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LED strip light is a flexible circuit board that has a series of SMD (surface mounted) LEDs (light emitting diodes) and resistors attached to it. LED strip lights are also known as tape lights or ribbon lights. They can be populated by both analog and digital LEDs and can emit white light as well as light in any other color.
LED strip lights are 80% more efficient than normal bulbs. They emit very little heat that easily dissipates and they have no mercury. They may seem to be very small on their own, but together they can emit an enormous amount of light suitable to brighten any space.
Here is a list of characteristics that make LED light strips the ideal option for lighting your homes, offices, vehicles and more:
As LED strip lights become more popular, the process of making them becomes more streamlined as well. LED strips are basically printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are welded together to get the right length. PCBs use a process called Surface Mount Technology (SMT) Assembly Process to mount LEDs and other components onto the board.
Using the PCBA process, we can actually customize your LEDs on a PCB level to match your specific lighting needs. We also do a quality control test at the end of each step to ensure our product is up to the mark. Here’s a look at how the process works:
The first step in manufacturing a LED light strip is to place LEDs and other components together on a reel. Placing all components including LEDs and resistors on a reel ensures efficient pasting on the board later on in the process.
At Elstar, we use a sophisticated piece of equipment to fix LED wafers onto a reel. We arrange these wafers in just the right order, ready for pasting in the next step of the process. The wafers are fixed using wire bonds. We use industrial gold that is 99.9999% pure to ensure the longevity of connection.
A spectrophotometer automatically sorts LEDs based on current, voltage and color. This helps it connect LEDs with the same specs together on a single reel. Once the LED reels or strips are ready, we seal them in vacuum bags to protect them from dust and humidity.
After producing the reels, we put them through a baking process to dehumidify them before placing them in vacuum bags. We also do light color matching to maintain light consistency. Each reel also goes through a manual microscopic check to ensure the proper placement of wafers.
The next step in LED strips manufacturing is getting the PCB ready to paste the LED components on it. This is accomplished using a process called Solder Paste Stenciling.
Solder paste is a greyish substance that contains tiny balls of metals called solders. The balls are made predominantly of steel with traces of silver and copper. This paste is applied on the PCB at the places where the components are to be mounted.
This was previously done manually, but thanks to advances in technology, this step is now taken care of by a specialized machine. It’s essential to apply the solder paste to the exact mounting places of the components and in precisely the right amount.
A mechanical fixture is used to hold the PCB and the stencil in place. Meanwhile, an applicator places a precise amount of solder on each intended place on the PCB. The machine then spreads the solder paste evenly across the PCB. When the stencil is removed, an even layer of solder paste is spread on the intended locations.
After applying the solder paste, the SMT machine then positions the components in their intended places on the PCB. The LEDs on the reel are placed on the PCB using a robotic device that puts each component exactly where it belongs.
This process was previously done manually but that led to quality control issues. Since then, SMT machines come equipped with specialized devices that take care of placing the components correctly.
We use high-tech Japanese SMT machines that help us maintain our high standards and quality.
Now that the solder and components are in place on the PCB, you need to make sure they stay there. This is done by putting the PCB through a process called Reflow Soldering.
The PCB board, along with the pasted components, is placed on a conveyer belt. This conveyor belt takes the board to a reflow oven. This oven is similar to a commercial pizza oven. It consists of a series of heaters that heat the PCB gradually until it reaches a temperature of 250 degrees Celsius (480 degrees Fahrenheit).
At this temperature the solders inside the solder paste melt. Once they melt, the conveyer belt moves the PCB further through the oven where a series of coolers bring the temperature down. This gradual decrease in temperature solidifies the solder again. This creates a permanent bond between the LED components and the PCB.
After the reflow process, it’s time to test our LED strips. We test each strip to make sure the brightness, color, and other specifications are just as designed.
The LED lights come out of the reflow as 50 cm strips. They are then welded together by connecting one strip with the other. We can connect the strips together to any length you want either using a machine or by hand.
After welding the LED strips together, we do another series of tests to make sure the strips work as promised. A lighting test confirms that the strips don’t have any loose circuits. Other optical and electric tests are done to ensure the LED strips meet all our standards and all your requirements.
The welded LED strips are put through a process called aging to check their performance. The LED strips are turned on for 12 hours straight to see if they’ll work seamlessly. This test helps us check the quality of the LED strips and troubleshoot any problems.
LED light strips are also put through a waterproofing process to increase their longevity. This process requires covering the LED strip with silicone, plastic or both. You can use a machine to do this or choose manual coverage.
At Elstar, we use both a machine and manual inspection to make sure the LED strips are evenly coated.
Surface inspection is done on each LED light strip to ensure its quality and performance.
Once the LED strips pass all the quality checks, we will paste 3M tape to their backs. This makes it easy for customers to install the LED light strips wherever they want. We use quality 3M tape that adheres to all surfaces easily.
The last step is packaging the LED light strips and ship them out to you.
Our last quality test is a random inspection of LED strips that are ready for packaging. This helps us maintain our high standards of quality.
LED light strips are only as good as their quality. The problem is that you can’t really tell the quality of a strip until you actually start using it. This is the reason why it is important to buy LED lights from a trusted LED manufacturer.
Here are some of the factors that affect the quality of LED light strips:
Copper wires are used in the PCB board to make sure there is a seamless flow of current to all the components installed over it. The quality of the copper wire used can affect the performance of the LED strip.
If the copper wire is too thin, current won’t be able to pass through it and your LED strips may not work or suffer from Voltage Drop. Low-quality copper can also cause hindrance in current flow and affect the way your LED strip works.
Phosphor is used in LEDs to increase the fluorescence of light. It is essential in producing pure white light that is bright and untainted. A poor quality phosphor can make your LED lights look dimmer. It can also cause the color to not be as pure.
It is important to note that phosphor does degrade with time and use. But good quality phosphor retains its structure longer, making your LED strips shine brightly for years.
It is essential that the LED components placed on the PCB are in their correct places. If not, the LED strip simply won’t work.
Another misstep is combining different sized LEDs on a single strip. This reduces the strip’s efficiency and accelerates the degeneration of phosphor. Different LEDs are usually combined to make a LED strip look brighter at a lower cost. But these LED strips do not last a long time and end up costing you more.
Component quality is a very important factor that makes or breaks your LED light strips. LED strips with good quality LEDs, resistors and PCBs stand out from the rest. They not only perform better but they last for longer as well.
Poor quality LEDs have problems with color consistency and die down sooner. Faulty resistors and PCBs affect the flow of current and may cause the LED strips to heat up.
Good quality LED strips can be a one-and-done solution to your lighting needs. It is always a good idea to do your research before making a buying decision. If you want to know more about our LED strip manufacturing process or have any other queries, feel free to reach out. Our aim is to provide high-quality LED lighting solutions that will last you years.