Building a LED Readerboard or Electronic Message Center
Question: I would like to make an LED readerboard type of sign that we can use for our business. How difficult is this to do?
Answer: I suppose the answer to this question will have to do mostly with your technical savvy in regards to creating electronic controllers or finding ones that would work with what you’re wanting to accomplish. However, you may be re-inventing the wheel. Though it can be done, I would have to ask you, “what is your time worth?”
In the past 10 years particularly, LED lighting technology has improved with the output becoming better and the energy usage decreasing along with the price of the lights. Simultaneously, computer technology has also improved, leading to the emergence of the affordable Electronic Message Center, or EMC.
Electronic Readerboards have come down in pricing, according to Sign & Digital Graphics Magazine, as much as 65% over the past few years, and the Electronic Message Center (EMC) has become the rule rather than the exception. There is no doubt, according to the Small Business Administration, that an EMC can increase walk-in business from 15% to 150% or more, and at 10% of the cost of television, radio, or newspaper advertising . So I’d encourage your interest in these signs if you’re the type of business that customers drive by or walk into. The busier the street, the better.
With the ability to change messages frequently, business owners can adjust to their target audience’s demographic as well as having the ability to attract customers with specials and seasonal sales.
Also being improved are the cabinet materials. New and lighter and stronger composite metals are being used that help improve the weight and durability of the signs, while wireless technology such as 3G and 4G options aid businesses with EMC’s that essentially are able to use moving advertising similar to watching TV while you’re driving…at least for about 3-5 seconds. Included with this trend is the shift to color. It used to be prohibitively expensive to build or purchase full color spectrum LED signs, but with the cost of all components dropping, it is now affordable for many businesses to purchase full color video displays.
According to Sign & Digital Graphics Magazine, EMC’s are also much easier to service today than in the past. Some manufacturers of these signs offer both front and back service entries for their signs. The signs are built to be weather resistant as well, so servicing an EMC for water damage is not the norm, and one doesn’t need to remove the sign to service it either.
If you’ve never built an EMC or LED sign, one thing you’d need to know is the pitch of the pixels, or how tightly they are grouped together, which will affect readability. The more tightly bunched the LED lights, the better the resolution, and the easier to read or see, just like a computer or TV screen.
So, hopefully you can see the complexity of LED and EMC signs in the 21st century. Competition has both improved quality and continues to drive prices down, so in our opinion, why try to re-invent the wheel. The experts have been doing it for years.
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