Despite the name, LED Strip Lights do not use normal Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). Instead, they use a special type of LED called Surface Mounted Devices, shortened to SMDs.
SMDs are different to LEDs in a number of ways and hold several advantages over them. In the case of an SMD, the plastic casement and connecting wires have been removed. Without these they resemble a small, yellow coloured square. For many years SMDs have served a similar function to LEDs as low energy light emitters in electronic devices, but they too have found their way into the mainstream by being manufactured to higher lumen specifications.
One of the chief advantages of an SMD is the absence of an epoxy casing, the plastic cover that encloses a normal LED, and any through-hole connecting wires. This means SMDs can be made to much smaller specifications than older LEDs and, as the name suggests, they can also be soldered flat against a surface. What you will find with older types of LED is that they tend to protrude forward from a surface, thereby adding extra depth to whatever device they are included in. This economy of space is particularly important in small items like light bulbs and LED Strip Lights where space is at a premium.
Another advantage is that SMDs are generally more efficient. Their ability to convert power, measured in watts, into light, measured in lumens, is much higher than older formats. For instance, a light bulb using SMDs will only use 4 watts in delivering a light output equivalent to a 60 watt halogen. Older LEDs use roughly 6 watts in delivering the same amount of light.
The final advantage relates to beam angle. A beam angle describes the width at which light is emanated from a particular light source. A beam angle can be controlled utilising any number of means including refractive lenses and mirrors. Conventional LEDs have quite narrow beam angles due to the presence of their epoxy casings, which concentrate the light source into a relatively narrow 45 degree beam angle. By removing the need for this casing, SMDs introduce more versatility when it comes to selecting a beam angle. Their maximum beam angle is approximately 120 degrees, but this can obviously be adjusted to make it larger or smaller.
All LED Strips use SMDs, which are soldered at regular intervals along their length. They are available in a range of sizes and are one of the primary reasons LED Strips are capable of such a versatile range of applications.