A Comparison Between Laser Wire® And LED Lighting Strips

Ellumiglow, based out of Portland, Oregon, provides custom lighting solutions for professionals, retailers, design agencies, television and film, and textile manufacturers, just to name a few.

A common question we often hear is “How bright are light emitting diodes vs… product X or Y”. Today, we’re going to compare the primary differences between one of our newest accent lighting technologies, Laser Wire® to see how it stacks up against the common LED Strip light. Let’s take a closer look!

EFFICIENCY

If comparing a one meter length of our standard 5050 RGBW Strip Lighting with one meter length of Super Pop Laser Wire®, illuminating the RED channel on the strip light at full brightness consumes 600 mA (milli amps) at 24 volts DC, while a red laser module only consumes around 100mA at 5V DC. When converting these numbers to watts, the LEDs consumes over 25x more power than the same length of the laser light cabling. (14.4 vs 0.5 watts) For both of these, producing the color red is the more efficient than emitting blue and green light.

LIFESPAN

A 5VDC USB laser module has a MTBF (mean time before failure) of 8,000 hours. LED strip lighting has a rated lifespan of up to 50,000 hours. Longer lifespan out of both is possible if brightness is reduced.

COST (and replacement cost)

Based on a length of 5 meters, a reel of **high-quality single color, RGBW, or RGB LED strip lighting without any driving electronics or controllers can cost anywhere between $99 and $249 USD. A five meter Laser system in red, green, or blue costs $129, and works right out of the box with most standard USB batteries or power sources.

If an LED Strip is damaged during normal operation or extended use, sometimes it is repairable but at the risk of reducing structural integrity of the copper PCB strip or having inconsistent light quality between the original diodes on the strip and the new section that is patched in. This can be especially difficult when the LED strip lights are installed in a inaccessible area, and requires expert soldering experience to be done correctly. It’s usually cheaper to replace the entire strip in effort to prevent future issues and also save labor cost in replacement and repair.

If the laser emitting device is damaged during use or a new replacement color, the USB laser emitter module can be easily replaced for easy serviceability, reducing downtime and labor costs. Cost of a replacement, single color 5VDC 20mW laser emitter retails for $84.99 USD. Other modules with higher output power are available.

APPLICATION

Both of the lighting technologies have some overlap, but also have very distinct differences that make each one unique and suited to certain uses. LED strips are great for filling a room with light, and fare well as an alternative to older types of point light sources, such as CFL bulbs, fluorescent tubes, and incandescent lighting. In many instances, a diffuser is paired with LED’s to eliminate hot-spots and produce an even glow. Without a diffuser, users experience what is called “hot-spotting” (due to many individual diodes lined up in a row to produce an appearance of continuous lighting from small, bright points of light). Light emitting strips can be used outdoors and indoors, but it does require a special jacketing to protect the lighting element from weather. Ellumiglow’s Laser Wire® is 0.9mm thin, and provides 360 degrees of illumination around the circumference of the wire. It’s thin, flexible nature allows it to be hidden or contoured on almost any surface due to it’s almost-invisible appearance when off. The illuminating cable itself is also waterproof in nature, so it does not require any additional materials to achieve an IP67 rating.

CUSTOM COLORS and Gradients

LED based strip lighting is available in single colors and RGB, RGBW, and even color-temperature adjustable strip lighting (consisting of a pure white and warm white diode). Color mixing can be achieved with our line of Auralux and Wavelux premium LED controller, via DMX, Wifi, Dali, 0–10v dimming, and other control methods. Gradients are possible by using individually addressable pixel strips (which also require special controllers to operate)

To achieve color mixing with a laser-based light source, either two lasers of different colors can be placed on the end of a single Laser Wire® cable to achieve color mixing and gradients, or an RGB laser driver may be used to achieve full-gamut color mixing (including tunable whites). TTL 12v/5v laser modules allow the light to be controlled via PWM via microcontroller platforms, and also makes it compatible with many of the same control methods mentioned above.

BRIGHTNESS

LED based light strips can vary in brightness output due to a number of factors, but generally when compared directly with the laser-based counterpart it is brighter. We would put them both in categories of LED light as “being able to provide practical light to fill a room”, while laser based cabling to “produce a bright appearance appropriate to accent contours and edges”.

FLEXIBILITY and DURABILITY

Both of the products mentioned in this article have been generally pegged as being flexible, making them great for contouring curves and mounting to surfaces that aren’t predictable and flat. RGB and White based strip lighting uses a flexible copper tape that is only capable of bending in a lateral direction, and are not designed to hold up to continuous flexing. Laser Wire® can be bent up to a 5mm radius before light leakage and potential damage occurs, and otherwise is infinitely bendable and is non-shape conforming with the consistency of a “wet noodle”. The mechanical pull force of the light carrier has been tested up to 100kpsi.

**Pricing references pulled from LED strip lighting available from Ellumiglow.com — our strips feature CRI over 95, pixel bin matching during manufacturing process for accurate color reproduction, unique color mixing features utilizing 5 meters of RGBW and RGBA (amber) 4 in 1 5050 type pixels for $219.99 USD. A 5 meter reel of 3535 RGB led strips produce up to 3.5 times the light output of other RGB and RGBW strips, and retails for $219.99 USD. A 5 meter reel of Auralux RGBW individually addressable LED pixels retails for $249.99 USD. ECO RGB Pixel Free uses smaller RGB pixels and a thinner conductive tape inside of a dual-chamber silicone diffusion along a 5 meter length, and retails for $99.99 USD (in comparison to the standard non-economy version retailing for $179.99 USD).