TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Installation precautions
Firstly, you'll require a Constant Voltage (CV) power supply to work with your pixels. Several professional power supplies give the option to switch between CV and CC (Constant Current). If you have a power supply that can be either CV or CC, make sure the power supply is set to Constant Voltage (CV) mode.
The voltage of the power supply must match the voltage of your pixels and be within the pixel controller’s voltage range.
The power supply must provide enough current (A) to cover the current requirements of the pixels and the pixel controller. Power draw is often shown in Watts/meter (W/m) for LED strip, or watts per dot. Consult the manufacturer’s datasheet for the power consumption of your pixel. Strobing all pixels can sometimes cause the draw to be higher than expected, therefore we recommend leaving a minimum of 10% overhead to deal with power demands.
Within most power supply (PSU) manufacturer’s data sheets, there are a few things to look out for to make sure the power supply is best suited for pixels:
- Inrush Current Protection - This feature smooths the start-up spike in current draw when you first turn on your system, inrush current protection protects your installation from current higher than your system is rated for being drawn at startup.
- Short Circuit Protection - Short circuit protection constantly monitors the output, if a low resistance is detected (i.e. the output rails of your power supply are short-circuited), the power supply is immediately shut down to prevent damage or fire.
- Filtering - Filtering is a function used to smooth the power supply’s DC output after rectification so a more consistent DC voltage is supplied to the load. - This essentially limits the amount of electrical 'Noise' that is coming in for your mains power, which could lead to issues with the output of your pixels.
- Overload Protection - Overload protection prevents damage to the power supply itself due to overcurrent (including short-circuits). This is activated and the output current is limited when the load current is greater than the over-current detection value (defined by the PSU manufacturer).
- Over Temperature Protection – Over-temperature protection is a protection system that shuts down the power supply when the internal temperature exceeds a safe value (defined by the manufacturer). A circuit inside the power supply is used to monitor and shutdown process at high temperatures to ensure safety.
- Over Voltage Protection – Over-voltage protection is a power supply feature that shuts down the supply, or clamps the output when the voltage exceeds a preset level to prevent damage to your pixels.
Pixels and pixel controller’s connectors can only handle a certain amount of current (A), it is therefore recommended to break down pixels runs into smaller sections, and add protection to each element in the form of in-line fuses. Refer to the pixels and pixel controller’s datasheets for their maximum current rating.
Voltage drop occurs when there is not enough voltage running through the pixels to adequately power them. As voltage travels down the cable from the controller to the first pixel and between each pixel, due to electrical resistance, the voltage constantly decreases. Eventually, it reaches a point where the voltage is no longer sufficient to power the pixel to operate normally. - This is especially noticeable when the pixels are driven to white (all channels at full). Compare the pixels datasheet to understand the voltage range required with reading from a voltage meter to ensure that the correct Voltage is maintained. Additional power injections can be introduced down the line to reinject the correct voltage or consider reducing cable runs/using thicker cabling to reduce the effects of voltage drop (more on these below).
Analogy: Imagine a clothesline that you want to dry some laundry on. First of all, you tie one end of it to your balcony railing on your house. Then you get your nearby neighbour to let you do the same on their house at the same height (this represents the power injection at the start and end of your pixel run, where the voltage is at its optimum). The clothesline is now level at 5m off the ground (this represents the 5v tape we are using, one meter for every volt). Now add some wet towels to the line, this will cause a drop in the middle of the line (representing our voltage drop). If we can prop the middle of the line up back to 5m this will significantly reduce the drop (this prop represents a power injection). If the drop is still too low, we could either add more props (power injections) or get a stronger rope (use thicker cable).
We recommend using a voltage drop calculator and carrying out real-life tests to check your installation for voltage drop prior to carrying out the full installation.
Power injection is required when the voltage on LED pixel tape becomes too low. Low voltage can cause various issues with LED tape including colour shift and drop in brightness the further away from the power source. Power injection is a method of ensuring a sufficient voltage reaches all parts of the strip to ensure optimum performance.
Recommendations for when to inject power for each of ENTTEC’s pixel strips is referred to in ENTTEC’s tape installation guide. Figures stated within this guide for both single and dual power injection are based upon real-world testing, where recommendations have determined factoring in a length of cable 3 meters or shorter between the power supply and the first pixel on the strip. If you require run lengths of pixel tape more than the recommended single power injection method the dual Injection method should be used as described in the pixel tape installation guide. If you are running longer lengths of tape that extend beyond the recommend dual power injection method (injecting at the beginning and end of a continuous length of LED tape). ENTTEC recommends integrating a second power supply.
If a higher length of cable is required between the PSU and re-injection point than:
- 5v at a maximum of 4 meters
- 12v at a maximum of 8 meters
It is recommended that a second PSU is integrated into the system.
ENTTEC recommends cable length is minimized wherever possible to reduce the impact of voltage drop before reaching your tape.
1.5mm / AWG 14 size stranded cable is the minimum recommended for all PSU -> tape connections.
Power Up & Down Procedure
It is advised to send control levels of 0 intensity to all pixels prior to powering up. Powering up with pixels already receiving data will cause an instant change in intensity, which will increase the inrush current spike and potentially lead to the circuit breakers protecting your installation from tripping.
To further reduce the chance of breakers being tripped by inrush current, the power-up of the system should be staggered across smaller sections with a time delay to minimise the peak inrush current at any one time.
Sending 0 intensity to all pixels before power off is less critical than at power-up; however, fading to black before powering down results in an optimal visual outcome and is strongly recommended. Without fading to black first, you cannot be sure that all LEDs will turn off at the same time (due to capacitance held in the PSU).
Is there a system that allows me to achieve this quickly?
Using the ENTTEC S-Play schedules feature, you can fade your lighting on and off and use its inbuilt relays to control high power contactors to power your pixel power supplies when all pixels are set to 0 intensity.
If you are scheduling the power up and power down of your installation, for an optimum visual outcome, it’s recommended that the pixel controllers and data infrastructure remains powered continuously. This ensures that when the pixels are powered up, control data is already being sent, and your pixels will not be left in a state without information whilst the controllers still boot.
If the pixel controllers are powered up and down with the pixels, there is likely to be an unknown state where random pixels may illuminate (caused by static in the line) until the entire system is online. Consequently, we recommend pixel controllers and data infrastructure are powered separately from the LED pixels that will be powered.
If the infrastructure is power cycled with the dots, it's likely to take up to 7 seconds before devices have booted, established a network link, and begin to send data.
Pixel Standby State
Different pixel protocols have other standby states. This can range from a test sequence, a static scene or all pixels at 0 intensity.
For example, the Smart PXL range’s standby state is all pixels blue. By ensuring data is already being sent at the point of powering up the pixels, you can avoid this standby state from being seen.
JST SM Connectors
If you are looking to make a modular system with pluggable connectors, we recommend using 4pin XLR for touring applications (Max. draw 10A) or the Amphenol AT series connectors for robust outdoor connection, ensuring good cable retention and stranded cable of a sufficient cross-sectional area to handle your system’s current requirement.
The thicker the cable, the lesser the impact on voltage drop, data degradation and higher the electrical current it can carry.
To determine the cable core diameter your installation requires, determine the power draw of the section of LED strip you will be powering.
This can be achieved by using the per-meter power draw of your pixels as defined in its datasheet and multiplying it by the quantity your project uses.
Add 20% overhead on top of this to factor in power spikes and increased current caused by voltage drop.
Finally, divide this total power draw by the Voltage of your installation to determine its current draw in Amps.
Ensure the cable you specify is capable of carrying the electrical current (Amps) of your installation.
For optimum performance, ENTTEC recommends using cable with stranded copper cores.
2.5mm stranded copper cabling has been found to be the maximum cable diameter that can be soldered to the pads of ENTTEC pixel strip.
It's recommended that a cable voltage drop calculator is used factoring in the cable you have selected when planning your installation to ensure the voltage remains in range.
If you are using a power supply with a higher current capacity (A) than your cable is rated for, fit a fuse to protect your cables from becoming damaged if a short circuit or other fault situation occurs.
Environmental factors should also be taken into account:
- Ensure the cable selected is rated to handle the power draw of your installation.
- Ensure your cable is sufficiently rated for the Installation environment. i.e. If outdoors ensure the cable is UV resistant, or if being buried ensure it is armoured.
Pixel Strip/CV Strip Soldering Temperature
Proper soldering temperature can by influenced by a myriad of factors including wire gauge, wire material, solder type, ambient temperature etc. soldering temperatures should be adjusted to account for these variances, for example:
- Thinner wire gauges should require lower soldering temperatures since there is less thermal mass. You want to get the wire hot enough to allow the solder to flow, but not so hot that the cable insulation is melted or damaged.
- Thicker solder gauges typically require a soldering iron tip with larger surface area and higher mass since there is more solder to melt and heat to transfer. A workaround to not having a thick tip is to run the soldering iron at a slightly higher temperature. (if doing this, ensure the soldering iron remains low enough to not damage the insulation).
The most common use case for a soldering iron on a pixel project is to solder stranded copper connector leads (typically varying between AWG14 - AWG20, with flux core 0.8mm dia. lead-free solder.
For this combination of cable and solder we recommend:
- Spoon-type or chisel-type iron tip no wider than the solder pads of the LED Strip copper contacts.
- After powering on your soldering iron, wait for it to heat sufficiently before beginning soldering. - (A good test is to test that it can melt solder, then leave it a further minute to ensure heat has to propagated the full iron and has spread evenly).
- 360°C/ 680°F tip temperature - ensure the tip is tinned to assist with heat transfer, and to help protect it from excessive wear at high temperatures.
Check the solder
The voltage at the first pixel must be within the range as specified within the ENTTEC product datasheet. Therefore, having the right cable to reduce the impact of voltage drop and safely handle the current requirement of your installation is critical. For longer power runs, there are some adjustable voltage power supplies available (i.e. MeanWell HLG-320H-12-A), where you could slightly increase the voltage at the power supply so that the voltage at the first pixel is within range.
Maximum recommended distance between Pixel controller and first pixel
We strongly recommend a maximum wire length of 3 meters between your pixel controller and the first pixel. This distance limitation is a precaution to minimize any interference being picked up on the unbalanced data line that addressable LED’s require to operate, and to minimize the impact of voltage drop. This recommendation and protocol limitation applies to all brands that output pixel protocols.
As a manufacturer, we air on the side of caution when recommending maximum wire lengths. This helps us ensure that your installation is stable and allows us to have confidence that any user can make the system work without any issues. Our competitor’s recommendations may differ from our own, if you can keep interference at a minimum (no mains power cables running near/past it and using a good quality cable such as 3/4 core 2.5mm TRS in order to minimize the impact of voltage drop) some Pixel installation has been able to achieve distances higher than our recommendation.
If you wish to go beyond our 3-meter maximum wire length recommendation, ENTTEC suggests you test the equipment in the same environment, to make sure you are happy with the results prior to installation.
VCC/5v/12v/24v: VCC is a term used across the board, it stands for “Voltage Common Collector” this has a background in electronics, i.e. the rail that all the collectors (transistor pin) were attached to. It’s the collector voltage compared to the GND (0V referencd). – As the OCTO can handle between 4-60V DC we don’t mention discrete voltages on the label. Power (VCC) is non-directional on Pixel Strip
GND to 0v: Ground (GND) is non-directional on Pixel Strip, and is used as the common line for the pixels.
Data/DI: Data is one way, DI = Data In, DO = data Out, the data cascades down the chain. to put it simply, each RGB LED receives the data, uses the first 3 three control channels to set its colour, then removes them from the packet and passes a restructured packet down the chain to the next LED in the strip to do the same thing. – It’s due to this data reshaping circuit built into each LED that this data is unidirectional.
Clock (only on specific pixel strip): broadly speaking, there are two main types of pixel strip on the market, asynchronous and synchronous. The key differences are that asynchronous embeds timing and colour level into the data feed, meaning you only need one data connection and wiring is simple (all of ENTTECs strip is asynchronous). Syncronous however, requires a clock signal feed to be sent separately to the data feed. An example of this is the APA-102 chip type. Strips produced using these chips require both Data and CLK to be connected from the OCTO to the LED’s. – The benefit of this is that there is more bandwidth to push high refresh rates to the LED’s. However, given the ArtNet or sACN data being sent to them is likely to be 60FPS at the maximum, it’s difficult to even come close to the limits of asynchronous, the way we see it, more wires = more to go wrong.
Backup Data/BI (only on specific pixel strip): WS2815 is the Pixel IC Protocol used by our pixel strip (almost an identical signal structure to WS2812b), it encompasses the Data, and Backup line (backup is unique to WS2815). You could refer to our 12v black strip with the data and backup line as “a WS2815 pixel strip”. (In much the same way you would say that a moving light is a “DMX controlled moving light”).
Suitable Mounting Surface
The pixels should be installed on a clean and dry surface. Please clean the surface with alcohol using a clean cloth prior to installation.
The surface should be thermally conductive and permit sufficient heat dissipation (especially for pixel strips). Check out ENTTEC’s aluminium extrusions to get an idea of the best surfaces for optimum performance (note: these products are not available for purchase in Europe or the USA).
The surface should not be textured or a low surface energy material.
Maximum Pixel Strip Length
The following factors determine the length of tape you can run:
- Voltage: Be aware of Voltage Drop. Though this does not limit the length of tape you can run, it will lower the intensity of the LEDs furthest away from the Pixel Controller. You can also inject more power into the tape, which will resolve the voltage drop’s effect on the LED units.
- Watts: LED tape has a total Watt draw for when all LEDs are at full intensity per meter. Total Watt Draw per Meter / the Power Supplies capabilities = Maximum Length. You can also inject more power into the unit further down the LED tape.
- Data: Depending on the number of channels you can control from the Pixel Controller. Channels Per Meter / Pixel Controllers max channel = Length (in meters) that can be controlled. This is the only defining factor that cannot be extended.
Number of DMX channels required
Unlike standard RGB tape or fixture, each pixel has its own chip which enables it to be controlled to respond individually. Allowing each LED to be a different color or intensity across a length of Pixel Tape or fixture.
Each pixel normally takes up 3 (RGB) or 4 (RGBW) channels per chip, though in some cases this can be a lot higher especially if the pixel supports 16-bit dimming.
It's always helpful to remember this quick reference to how many pixels can be in a single DMX universe based on the colors in the tape:
- 170 RGB Pixels = 510 DMX Channels = 1 DMX Universe
- 128 RGBW Pixels = 512 DMX Channels = 1 DMX Universe
Pixel controllers are often measured by Universe (512 Channels).
We take a pixel controller’s output universe count, for example, 4, and times that by 512 (2,048).
We then divide that number (2,048) by the number of channels per Pixel (3 – RGB) which is 682. This is how much pixels we can control from that single output.
If the pixels are on a pixel strip with 60 pixels per meter, we can take the number (682) and divide it by the number of pixels per meter (60). This means that from that output we can control 11.3 meters of pixel strip.
Splitting Pixel Data to run multiple tapes in parallel
If you wanted to split the data from an ENTTEC’s pixel controller’s output, then we would only recommend that this is done once.
To avoid data issues, we recommend that the split takes place as close to the first pixel as possible and cabling needs to be minimized.
On ENTTEC P-Link devices (the output for our Pixelator system), there are two data outputs to allow this split to happen within the ENTTEC device itself.
LED life expectancy
When it comes to our pixels, ENTTEC prides itself on its quality control process.
For our pixel strips, alongside thick copper PCB tracks for optimal heat dissipation and reduced voltage drop, the LEDs used on ENTTEC’s Pixel Strips have a manufacturer-backed life expectancy of 50,000 hours. - A similar life expectancy to the LEDs within your TV or Smart Phone. Given the consumable and custom installation nature of pixel strips, ENTTEC provides a 1-year warranty against manufacturing defects (unless otherwise advertised). This is subject to correct handling, installation, and running of ENTTEC’s pixel strip. Care should be taken when transporting and handling pixel strip.
For the most consistent output, pixel strips should be installed in an identical orientation if not using a diffuser (direct view). Otherwise, your pixel strip array looking something like this:
As we can see from the image, every second strip appears to be a slightly different colour. This is especially noticeable in the reflection on the floor.
This isn’t an issue caused by signal error or voltage drop. It’s due to the asymmetric nature of the pixel light sources. The colored light produced by multi-color LEDs is caused by mixing the color of multiple single color light sources inside each LED package. These individual light sources are known as emitters. Emitters are at physically different points within each LED package. (This applies to both pixel and CV Strip).
As the different light colors are not originating from the same point, when viewing the pixel s from extreme angles, it may be possible to see slight color variation.
Adding a diffuser on top of your pixel strips can help reduce color variance by merging and scattering the output of each emitter color and giving a more uniform light output if installing strips in different orientations.
When undertaking an installation involving ENTTEC products, ENTTEC strongly recommends the following guidelines are adhered to.
Key Electrical Safety
- Products must be installed in accordance with applicable national and local electrical and construction codes by a person familiar with the construction and operation of the product and the hazards involved. Failure to comply with the following installation instructions may result in death or serious injury.
- Products can be damaged by excess voltage. The installation of an overvoltage protection device on the electrical system may reduce the risk of damage.
- Provide a means of locking out AC mains power to the installation to be shut down and made impossible to reapply accidentally.
- The use of an adequate RCBO along the mains power inlet to your installation is recommended.
- Before applying power to the installation, check that all power distribution equipment and cables are in a perfect condition and rated for the current requirements of all connected devices and factor in overhead.
- Isolate the installation from power immediately if any part of the installation is in any way damaged, defective, shows signs of overheating or are wet (if not an IP65 component).
- To reduce the risk of fire or electrical faults, do not exceed the maximum recommendations provided by ENTTEC or any other suppliers products, as stated in relevant documentation. If you are unsure, ask!
- Do not make any changes to the installation whilst the power is live (hot swapping). First shut down power to the installation, then make required changes.
- Verify the electrical plan and all necessary surge protection requirements ensuring each element of the installation has sufficient electrical protection.
- Shut down power to the installation during cleaning in addition to when the system is not in use.
Protection from Injury During Installation
- Always use suitable personal protective equipment when installing a pixel installation.
- In an overhead installation or where any part of the installation may cause injury if it falls. Block access below the work area and work from a stable platform whenever installing, servicing or changing.
- Once installation is completed, check that all hardware and components are securely in place and fastened to supporting structures.
System Planning and Specification
- Before planning or installing your system, ensure you are familiarized with all key information within this guide and other relevant ENTTEC documentation. If you are in any doubt about system safety, contact ENTTEC or your ENTTEC supplier for assistance.
- ENTTEC’s Return to base warranty for this product does not cover damage caused by inappropriate use or application or modification to the product.