Thursday, August 2, 2012

What is the Best Service Access Design for LED Signs?

Virtually every piece of electronic equipment has to be serviced or the internal components accessed at one time or another. This could be as simple as removing the battery cover, or as complex as taking apart a laptop to replace major components. In either situation the manufacturer must design a way for the consumer to access and service the equipment.

LED signs are no different, but have the added factor of being installed outdoors on a structure not easily accessed without a bucket truck or large ladder. To minimize safety risks and long term services costs it is imperative that LED manufacturers have a well designed access to service internal parts.

Some do this well, while others see serviceability as an afterthought, focusing more on volume sales than long term operation. Some advertise that the product is so good it will never need service. This is a nice idea, but not realistic at all. All electronic devices will need to be serviced or maintained at some point during their lifetime; the key is to find a manufacture with the lowest failure rate and who provides the best access design to save time and money on service calls.

So what is the best access design? Well there are four general approaches that most manufacturers use. I've summarized them below, starting with my least favorite:

Front Access Faces
This is a relatively new approach where the entire sign face hinges open to reveal the components. This design has initially appealed to many customers and manufacturers trying to find an innovative solution for service and repair. There is a right way to do this, but there are common issues when done incorrectly including water entry and door size limitations. There are additional issues concerning safety in the design. Some overseas manufacturers have used sub-par materials for the hinges, causing the entire face to dismount during service calls, endangering the safety of the service crew. This type of system done correctly has its place but it must be well designed and engineered, typically adding a substantial cost to the overall price of the LED sign.

Front Access Doors
This solution is similar to the access face approach, but uses smaller doors over multiple sections of a sign. This is often done when the signs are built using pre-fabricated sections pieced together at the factory during production. This approach has worked well for some, but also has drawbacks including restricted air flow inside the sign from the isolation of the sections. In my opinion this option is better than the entire face access, but still falls short for a good overall solution.

 Rear Access Doors
This approach uses multiple doors on the back of each sign to access the internal components and is a common design for many digital billboards and large format signs. This approach should only be used in these specific types of situations, with enough space behind the sign for a service “catwalk”. Otherwise, service is next to impossible using a bucket truck between back to back installations.  

Front Access LED Panels
In my opinion, this is the best overall solution. This approach lets you remove individual led modules (panels) to access the components. Early designs used screws to remove each module, but a small number of major manufacturers (like Vantage LED) currently use a latch system allowing a quick half turn to release each module, saving time and avoiding dropped screws. I have personally experienced virtually all of the other approaches and feel this is the best overall solution for most sign applications.

I come from a service background and know the frustration of poor access design all to well. The hassle and associated costs to service these signs can make a once exciting addition to a business become a dreaded symbol of frustration and wasted time. Don't forget this important factor when looking for a quality LED sign supplier and make sure they are in it for the long run.

I hope this post has been informative and helpful. As usual, I welcome ALL constructive comments. Please feel free to comment and add anything I’ve missed, or additional tips you may have regarding this topic. Please visit for many other resources, white papers, and of course: Great looking LED Signs!

**All posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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