What is LED DMX Technology?

Keith Koons

The term LED DMX technology refers to the use of DMX512 controllers to manipulate light-emitting diodes (LEDs). A DMX controller uses EIA-485 differential signaling at its physical layer in order to adjust the amount of photons, in addition to the amount of light, released by an LED. LED DMX technology is most common in the performing arts such as theater and dance, where the lighting is usually combined with other special effects such as a fog machine or strobe lights.

LED DMX technology may be used to run a fog machine.
LED DMX technology may be used to run a fog machine.

The principle behind a light-emitting diode is generally considered simple. A semi-conducting chip containing impurities will have an anode and a cathode. Electrons and holes capable of transmitting charges flow from the anode to the cathode. When an electron collides with a hole, a photon, or packet of energy, is released, producing light whose frequency is determined by the “band gap energy” of the semi-conducting materials.

Originally intended as a “lowest common denominator” method of connecting proprietary protocols, DMX512 communications technology has become the tool of choice for linking advanced special effects fixtures involving LED technology. A particular LED is assigned an identification number such as “12," and by sending particular electrical signals to the identification number, LED DMX technology can adjust the brightness, color and other characteristics of the diode. For example, by programming the command “12-40%," a DMX controller could reduce the brightness of a light-emitting diode to 40 percent of the maximum output.

LED DMX technology has become increasingly popular because of the DMX512 cable’s sturdy, robust construction that protects it from damage that is easily sustained by other high-speed transmission cables. Wireless DMX transmissions to control LEDs, in particular, are often installed in architectural lighting networks because they are reliable even up to distances of 2,000 feet (609.60 meters). Modern LED DMX controllers also utilize frequency hopping spread-spectrum technology together with cognitive coexistence to minimize interference with other wireless networks.

As scientists seek to maximize the convenience and efficiency of this technology, further improvements are in the works as well. One example of these changes is the use of remote data management, which allows diagnostic feedback from lighting fixtures to the controller. This gives the user much more control over everyday lighting options and shades of color.

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