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What is a Lightbox?
Lightboxes are used for illuminating graphic displays, and are created using an outer frame, a graphic - usually fabric or duratrans which are designed to permeate light, and LED lighting - housed within the frame or back panel which illuminates the installed graphic. Lightboxes have proven to be a particularly effective way to increase visibility and captivate consumer attention, with research suggesting that illuminated graphics can increase sales by approximately 30% via both direct and subliminal promotional messaging.
We quickly touched upon the three primary components of a LED Lightbox, but there’s much more to consider when asking 'What is a Lightbox' as well as using Lightboxes in retail and commercial environments. We’ll explore each of the different elements below.
What is a lightbox: Profiles
From ultra-slim to large-format, Lightboxes can be specified in sizes from 200mm2 to 50m wide. The final size of the graphic required impacts upon how strong the frame needs to be, to support the graphic display. This can be achieved using aluminium profiles in a range of depths, which are purpose built to provide rigidity at the same time as being designed to house graphics (similar to what you can see in our Tension Fabric System).
Where the overall size of the lightbox will be below 2m2, incredibly thin profiles can be used which result in slimline graphic displays between 18-34mm deep. As the size of the lightbox increases (also combined with the application of the lightbox), the outer-profile used also increases to provide strength, plus the optimal distance between the graphic and LED illumination, ensuring even coverage of light without any hotspots.
Using fabrication services, custom shaped light boxes can be created outside of the standard square & rectangle displays. The example above is from our recent project with River Island, which follows the incline of the steps towards the second floor. This is achieved by technical designers creating a drawing of the requirements, which is passed through to a fabrication team who cut aluminium and back panels to the exact dimensions in from the technical design.
Illuminating a graphic display goes beyond putting a light behind a graphic. Different applications result in a range of illumination techniques and LED specifications.
There are three main methods of applying illumination to a lightbox: edge-lit, back-lit and side-fire:
- Edge-lit illumination is created using optical grade acrylic that has an algorithmically-controlled dot pattern laser-etched onto the surface. When light passes through the acrylic, the light is picked up by the etched dots, resulting in optimal light distribution across the entire display.
- Back-lit illumination is the most commonly used method of adding light to graphic displays. Backlit lightboxes are created with a variety of LED options which are specified depending on a few factors including light output required and power consumption, mounted to the back panel.
- Side-fire illumination consists of high power side-fire LEDs, integrated into a Lightbox’s interior channel, which are fitted with an optic lens that projects light evenly across graphics, whilst providing the ability to flat-pack the entire display as there is no back panel.
In terms of specifying the LED lighting itself, there are many considerations that result in producing the perfect graphic display. Below are three of the most common requests from clients when specifying LED light boxes.
- Output / Luminous Flux: The amount of light output from a light source is measured by ‘luminous flux’. It provides an estimate of the amount of light the graphic display will produce, and a higher ratio of luminous flux to consumed power is more efficient.
- Power Consumption: Typically retailers have energy consumption targets to hit, and are wary of how much power lighting consumes in an effort to minimise this figure. As the efficiency of a graphic display depends on multiple factors, such as the output of the LEDs and the driver, it’s best to consult with your supplier on what your exact requirements are, which will allow them to test and produce prototypes/solutions, for your environment.
- Colour Temperature: LEDs can be specified in different colour temperatures, which range from a warm light (around 2700K) to cool light (7000K). The colour temperature is the shade of white light emitted, when (techy bit....) "a theoretical black body" (imagine this as the metal filament in a light bulb, or, in more simplistic terms, a lump of iron or steel) is heated to a given temperature, measured in Kelvins. The hotter it gets, the cooler the appearance of the light. Different colour temperatures result in graphics appearing closer to their original artwork, for example, if your graphic was a snow scene, a cool white LED colour temperature would ensure the graphic retained a blue-white, rather than a red-white.
The most common graphics for use in Lightboxes are made from fabric, which is specifically formulated for illuminated applications. These fabrics are supplied with sewn-in silicon edging which allows quick & easy application into the light box frame. These ensure that when light is applied to the rear of the graphic, the light is diffused evenly so that hot spots are not visible and the vibrancy of the graphics are enhanced rather than washed out. However there are two printing processes available.
Two different processes used for printing fabric graphics are detailed below:
- UV Printing
- UV printing involves an inkjet process whereby once the ink is apllied the fabric, it is cured under a ultra-violet light, ensuring that the ink is dried onto the top layer almost immediately, resulting in a high definition print as the ink doesn’t have time to spread or bleed into the fabric.
- Generally, UV printing is considered to give you a more vibrant effect and allows you to achieve a better contrast, meaning darker colours are richer.
- Dye Sublimation
- Dye sublimated printing is a two-step process. Firstly the graphic or image is printed onto the fabric and then bonded (or sublimated) into the fabric, generating a much more durable printed textile, which is perfect for fabrics that are destined to be handled more.
- We recommend Dye Sublimated printing for textiles that will be handled many times and for all our Magnetik light boxes, to ensure the image remains in place even when shelves and hooks accessories constantly being moved about.