Chip on Board (COB) is a rather new technology in the LED panel world. New versions are introduced to the market this year, but while still an underdeveloped category, this new technology has been a big topic of conversation among LED professionals. In the end, the question still remains: Is COB the future technology we have been waiting for?
What is Chip On Board?
COB refers to the concept of mounting and embedding LEDs directly within the printed circuit board (PCB), an protecting them with a silicone layer on top. This method creates a very compact module where the smallest LEDs can be safely and effectively mounted while still being protected by the surrounding material. The key difference with SMD LEDs is that since the LEDs are fully sealed within the the module, they cannot be removed individually.
Why Chip on Board?
Every new technology is developed to fix an existing issue in the market. What COB is trying to achieve, is to protect the LEDs from damage, and particualrly finding a way of protecting fine pixel LEDs that cannot be manually adjusted as they get smaller and smaller.
Being multi-chip packaged and mostly developed for fine pixel, COB LEDs have the advantage of concentrating a higher amount of light in a small space. This has the benefit of decreasing light loss and increasing the viewing angle. The greater viewing angle is the result of removing the usual packaging parts around the LED during the embedding process, and allows the fine LEDs to be closer together while still being protected by the substrate.
Another great advantage of COB LEDs is their durability and their ability to reduce repair time while on site. The silicone packaging around the LED not only acts as a lens, it also protects the individual LEDs from physical damage. By condensing LEDs into one module, speedy repair on site is made easier. While the norm now is to use modules from spare panels to fix a failed module, COB LEDs allows an LED tech to only replace that specific module and not have to scavenge for one from spare panels. This becomes key when calculating shipping weight where shipping out spare modules instead of full LED panels saves lots of shipping weight, and take a lot less space to store when on-site.
COB LEDs have huge advantages over standard LEDs, but one of their main issue comes from their limited color spectrum. Indeed not all LED lights can be mounted on the silicone substrate, which means that the more complex an image gets, the less crisp the image will look because not every part of the light spectrum can be reproduced.
Another disadvantage to COB LEDs is that while all the LEDS are protected by the silicone layer, and the moment one of them breaks down or gets damaged, the entire module needs to be changed, and individual LEDs cannot be repaired. This disadvantage is a consequence of the way the COB LEDs are built, and is unlikely to go away as more manufacturers experiment with this new technology.
Matrix Visual’s Experience with Chip on Board LED:
For the past two weeks, we have had the privilege of having a COB LED wall loaned to us, and after various experiments with multiple settings, images and videos, we are now ready to give you a quick breakdown of what we found:
The first element that we noticed with the COB wall, was just how difficulty it was to push true black light, or even to have a black display when turning the panels off. While we only tested one type of COB LED, and we cannot make a case for the entire technology, the wall we tested was not physically capable of producing enough black for a truly crisp image. The gray colored silicone protective layers had a huge effect on the ability to push out black, and because of this natural grayness to the product, it was not possible to have true black no matter how hard we tried. When asking our LED experts and those who came to our showroom what they felt would help the product, a common suggestion was to add a black film on top of the module, or add black pigments to the substrate itself.
The second element we noticed was also just how easy it was to clean the panels and modules. A simple wet cloth is the best tool to clean everything, and no need to worry about damages to the LEDs for the simple reason that they are fully sealed and protected inside the silicone module.
Our first thoughts regarding Chip on Board LED is that while it may still be in its infancy, the concept of COB LED sounds like it could be a winner. Our industry has been seeing pixels getting smaller and smaller, but there hasn’t been much innovation in the way the panels are manufactured.
LEDs are so delicate that almost 20% of all LED panels come back from show sites with some form of damage. Improving durability by sealing and protecting LEDs together can have huge benefits and possibly help reduce the percentage of breakage that occurs on show site.
Overall, COB is not yet ready for the rental & staging world, but we were very excited to see that manufacturers are trying to overcome the real issues of the emerging LED market by tackling: durability, ease of repair, weight, ease of built & above all, picture quality. While we have not yet made a decision whether we want to add this new technology to our inventory, we really want to thank everyone who came to our showroom and gave us their insight on the COB LED wall.
Would you like to see first hand a COB LED wall and live in the Los Angeles/Orange County area? Give us a call, and reserve your spot now! Do not miss your chance to discover the latest in LED technology. We will take down the wall in a few weeks.
CONTACT US Or Call Now: +1 (714) 482-3605
The Basics of Chips on Board LEDs (www.digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2016/aug/the-basics-of-chip-on-board-cob-leds)