LED signs are growing in popularity but, like all things, sometimes these high-quality signs can malfunction.  While the team at Forerunner Signs & Graphics are experienced in designing and installing LED signs of all types, we can actually be called in to repair or provide maintenance to an existing sign.  When a sign is broken, it hurts your business and we are here to help your business succeed.

Although the quality and design approaches are different between manufacturers, there are some general concepts that most outdoor LED sign systems will follow. They include basic operating components working together to create a full outdoor LED sign system.

Basic Components

Controller: This is the brain of the LED sign and is typically the junction point for the communications, temp/light sensors, and video input and output for the entire sign.

PC Based (IPC): These are typically internal (sometimes external) industrialized computers running a secure operating system. They are more powerful and tend to give a bit more flexibility to the system for video display, troubleshooting and customization.

Embedded Controller: These will look more like a circuit board and are typically used in systems geared for static text and images. Many will play animations and some video, but the frame rate and storage space is limited.

Video Board: This converts the video signal from the controller into a readable format for the sign hardware. This board is sometimes combined with an embedded controller, but it is usually separated on an IPC based system.

Logic Board: These translate the video signal from the Video Board, to the individual LED modules on the sign, usually in rows or columns depending on the manufacturer. These are sometimes combined with embedded controllers on value systems. Also known as: Turbo Boards, Receiver Cards, Hub Cards, Row Boards, and Ribbon Boards.

LED Modules: These are the actual panels of LEDs that make up the entire sign. They can range in size, from 8×8 pixels to 16×16 pixels and larger depending on how close the pixels are to each other. The rear of the Modules will typically have the power and data connectors integrated.

Power Supplies: These power the internal hardware for the LED sign. They will usually take in AC voltage, and output DC voltage to the components. They will typically power more than one component or LED module.

Temperature Probe: These are typically used to get outside temperature readings to display on the sign. These have been standard equipment on LED signs for a while, but are used less frequently now as owners focus more on content and targeted advertising.

Troubleshooting LED Signs

Follow the Data Chain
LED signs rely on a certain amount of “daisy chains” to get data from one component to the next.

In general, the process looks like this:
User’s Computer — Communication Device on Building — Communication Device on the Sign — Sign Controller — Video Board — Logic Board (These are daisy chained to other Logic Boards across the sign) — Rows or Columns of LED Modules Daisy Chained together.

Keep it Simple
Look at your symptoms, and find a logical place to start ruling out causes of the issue. For example, if the sign has a module out, you wouldn’t start testing the communication devices. You would start looking at the LED sign hardware (LED Modules, Data cables, etc.).

Make the Issue Move
When you are physically troubleshooting components, you want to either fix the issue or make it move. If you can make it move, you can isolate the component and replace or repair it to fix the issue.

Electronic devices sometimes get locked up and require a reboot to get going again. Cycling power to the sign can sometimes fix issues. However, you shouldn’t have to do this constantly. If so, then look for the root cause of the freeze ups.

Even the best LED signs will have issues now and then, but remember that the quality of the manufacturers’ design, components and support play a huge factor in how often this happens and how easy it is to fix when it does.

If you are having issues with your LED sign or are in the market to promote your business with a new LED sign, contact our team at Forerunner Signs & Graphics.  From concept to creation to installation, we’re there for you every step of the way!

Michael Ryan