get pretty hot when the sun is beating down on em'. A little silicone here and there helps.

If this is something you are planning on diving into I suggest looking into LED modules like these. You can put as much light as you need, where you need it. There's a ton of options, lumens, colors, voltages, way better than the run of the mill LED strips, and more versatile.... They're made for the sign industry and available through most sign supply vendors that carry electronics. These are what we use for channel letters, halo lighting, cabinets, etc....
Thank you DL!!!

I just spoke with my boss and he IS a fan of "let's do this once", as in, if it's going to cost a little more to get the CORRECT LED modules for the job and possibly even adding sides/channels/walls to the letters, he's open to it.

Question 1: It seems like most of the vendors who carry AgiLight products only sell to sign-making businesses. We're wondering how I might be able to source some for our project. We're open to whatever works, including if there's a member of the forums here who will help us that we could compensate for the help.

Question 2: Are there any stickied posts here where I can learn about adding sides to the letters? (materials, adhesives, techniques)?
 

mgiara

New Member
Those LED rope lights you got could melt / catch fire if you're using them outside.
I'm sure they could, though probably highly unlikely. You see them in use everywhere.
That said, I am open to using the Right kind of LED modules, so long as I can actually get them...
It doesn't matter if I know exactly what kind of LED's I need to do this properly, have the budget for them, and am entirely willing to fit them into the budget and use them, if I can't actually get them.
 

DL Signs

Never go against the family
Thank you DL!!!

I just spoke with my boss and he IS a fan of "let's do this once", as in, if it's going to cost a little more to get the CORRECT LED modules for the job and possibly even adding sides/channels/walls to the letters, he's open to it.

Question 1: It seems like most of the vendors who carry AgiLight products only sell to sign-making businesses. We're wondering how I might be able to source some for our project. We're open to whatever works, including if there's a member of the forums here who will help us that we could compensate for the help.

Question 2: Are there any stickied posts here where I can learn about adding sides to the letters? (materials, adhesives, techniques)?
Don't know if any of the merchant members sell them, but you can get light modules on Amazon (just type "led modules for signs" in the search). Can't attest to their quality or durability compared to what we use, but for a one-off project they'll probably be better, and more weather resistant than strips or rope lights, and easier to lay out. Watch the reviews so you don't end up with the worst of the worst, and end up with them failing, shorting, or catching fire, some will be better than others.

Just cutting acrylic letters is one thing, but when it comes to extruded lettering, like many shops we order the letters from places like Gemini Sign Supply and others who specialize in them. They'll make them in whatever font, shape, size, color, depth, material... There are ways to do it, but making them yourself can be pretty labor (cost) intensive, unless you're set up for it, and have the equipment. Sign shops don't just buy expensive equipment for specialized products unless there's enough demand to make it profitable, the supply companies fill that gap, just like aftermarket car parts, or anything else. And just like in that world, most only deal with corporate accounts who do volume, or steady repeat purchasing, like how you can buy a headlight at the parts store, but a consumer can't just get one from the mfgr, supplier, or warehouse, it's all business to business.

Search the forums here, if there's any hacks, tricks to do them in house, I'm sure you'll find them. Worst case scenario is you'll use your flat letters, apply decent lighting modules, experiment and arrange the modules so they will have the effect you want, and even lighting before you attach them permanently to the letters.
 

unmateria

New Member
Hi :) with laser cutting you just need a normal camping fire to do the borders... Is extremely fast and cheap.

For leds, yes, you are going wrong. Go for a dealer for profesionals... Are cheaper, extremely much better quality and insane more easy to get perfect results and the most important... Never fail. All those strips from amazon fails like bulbs... All chinese crap. I have tested looots of them... All fail. In 8 years not a single one strip from professional dealers has failed to us... Not a single one.
 

mgiara

New Member
Hi :) with laser cutting you just need a normal camping fire to do the borders... Is extremely fast and cheap.

For leds, yes, you are going wrong. Go for a dealer for profesionals... Are cheaper, extremely much better quality and insane more easy to get perfect results and the most important... Never fail. All those strips from amazon fails like bulbs... All chinese crap. I have tested looots of them... All fail. In 8 years not a single one strip from professional dealers has failed to us... Not a single one.
Show me a professional dealer that will sell to a non-sign-making-business
 

DL Signs

Never go against the family
Show me a professional dealer that will sell to a non-sign-making-business
They're business to business suppliers. Get yer' boss to have his business set up an account with one of them. Pick one that sells other products the company will use, and use them as a vendor for other things too. I have accounts of my own with a few places under the tax ID for my sideline freelance work. Sign shops aren't the only ones that use everything they have, but they'll only deal with business accounts, not the general public.
 
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