To Strip or Not to Strip.

Discussion in 'Tips and Tricks' started by Jimbo, Jan 4, 2018.

  1. Jimbo

    Jimbo Full Time Elf

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    16
    So I thought I would add some tips on strip lighting, as basicallly my whole display (except for mini trees and reindeer which use the WS2811 nodes).

    I have about 200m of WS 2811 3 led per pixel strip on my roof alone. I have 6 matrix’s on my house, a 4m x 12 strip tree and a large 14.6m x 4 strip matrix across the front as wel as spinners and house outline.

    So after a few years and learning a few things along the way, strip is very reliable, economical and easy to repair.

    1. Solder joins - these can separate, especially in hot weather. To combat this I place a large cable tie over solder joins in the strip and tighten well. This pretty much eliminates this problem.

    2. All my strip lights are cable tied to 20mm electrical conduit (32mm for mega tree). On the ends where the connections jokingly ther is an additional cable tie to stop the join from flexing. Strip is not rigid and to assist this, the joins need to have as minimal movement as possible.

    3. Not all strip is created equal. When I first got my roof strip, I had issues with the power injection and these end connections disconnecting and failing (didn’t have this issue with the house matrixes and mega tree). Upon closer inspection, I found the older strip had 4 pads, which were larger then the new strip, which only had 3 pads which were much smaller. The older strip had 1 pad for +, 2 in the middle for - and data. I noticed that you could get a lot of more solder and have a much more solid - join on the older strip. On the new strip, because of the double wires for both + and - on the one pad, these would fail and fall off much easier.

    I had some extra older strip left over this year , so for the roof lights in particular, I replaced the first pixel with the older strip to get a solid connection on the first part for all power injections and none of these failed this year.

    4. Short circuits - these occur at time particularly with the heat. The good news is that it doesn’t necessary mean you have to replace a pixel and/or strip. Sometimes a building up on the solder joins can occur, which can easily be fixed by cutting a small hole in the sleeve and using a smalll metal object like a screw to scrap between the solder joins on the pads to remove any short. You can then add a small dab of silicone over the cut (this saved me from having to replace multiple strips as per previous years.

    5. Replacing bad pixels ( mainly ones where a a colour has failed) - there is an art to it, but I simply cut out the dud pixel, and using a clamp solder a new one in directly on the pads. I put a clear heat shrink (about 16mm) over it and then shrink it over the connection, puting a small dab of silicone in it before shrinking.

    6. For my roof lights, I also add a clear section of 20mm clear hose about 20cm long on the top of the light and conduit going over the connections at the top of the roof, to help keep it rigid and deflect water from being able to get in and run down the tube. Even though rated water-or roof, with a good downpour, water will find its way into any small hole.

    For my matrixes, spinners, mega teee which are 3-4 years old now, they have all worked with no faults since installed, even through heavy downpours. But this was the original 4mpad strip as wel

    7. Get ray to make custome lengths. I did this for the roof. I measured and had it made to length. You will save a lot of time, plus usually the joins direct form the factory make it easier instead of soldering lots of power injections on yourself.

    I will be buying some more strip to replace some sections , but I would recommend spending the extra $1 per metre to get the 4 pad, as I will be going into my 4th year with these still working fine, as compared to the 3 pad strip, although cheaper, requires a lot more maintenance.

    He is a video of my display below.

    I for one will still be stripping


    View: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1989539548000698&id=1494906617463996&_rdr
     
    Ben F, Boof63, ElSalZi and 2 others like this.
  2. Benslights

    Benslights Dedicated Elf Global Moderator Generous Elf

    Joined:
    May 2, 2010
    Messages:
    2,329
    Likes Received:
    74
    Location:
    Elderslie
    Find Me On:
    do you have a link to the strip you are talking about JImbo?
     
  3. OP
    OP
    Jimbo

    Jimbo Full Time Elf

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    16
  4. tooms

    tooms Full Time Elf

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2015
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Kalgoorlie
    My biggest frustration with strip on the roof has been the silicon tubing getting holes in it, I suspect it's from the 40+ degree days we experience over Christmas, I store them in pelican boxes when not in use and they're carefully rolled up to not twist the strip before storing, I installed all mine on 25mm conduit on the roof and am careful to not pull the cable ties too tight that hold it to the conduit, unfortunately we get some pretty savage summer storms and most of my strip has ended up with water in it at one point or another.
     
  5. ElSalZi

    ElSalZi Full Time Elf Generous Elf

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2017
    Messages:
    166
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Hedland WA
    I have seen this video so many times and it just doesn’t get old!
    It looks like you have a shed-load if strips on your roof! How many do you have on there?
     
  6. keithsw1111

    keithsw1111 Full Time Elf

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    367
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Kellyville, NSW
    Find Me On:
    I am a big strip user and while I agree with most of the detail in jimbos post I disagree with his conclusions. While I understand he thinks this is all reasonable I don’t think it is. Strips are generally a right royal pita. While I love how they look after 4 years with strip I will be progressively moving away from them. Just not worth the aggravation. I do 15-20 strip fixes per season and average 1-2 pixel fixes and the pixel fixes are massively easier to do.
     
  7. djgra79

    djgra79 Senior Elf Generous Elf

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Messages:
    918
    Likes Received:
    188
    Location:
    Cranbourne West
    Find Me On:
    My 2c: I think there is pros and cons (like everything in life)
    I chose strip for my display 3 years ago for roof outlines because it was simple to install. Ray made custom lengths (no soldering for me yay!) and I ziptied the strip onto 25mm conduit, with some 3mm coro over the top for extra protection from the elements, and to slightly diffuse the light. I have since replaced half of the strip after 2 years, mostly due to solder joins at the connector ends. Possibly due to my carelessness trying to butt up sections together to make it look more seamless, but possibly also due to the type of connectors used.
    Traditionally these type were used: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pr...813.html?spm=2114.12010615.0.0.105a6d77p1e04V
    However I've found that it's much easier and less stress on joins to use this type: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pr...981.html?spm=2114.12010615.0.0.105a6d77p1e04V
    (Cheaper too, but possibly due to thinner wire??)
    That said, after 3 years of battling dodgy joins, I too am converting this year to nodes. The appeal of snipping out a pixel and replacing it and not having to worry as much about tiny solder pads, silicon and clear heat shrink appeals to me immensely. Plus I think the individual bullet style nodes physically look more like traditional bulbs, the way Christmas light used to look like.
     
    szoka likes this.
  8. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2010
    Messages:
    6,568
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Albion Park NSW
    Find Me On:
    Everyone will have an opinion on this and here is mine

    Personally I never thought there was much difference in effort in replacing a node in a string compared to a section of strip and ive repaired lots in the past. I like both strip and strings and use them in a display where I believe they are best suited
    For example, I believe strip is still great for outlines, because with outlines you want them to stand out and you want to direct all the light to the street where the audience is, especially when using flood lights for wall washing because you can create one colour as the outline and another colour for the wall wash. When using strings then the light is dispersed at a far greater angle that will create some colour wash back onto the house.
    Strings are great for elements where you want more light wash and less directional light and many like the added wash back onto their house surface. 3 dimension elements are much better being done with strings as well as wire frames and motifs due to the easier ability to make bends and the wider angle of light dispersion. String Modules are better used for coro diffused elements as these are easy to work with and mount to the coro

    So really for me its more about what type of light works best for the application and not about just using the easiest thing to repair.
     
  9. AAH

    AAH I love blinky lights :) Community Project Designer

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2010
    Messages:
    2,774
    Likes Received:
    122
    Location:
    Eaglehawk
    Find Me On:
    1 thing I will say about strips is that pulling cable ties tightly over them is probably about the biggest cause of fractures in the solder joints between the pcbs that make up the strip. Because there is bare solder joints on there as well it's also a good way to get shorts between the joints. Even in the silicon potted versions of strip the tension from a cable tie can cause the joints to eventually push the silicon aside over time and cause a short.
    I like strip and will always continue to use it. It does have it's shortcomings and most of them are due to the fact the flexible pcb that they are on is only about 0.2mm thick and as such is very fragile.
     
  10. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2010
    Messages:
    6,568
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Albion Park NSW
    Find Me On:
    I agree that doing the cable tie too tight can cause issues, it is a fine balance especially with the tube type strip.

    But another issue ive witnessed before with strip attached to conduit is the way it is carried and handled. When strip is mounted to conduit and then carried around then the conduit will flex and bend, if you carry the conduit with the strip at the top then the bend radius is larger and this can put stress on the joins. So when handling strip that is attached to conduit always try to carry it from the centre to minimise the conduit bend and always carry it with the strip pointing to the ground as this will have a lesser curve radius and thus not stress the solder joints
     
  11. foodi

    foodi New Elf

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    maryborough victoria
    Find Me On:
    This is my experience i found that strips cause hair loss so hard to handle there like egg shells the strips i have left are only for my marty fan which were custom made from ray as they are a permanent fixture they are fine but when you start moving then around ect the problems start . i also will use the same roof line strips as they are rolled up on there reels for next year ,also found the sun kills them as when i took one down from the roof one broke at the join and they hate being stuck down with silicon as it tears the back off you need a sharp knife to cut them off cable ties arnt to friendly aswell ,but if you put the cable tie of the ic chip it doesnt crush the strip i found.
    So this year as i have just ordered 200 plus 5v nodes strings from ray to do my roof matrix which will be on 5cm spacing 2mm wire mesh .also as i lost 90% of my strips from my mega tree this year due to a savage storm as i had 5 days to go before 1st dec i decided to to use nodes on my mega tree instead so what i did was brought 2 lenths of treated pine 3.6m length and drill out 50 holes in ea timber then mounted them to my steel frame an a tell you should have ditched the strips year ago from the mega tree .when first tested looked amazing .so that was the turning piont for me but each to there own
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Jimbo

    Jimbo Full Time Elf

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    16
    Ok! A few things.

    If you buy the cheap $1.80 per strip expect to have issues! I bought the cheaper one, not realising the difference from the strip I bought 4 years ago. The above was how I solved the issue with what I had to make it more reliable until I replace it.

    In relation to the cable tie on the solder joint, the idea is to have it firm but not too tight. As I found when the join comes apart, the to sides of the strip split apart, thus causing the issue of the join not working. This prevents the 2 sides from moving apart and keeps the lights working.

    By spending $1.20m more on strip you will eliminate most the problems being described about. That's what I am sharing as I 3-4 years I have not had any issues with the 4 pad strip (except for the occasional pixel loosing a colour) and have run the whole season with no repairs.

    The roof has some different affects, as in my case they aren't angled down like the mega tree, meaning they are all suspectable to water penetration and heat. Hence why I explained the extra measures I have taken to address this and make it as bulletproof as possible.

    I remember 3 years ago the discussions about nodes and the unreliability of these and failing with water ingress.

    But this really isn't a discussion on what's better. I think both have a purpose, as I use nodes as well.

    The cheaper strips have a weakness, particularly on the power injection have 2 wires on a small pad. Had I noticed this before I would have not purchased this and got the other one like before (I just saw the price)

    The reality is if you use this strip you will have to replace it more often and have a higher maintenance routine.

    I am sharing what I have found to be my experience and to assist those who may choose strips with some solutions.

    With over 200m of strip on my roof alone, finding ways where I don't need to go up all the time to make repairs makes it easier.

    All my strips are on conduit and if one faults, I disconnect it, uncluck from rail, repair and take back up.

    Or if the show is running, disconnect the strip, connect the next working one, reconfigure Falcon controller and keep the show running with only 1 strip out.

    It would be hard to do this with nodes.
     
    djgra79 likes this.
  13. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2010
    Messages:
    6,568
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Albion Park NSW
    Find Me On:
    This can create other issues because then you are putting some stresses on the PCB where the IC is soldered and this can actually damage the IC solder connection to the PCB. I always would place the cable tie on a join and skip the join where they are soldered which should be every 250mm because that's how long a standard piece of strip is between solder joins.
     
    Boof63 likes this.
  14. tooms

    tooms Full Time Elf

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2015
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Kalgoorlie
    I think from all these comments on strip it really highlights how fragile it is, I have some props where it's mechanically secured to something else that doesn't move and is slightly protected from the environmental elements so it's lasted the distance so far, but putting strip on my roof lines is never going to happen again because apparently I need to cable tie it correctly in the correct spot with the correct amount of tension, I should then handle the strip in such a manner to not be too harsh on it and allow it to flex at all, I should probably buy the expensive version because the cheaper versions play up more .. the list just goes on, next time I have to handle strip I'm going to get me a radiation suite and some white silk gloves to handle it, mainly so I cant breathe on it and also so I minimise the stain on it from my dirty fingers, otherwise it might just fail.
     
  15. fasteddy

    fasteddy I have C.L.A.P Global Moderator Generous Elf

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2010
    Messages:
    6,568
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Albion Park NSW
    Find Me On:
    Strip works well for what its intended for and gives a totally different effect to strings or modules, so it shouldn't be compared to strings as they are a totally different product, yes strings are easier to handle and repair in most cases but if you understand that you are dealing with a flexible PCB that cant be treated the same as rope light and give it the respect it needs when handling it and using it then you can achieve great reliable results with strip.
    I would rather see creative uses of different lighting in a display rather than the display all the same type of light style because I believe its what you do with the lights and how they are used is what goes into creating unique eye catching displays and using the visual strengths of each type of light style helps create that.
     

Share This Page