Everything you need to know about Neon Signs

We see neon signs everywhere nowadays. They have become a staple for every event and celebration. They also make a perfect gift for people to show their affection to their loved ones. Food parlors have also jumped in the wagon and used neon signs as a part of their decorations. Where does this all start? Who made these illuminating objects that could mold into any shape or design? Let us see the origin of these modish lights.

What is a Neon Sign?

A neon sign is made up of a long tube of light filled with gas (neon mixed with some other gasses) that emits light when electricity passes through it. It has significantly evolved over time and looks nothing like the early neon signs. It can be molded into any desired shape and used for interior and exterior decoration, advertisements, etc.

Background of Neon Lights

Neon light was used at the Paris Motor Show in 1910 for the first time in history. It was different from what we mostly see nowadays. A French engineer, Georges Claude, noticed when a high voltage was passed through electrodes fitted in a glass container filled with neon gas, there was a visible glow in the container. That was the beginning of a new era, yet, many modifications were yet to come.

Claude further experimented with different types of tubes to make them able to be produced in larger quantities. Finally, his Air Liquefaction Company came in handy because neon was produced in large quantities as a byproduct of air liquefaction. He was the first man to use his new invention as a business and opened a shop to sell neon signs. These were nothing like the led neon lights we use today. Because of the neon signs’ marketing prospects, Claude took them to the United States of America in 1923. He sold two of these to a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles. The trend caught on immediately, and more businesses came forward to switch their normal signboards with boards made up of neon light. It is noteworthy that neon light did not have different colors then. It came in one color and was very expensive, yet it did not stop people from using it, mainly because it was so bright that it could even be seen in bright daylight.

Then came the invention of coaching the neon sign with fluorescent tubes, which gave manufacturers different color options for the signs. It is still a long road to achieving the led neon signs we have now with hundreds of color options.

Neon signs relished the peak, but they went out of the limelight in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Although, some TV shows did use them to portray the show’s tropical and bright background, which helped to bring them back for a little while again.

Evolution of Neon Signs

Neon signs were originally made out of glass mixed with lead because it made it easier to bend and mold them into any shape with the help of heat. The glass tubes, called Geissler tubes, were sealed tubes made out of glass inside them with rarefied neon gas, and the temperature was kept so low as compared to the atmospheric pressure. But these Geissler tubes were unfit for commercial purposes; hence innovation was required.

Then came the Moore tube, in which either Carbon dioxide or Nitrogen was used as the illuminating gas. These were usable for commercial purposes and were sold as an early form of commercial lights in the early 1900s and after the use of a lofty mixture of noble gasses like Neon with Argon and little amount of mercury in the glass tube, which had two electrodes at each side opened new horizons for the mode of advertisement. These were the Glass neon signs. Despite their high cost and less efficiency, they were sold like hot cakes. They stayed in style till the early 1960s. In 2006, neon lights took a new form and came into the market as LED flex Neon Lights. This instantly became popular and easily replaced the old glass neon signs for many obvious reasons. The LED ones were easy to be shaped into any design without the use of any furnace. They were environment-friendly and did not pose any health hazards. They were way cheaper than the glass ones and sturdier also. The innovation of LED neon lights attracted a large audience that had previously never thought of having a neon sign as a piece of decoration in their homes.

The LED neon signs took another form and were made out of Acrylic blocks. They were also introduced nearly at the same time in history. Having much fewer complications than glass neons and being more cost-effective also, they gained popularity and were used by big businesses. In short, the evolution of neon signs made it possible for them to stay in fashion all these years, and they will not run out of style any soon.

Types of Neon Lights

Throughout history, there have been three common types of neon lights till date, which are as follow:

  • Neon signs made from glass
  • LED flex neon signs
  • LED neon signs made of acrylic blocks

How are Glass Neon Lights made?

Initially, the people who made neon signs out of glass were called glass benders (or neon benders) because their work was bending the light tubes with the help of heat. Be it glass neon light or LED neon light, they both consist of two electrodes placed parallel to each other, responsible for passing a voltage through the gas to produce the glow.

Although the name suggests that neon gas is used in making both glass neon signs and LED neon signs, a mixture of other gasses, mainly Argon, is also added to the tube to exhibit different colors. The ardor of blue light is controlled by the amount of mercury added to the Argon and Neon mixture. As mentioned above, phosphor and fluorescent coating in the tube flaunt different colors. Similarly, Xenon, Krypton, and Helium gasses are also added for different effects. The diameter of the glass tube ranges from 0.3 to 1 inch and is usually 4 to 5 feet long. The electrodes used at the end of the glass tube are made of iron without any impurity suspended in a glass cover with one of the ends open.

First of all, the glass tube used to make neon light is thoroughly clean to remove all the dirt and impurities. Then the glass is placed into a machine that applies a layer of liquid phosphor onto the glass. It is later placed in a furnace to dry the coating. The tube is ready to be used once the coating is dried out. The next step requires softening the glass so it can be molded into the desired shape. The neon benders use their hands to bend the tube. A blow hose is attached at one end of the tube to save it from collapsing. Neon benders blow into these hoses to force the tube back to its original shape.

Then comes air evacuation from the glass tube, creating a vacuum inside the tube. The atmospheric pressure is kept low up to 0.5 to 1 mm of mercury by inserting dry air into the tube. A current of 400 to 750 milliamperes is used to bombard the tube. Upon bombardment, the temperature of the tube reaches up to 216° C and that of electrodes up to 760° C.

The tube is then left to be cooled off, and later the gasses are inserted into it. The gasses are also purified to avoid any malfunctioning. The next process is usually called the aging process or tube burning. In this step, the transformer is attached to the electrodes in the tube. The illumination time may vary. In the case of Argon, the gas may take up to a couple of hours to glow because it needs time to stabilize and work properly inside the tube.

How LED flex Neon Lights are made?

As the name shows, LED flex neon light is made up of LED flex which requires something to be attached, like acrylic sheets which can either be clear or black. These are the signs we commonly see these days in our local food parlors or indoor decorations.

Light Emitting Diodes, abbreviated as LED, are joined together to create a long strip of lights concealed in a durable, infrangible, and flexible silicone cover preventing it from harm. They come in different colors and even in combinations of different colors. This requires RGBW LED neon flex, this allows the neon light to change color within a single strip of neon light.

LED neon lights are inexpensive compared to their glass counterparts and require even less electricity to work. They are not harmful to the workers who made these as they do not require lead in the process of making. In addition, they do not require high temperatures to be bent or molded into the desired shape. Therefore, these are more widely used nowadays.

How LED Neon Signs out of Acrylic are made?

These types of led neon signs are used by big businesses to display their name or logo outdoors to make it visible from a great distance. The first step in making these Acrylic LED neon signs is to create the design using photoshop or any other tool on the computer. The said computer is attached to a CNC machine that carves the Acrylic sheets’ design. After the desired shape is carved so accurately, as it is a crucial step of the process, the blocks are hollowed from the inside. Once completed, we have a big block of Acrylic in the shape we created on our computer. Then, these blocks are fitted with led lights inside them for the glow. Then small holes are drilled in these acrylic boxes for the electric wires so that all the blocks can be connected and then to an electric source. These are then closed by attaching acrylic or aluminum sheets at the back. The Acrylic provides more diffraction to the light hence, increasing the luminosity of the light. There is no size restriction when making these types of neon lights. Acrylic LED neon lights are a much safer option as compared to the predecessor glass neons. Because they are lighter in weight than glass ones and would not smash into tiny pieces as the glass ones would. They require much less electricity to work. They do not heat up like the glass ones as time passes, so they are safe to touch. Moreover, they provide the same level of visibility as the glass neon signs, decreasing your cost up to 80%.

Trends of Neon Signs in Pakistan

LED Neon signs gained much popularity recently. A couple of years ago, they did not have as much hype as they have now. The recent inclination of people toward these LED neon lights was seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. Traditional markets were shut due to lockdown, and people were forced to work from home. This evokes the trend of online shopping among the people, specifically among the people of Pakistan. The online shops had no lockdown protocols to follow except for keeping a distance of a minimum of six feet when delivering the product and wearing masks.

Along with other things, people focused more on the indoor decorations of their homes. Hence, neon signs gained popularity. Many Youtube content creators, TikTok stars, and other social media influencers contributed to bringing these neon signs into fashion. The most commonly used type of neon is LED flex neon light. And now, we see them everywhere. Because of their ability to be molded into any shape or design and availability in hundreds of colors, they are suitable for all places.

How to buy a good neon sign?

Since the recent trend of LED neon signs, many people have taken up the opportunity to sell neon signs. So, buyers need to know how to buy a good quality neon sign and what factors to consider.

First of all, if buying a sign from an online store, review the customers’ feedback about the quality of the sign. This will help save you time in deciding where to order. Secondly, you should always ask for the product’s warranty, whether LED neon light or acrylic block LED Neons. A good seller will always fill you in about the sign’s lifetime, the luminosity of the light used, and the return policy if you received a damaged product. You should also consider the quality of the material used in the making of the sign, such as the thickness of the Acrylic sheet, which normally ranges from 2 to 10 mm, the quality and durability of the neon light, the quality of the adapter provided to turn the light on, and the price of the neon sign as well. To save yourself from alleged hackers, check how updated the page or online store is and their customer support policies. In addition to these factors, ensure the store has multiple communication options and a proper website link to their social media page. This will help in differentiating fake pages from real ones.

A neon sign indubitably adds more contrast to your room, brings in more color to your decorations, and is also very affordable. With the invention of LED flex neon signs, the cost has been reduced dramatically. This has brought neon signs into your homes. It also makes a perfect gift for any occasion. Moreover, they are easy to shop because of the availability of many online shops. They deliver your product to your home. So you do not have to waste your time in the hustle of shopping.

× How can I help you?