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Estimate Software- Printing software that helps you find the hidden treasure in your business.

Get the Point?

Incandescent Bulbs and Neon Lamps

By Alan Dorman

What century is your sign shop living in? Sure you may use the latest technology in paints and vinyl to make your next masterpiece but how much thought have you given to flashing the neon lamps or incandescent bulbs that may light up the sign?

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  • How many points of animation does the sign have? Or, to put it another way, how many loads will you be flashing on and off? Lets look at a simple rectangular sign, say 5 feet by 9 feet with 120 incandescent lamps around the border. Each lamp draws 1/2 Amp when turned on. Common “out of the box” design would call for a 3 point flashing pattern, wiring every third bulb together. Adding up the total load current per point would show that the flasher would have to handle 20 Amps per point.

    20 amps per point flashing equipment does not come cheap. And to further complicate matters the inrush current of the bulbs can be up to 8 times the rated on current so this surge must be designed into the current handling capabilities of the flasher. The higher the current per point the more money must be spent on the flashing equipment and supporting interconnects. Three points of animation and your sign will look like every other sign out there. But lets look at a design “outside the box” of standard off-the-shelf solutions.

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    What if you took that same sign but wired the bulbs with a 30 point flasher? (Yes they do exist). The animation sequences for such a sign would be more flexible then the simple three point solution. And the AC current driven per point would be much less.

    For one thing the flasher will probably have a computer chip in it. Computer chips can be programmed. The sign can be “programmed” with a pattern. Instead of an “omni-directional” 3 point flash, flash, flash the computer chip can be programmed to spell on, then scintillate off, then stack the bulbs, then repeat. Or any other pattern you and your, now excited by the possibilities, customer can come up with.

    Will it cost a little more? Yes.
    Will the customers be willing to pay a little extra for a one-of-a-kind masterpiece? Yes.

    This is the 21st century, the technology is out there, find it and use it and your company will be known as the sign shop that makes the really unique signs. So how many points of animation will your next sign project have?

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