The subject of DIY LED is on everyone's lips when it comes to plant lighting in private use. When it comes to lighting for plants in indoor cultivation, there are three central requirements that have so far been contradictory:
- Low acquisition costs, as many photons per Euro as possible
- An even distribution of light over the entire cultivation area. This means PPFD values that are as homogeneous as possible.
- Efficiency. As many photons per kWh as possible.
High-pressure discharge lamps - NDL / HID & Co.
Until a few years ago, the light sources that promised high luminous efficacy at low investment costs were gas discharge lamps (NDL, MDL, etc.). Even if we ignore the heat problem of this type of lamp, there is a major problem with the even distribution of light. Reflectors and spreaders can only inefficiently avoid so-called hotspots, while the illumination at the edges is greatly reduced.
DIY - DIY LED
But these are already quite old-fashioned light sources, after all we live in the age of LEDs! Their only disadvantage is that they are quite expensive...
But with the light emitting diodes a cheap solution can be realized, if you have a little bit of craftsmanship. The most popular for such DIY LED solutions were long COBs - chips on board - which have the advantage of simpler cabling compared to the equally efficient high power LEDs. Here, however, photons are again generated centrally and must be distributed by suitable optics, which is basically at the expense of efficiency. The bundled power of the COBs in a very small area also requires complex cooling solutions.
LED strips are better
In the meantime the hobbyist scene has developed further. In recent years, more and more affordable Mid Power LEDs have been launched on the market, which are more efficient and, above all, provide better light distribution. To achieve this, as many dedicated LEDs as possible are distributed over a large area to achieve a very even illumination.
In the hobby sector, mid-power solutions are usually based on LED engines, which are offered by the major manufacturers for retrofit solutions. These strips - also called Strips or Stripes - are designed to replace neon tubes. Several of them can be combined to form a panel, usually requiring only plug connections. Even though mid power chips usually do not generate much waste heat, a simple heat sink is recommended for efficient and reliable operation. Resourceful hobbyists build a grid from simple U-profiles, on which the strips are mounted.
Disadvantages of the LED-Strips
This is an efficient and, above all, inexpensive way to build efficient plant lighting. However, the Stripes also have disadvantages.
Basically, the LED strips are not designed for plant lighting - to achieve the required intensity, a large number of strips must usually be combined - a tangled mess of cables is inevitable.
In addition, the strips are often not ideal for heat dissipation, as the cheaper variants are usually made of FR4, a synthetic resin. Higher-quality stripes rely on aluminium-core PCBs, which distribute and dissipate heat well.
But what can actually become a problem for DIY LED projects are the mounting options. All that is left for the hobbyist is double-sided adhesive tape, which further impairs heat conduction and in the worst case even loses its adhesion due to thermal stress.
Solution: Mid-Power Boards
Crescience developed the FLUXengine as a mid-power board to solve these problems. These LED engines are ideal for someone who wants to build a lighting system for indoor gardens themselves. It can be screwed onto standard grooved profiles, which in most cases even saves the purchase of a separate heat sink. With a solid, three millimetre thick aluminium board, the FLUXengine is optimised for best heat dissipation. The dimensions are based on the standard dimensions for furniture, so that nothing stands in the way of a built-in solution.
Crescience also provides reference designs and comprehensive documentation for do-it-yourself construction. However, we would like to point out that do-it-yourself plant lighting is only recommended for qualified professionals.