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Woven LEDs make flexible signs

26 Mar 2004

Sarnoff unveils what it claims is the world’s first sign incorporating LEDs into woven fabric.

FabriLED is the world’s first woven LED sign, according to its inventors the Sarnoff Corporation, US. The programmable sign integrates high brightness LEDs with woven fabric to create a display that is eye-catching, lightweight and flexible. What’s more, Sarnoff says FabriLEDs will be cheaper than other programmable technologies.

“Our price advantage will increase almost geometrically as the signs scale up in size,” a spokesperson for the FabriLED project told Optics.org. “While the cost per square centimeter of LCDs, for example, rises rapidly as the displays get bigger, FabriLED’s unit cost is likely to stay the same or decrease. That’s the advantage of working with a manufacturing process that’s continuous instead of batch-orientated. You know each element works before manufacture.”

Sarnoff’s prototype is made from a readily available blended wool-cotton yarn and is designed to adapt to standard looming processes. It can be one, two or three feet high by up to 20 feet long. The sign displays one to three line of text in six or 12-inch characters using hundreds of red, yellow or green LEDs.

The display is flexible and can be bent around corners and conform to any surface. Sarnoff says that an 8 foot sign can be rolled into a 6-inch diameter tube without suffering any damage. It is also light, weighing just over 50g per square foot.

FabriLED prototypes have been unveiled at this month’s Exhibitor Show and Global Shop events in Las Vegas. The current version is designed for indoor use only and requires a standard AC power supply. Users can program new messages into their signs by typing them into a laptop.

Although FabriLEDs cannot be bought of the shelf right now, Sarnoff is in discussions with potential manufacturers and says that production could ramp up very quickly.

The firm is also contemplating an outdoor FabriLED. “We will explore this and other potential applications once the current design has been launched,” said the FabriLED spokesperson. “The power supply is separate from the actual sign, so battery-powered versions are possible.”

Jacqueline Hewett is technology editor on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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