|Shenzhen is the China’s LED screen manufacturers center.|
Shenzhen is not only China’s, but also the world’s, capital of electronics manufacturing. This is the place where anything that fits into the consumer electronics category is assembled, packed and exported to the rest of the world. LED screens is not an exception – a quick search on Alibaba.com reveals that there are very few LED screen manufacturers that aren’t based in Shenzhen.
There’s a reason 98% of China’s LED screen manufacturers are located in Shenzhen – the well established and (fairly) efficient components and materials supply chain. LED screen manufacturers are basically assembling components purchased from subcontractors in or near Shenzhen. Proximity to the subcontractors is a critical factor in manufacturing. Assembling an LED screen requires thousands of components – delivery times and transportation costs certainly add up on the bottom line.
Manufacturing LED screens is not a small task. It’s a complicated process that requires a well established quality management system (QMS) including, but not limited to:
1.) Incoming components and materials quality inspection.
2.) During production quality control.
3.) Post production testing.
Don’t worry, there are already protocols for these things. You don’t need an engineering degree in order to import LED screens but I certainly recommend that you exclude suppliers that aren’t ISO9000 or ISO9001 certified.
While there are certain times when working with a small or medium sized manufacturer makes sense – this is not one of those times. Size matters when selecting an LED screen manufacturer. The best indicator of a manufacturer’s size is the registered capital. Selecting a supplier with anything less than RMB 20,000,000 (US$3.3 million) in registered capital is a no go for this product.
As long as you select a number of manufacturers based in Shenzhen, with a registered capital not lower than RMB 20,000,000 and with ISO certification, you’ve got pretty good chances in making a successful and profitable transaction.
Performance & Quality Definition
An LED screen can be made in a thousand different ways. It’s your job, not the suppliers, to decide how the LED screen shall be made. That’s exactly why I am now about to help you define your performance and quality requirements. When importing LED screens there’s a ton of things to take into consideration, I list the most important factors below:
Fixed / Non-Fixed Installation
This choice shall be made based upon your business model. If you plan to rent out screens for various events you want to buy a non-fixed installation. If you plan to position your screen besides a highway you better select a fixed installation. Rental screens are in general more expensive and aren’t offered by every supplier.
The lifespan is a critical performance factor when importing an LED screen. This product requires a fairly large investment and most businesses would expect to operate a screen for several years. This is when the lifespan comes into place.
The life span can vary between 5,000 to 10,000 hours. When this time’s up you have to buy a new screen. If you’re a startup simply looking out to test out a new business model (i.e. sell screens to advertisers in your area or sell screen time by yourself) it might make sense to settle for a shorter lifespan. This is because the lifespan has a major impact on the unit cost. An LED screen with a longer lifespan can cost up to US$20,000 more than a screen with a shorter lifespan.
A more expensive LED chip (I’ll go into detail about this topic in a minute) results in a longer lifespan. However, there are other factors that affect the lifespan. A cost efficient solution to extending the lifespan is to lower the brightness and selecting a lower Pixel Pitch.
Water, particle and shock protection
This one is critical if you intend to import an LED screen for outdoor usage. The protection against all sorts of intrusion (liquids, dust and accidental contacts) is defined by an IP standard (International Protection Rating). If you want to read more about IPXX standards you can find it here. However, instead of writing two thousand words on this topic alone I recommend that you settle for IP65 or above.
Even if you’re importing a product for indoor use, IP65 or above could be a wise choice since you never know when and if your screen will be exposed to water, dust or shock. Besides, a higher IP rating tends to have a rather small impact on the pricing.
The many component options offered by the Chinese LED manufacturers can be overwhelming to say the least. That’s why I’ve helped you out a bit and introduce the most important product specifications below:
The LED Chips are the biggest price factor when buying LED screens. There are various manufacturers of LED Chips. I begin with listing them below:
1.) Silan LED (widely used, low cost).
2.) Epistar LED (widely used, medium-low cost).
3.) Everlight LED (rare, medium-high cost).
4.) Novastar LED (fairly common, high cost).
Most Chinese LED screen manufacturers can offer LED chips from Silan and Epistar. They are often combined with Silan being used for the green and blue LED chips while Epistar is used for the red LED chip. This set up is very common and usually well received by importers in and outside Europe and America.
If you want to better picture and a longer lifespan you may want to consider the Rolls Royce of LED chips – Novastar (Japan). This is actually the brand our client settled for after a lot of consideration and discussion with various suppliers in Shenzhen.
The pixel pitch (called PXX) is “the distance from the center of an LED pixel to the center of the next LED pixel, measured in millimeters”. Basically it’s the screen resolution. A smaller Pixel Pitch equals a higher density of LED pixels (basically a unit of one red, one green and one blue light capsule) and thus a higher resolution. This means that P10 looks better and costs more than for example P12 or P16.
The selection of a Pixel pitch shall be entirely based on the usage of the LED screen. While a high resolution certainly has an advantage on screens placed in shopping malls it could be a complete waste of money for road side screens.
As in the case of the LED chip, the pixel pitch has a big impact on the pricing. An higher pixel pitch is not only more affordable but is also more likely to pass EMC testing. I tell you more about the last part later in this article.
You might already know that an LED screen can cost quite a lot of money. It doesn’t make sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars (Ok, a smaller screen can cost less but you get my point) and then save a few hundred dollars using low end Power Supplies. Without working power supplies you’re screen, at least part of it, goes pitch black.
Selecting a high quality Power Supply from well established manufacturers, such as Taiwanese Meanwell or Japanese TDK, is probably the best and most cost efficient insurance one can buy when importing LED screens.
Apart from being more reliable, a high quality power supply crucial for importers based in cold countries. This includes basically all of Europe and North America as well as Japan and South Korea. Cheap Power Supplies are in general not reliable when temperatures drop below -10 degrees Celsius. Unless you’re fine with pressing the off button in November I recommend that you avoid power supplies from manufacturers in Mainland China and settle for a one of the above mentioned manufacturers.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to worry about actually purchasing any of these components. Reliable LED screen manufacturers in China are already purchasing components from various subcontractors, such as TDK, and can offer a wide selection to their customers.
An LED screen is not much more than a large piece of junk without software telling it what to do. This is when the Control System comes into place. Depending on the system you choose, it enables you to manage the on screen content, monitor the power supplies and turn the screen on and off.
There are several manufacturers of these control systems. The most common is LinSN followed by Novastar and Colorlight. Certain suppliers also offer their very own system. The most important thing when choosing a control system is selecting one that the supplier is experienced with. Selecting a control system that is new to the supplier can lead a to a lot of compatibility issues.
This is true not only for the Control System, but the components in general. Avoid selecting components that a supplier is not experienced with. If a supplier cannot offer the same type of Power Supply or LED chip you’re looking for – then go find another supplier!
Based in North America or the European Union? Then you’ve got a problem. You’re not simply allowed to import LED screens – only CERTIFIED LED screens. Rule of law and consumer safety can be a pain in the ass sometimes and this is one of those times.
Certification would be a piece of cake if it weren’t for the fact that mentioning any of the various certification standards in the EU or US leaves most Chinese suppliers clueless. While LED screen manufacturers are more likely to have their papers in place than suppliers in other industries – it’s not to be taken for granted. The first thing you shall do when contacting a new supplier is asking them whether or not they are compliant with any of the following certification standards:
1.) CE (European Union).
2.) RoHS (European Union).
3.) EMC Class A or EMC Class B (European Union).
4.) FCC (North America).
If a supplier cannot confirm and prove that their products are compliant with the certification standard required in your country move on and find a new manufacturer . It’s a complete waste of time to negotiate with suppliers who aren’t capable of complying with the required certification standard.