Have you ever heard of the terms COB and CSP? If not and you’re planning to delve into the LED display industry, you might want to start learning them. For others, honestly, they are just a bunch of letters and abbreviations without meaning. If you want to learn about them and start understanding LED displays better, identifying COB vs CSP LED screens is a good place to start. 

Understanding the Basics of LED Chip Configuration

COB vs CSP LED - COB Module
Image Credit: Binarysequence – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

What is an LED chip configuration? It refers to the method you use when putting together the LED chips to form the LED module. Throughout the development and innovation of display technology SMD or Surface Mount Devices. After that, COB LED was introduced to the market and then CSP LED came next after that. They can be considered as improvements from the SMDs.

To consider an LED chip configuration a good one, it must have the following characteristics:

  • Meets the ever-growing demand of LED devices
  • Safe process for minimal damage
  • Features more than one layer

Comparing COB vs CSP LED, which of the two is capable of meeting all of these characteristics? 

COB and CSP LED: Assessing these LED Chip Techniques

COB vs CSP LED - COB
Image Credit: Lucas-visionpi – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

“COB” or “Chip-on-Board” and “CSP” or “Chip Scale Package” are two terms you might encounter with your LED display. They are methods used to pack LED chips into a flat surface in order to organize them in the arrangement they are supposed to function. In identifying which is better between COB and CSP, getting to know each of the techniques is the best starting place. 

COB or Chip-on-Board Configuration

COB vs CSP LED - COB Tech
COB vs CSP LED – COB Tech

Chip-on-board configuration refers to the technique where the LED chips are literally mounted on the board just as its name suggests. The board or the substrate is the material where the LED chips will be placed and arranged in a particular way. After that, a protective layer is installed to group everything together. All of the arrangement leads to:

Major Characteristics of COB LED

To dive deeper into the capabilities of COB LED, here are the common features you can expect from this configuration:

  • Large Form Factor – It is actually bigger when you compare COB vs CSP LEDs. Generally, though, COB looks a bit small because SMDs are big. 
  • Horrible Thermal Management – Protecting the LED chips from heat is an important part of the configuration’s role in the LED ensemble. The downside with COB LED though is that it has poor thermal management so there’s a real possibility for the chips to get all tangled. 
  • Cost-effective – The real value of COB LEDs comes after some time when despite using the device for so long, you won’t have to pay for operational and maintenance costs. The configuration ensures that the LED display is efficiently consuming power and not wasting any form of energy. 
  • Lighting Applications – While COB LEDs are popular in screens, they are most commonly used in lighting devices to serve as some sort of a spotlight. Some of its popular lighting installations are outdoor lighting and the camera flash installed in smartphones. 

Chip Scale Package or CSP LED Configuration

COB vs CSP LED - CSP
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Chip Scale Package or CSP is another type of configuration that can be considered a level up from COB. It was structured to be smaller in order to be used in more applications. It also does not add a protective layer, helping to keep the size small.

Basic Characteristics of CSP LED

To help you assess COB vs CSP LED better, here are the basic characteristics of the latter LED chip configuration. These are the ones you should bear in mind. 

  • Impressive Temperature Control – CSP LEDs easily get rid of the heat from the device, making sure it can operate well. This also makes sure that it runs in an optimal condition and that possible damage through heat is avoided. 
  • Flexible Choice for Substrate – When you’re working on a CSP LED, the material you use as a substrate doesn’t have any effect on its performance. This is why the choice for the material is flexible and you have the option to choose where you want to mount the LED chips. 
  • Common Application in Mobile Devices – Because of how CSP LEDs are structured as a smaller configuration, they are often used on compact devices. 

Identifying Similarities and Differences between COB vs CSP LEDs

COB vs CSP LED - COB High Power
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Take the time to analyze the similarities and differences between each type of LED chip configuration. This will help you assess which of the two LEDs is better. If you’re deciding which is better than the other, this is the best way to do it. 

What’s Similar Between the COB and CSP?

COB and CSP LEDs are not just different from each other but they also have several worth mentioning similarities. To better understand the two types, it is a good practice to still know what’s the same between the two. While both LED chip configurations are very different, they are also very similar in the following aspects:

CategoriesDescriptions
Direct LED Chip MountingLED chips directly to the substrate
Compact Form FactorSmall enough to be used in several applications
Heat DissipationFeature heat dissipation capability 
Flexible ApplicationApplicable not limited to a single industry

What Are the Major Differences Between COB and CSP?

Let’s look into the differences between COB vs CSP LEDs. They differ greatly in terms of configuration, illumination uniformity, heat management, cost, and design flexibility. This is a quick peek at their differences. 

Element for ComparisonCOB LEDCSP LED
ConfigurationClunkyMinimalistic
Illumination UniformityJust sufficientBetter
Heat ManagementNeeds ImprovementBetter heat management
CostMore affordableMore expensive
Design FlexibilityLimitedMore efficient

Let’s thoroughly discuss the differences between the two LED chip configurations as they relate to the following aspects:

Configuration

COB and CSP have different arrangements of the LED chips on their boards. The former sports a more awkward arrangement while the latter has a more organized and simplistic design. The addition of the borders makes a drastic difference in its aesthetics and size. While at first, they may appear similar, they show different colors due to some of the materials they use. CSP uses glue without phosphorus, making it look milky white. COB uses phosphorus material, which makes it look yellowish. 

Illumination Uniformity

When it comes to illumination uniformity, CSP has the edge. It offers a more uniform illumination and even a higher luminance. The 180-degree lighting angle also contributes to the even distribution of luminescence. 

While CSP may be better, COB is pretty close down the lane. It offers sufficient uniformed luminescence and even showcases a better beam angle when compared to SMD. It falls a bit short compared to CSP, making it a bit inferior in this aspect. 

Heat Management

Unwanted heat can cause irreparable damage to the module and both CSP and COB have ways to make sure this doesn’t happen. CSP is ultimately superior to COB when handling heat that accumulates in the system. It doesn’t mean that COB won’t be as effective as long as you know and do some heat-diminishing techniques, from using ventilation to adding material to the cooling block to help with temperature management.

Cost

In terms of prices, CSP is significantly more expensive than COBs, primarily due to its more advanced and meticulous design, as well as the specifications and form of the hardware. 

Design Flexibility

The design of CSP is more flexible compared to the one in COB. This flexibility comes from taking out many of the components you’d normally find in COB. With a flexible design, CSPs can operate more effectively. 

COB vs CSP LED: The Technical Elements

To get into the battle of the technical aspects between COB and CSP LED, you have to look into both the mounting procedures and the packaging substrates. 

Differences in How LED Chips are Mounted

COB and CSP also have different ways how they install the LED chips into the flat surface of their specific substrates. 

COB LED

For a standard COB structure, here are the major materials you’ll need:

  1. Printed Circuit Board or PCB – Prepare the PCB and consider other materials besides the standard substrate material depending on the type of LED screen you’re making. 
  2. LED Chip – This is a priority element that helps power the entire LED module by conducting electricity to the ensemble. The use of electricity allows for the production of light, colors, and then images. Often in blue, the applicable of the chips is flexible and can be composed of several chips, depending on the design. 
  3. Gold Wire – This material easily transfers electricity from one element to another, distributing electricity to the materials that need to be powered. Each LED chip has a metallic wire for its mounting, which works well too in conducting electricity to each chip. 
  4. Phosphorus – Found on the LED chips, this material helps produce the accustomed white-colored light that LEDs are known for. Besides the color change, it also contributes to the device’s smooth operation and heat management. 

With a 180-degree angle light emission, COB provides a good coverage. Whichever size and process a manufacturer uses to process these LED chips for COB, it usually often includes adhesives that can conduct and transfer heat. 

CSP LED

The mounting process of CSP also starts with the materials you will use for the module. One huge similarity between COB and CSP is that it is composed of two major components, which are the LED chips and the LED package. In the case of CSP LED though, these three are the basic elements:

  • LED chip
  • Yellow phosphor
  • Connection pads

Without a frame, more LED chips can be mounted on the board for more luminescence. If not, you can also choose to design a smaller LED module. CSPs do not use gold wire to mount the LED chips on the board but they are directly glued instead. The fluorescent glue used in the ensemble takes care of the distribution of light and at the same time adds protection for the LED chips. 

Differences in Packaging Substrates

A substrate refers to the material from which its flat surface is used to mount the LED chips used in the module. COB and CSP use different types of materials for their substrates. This leads to differences in performances and features. 

In general, a substrate needs to have the following elements:

  • Capable of supporting the functionality of the LED chips 
  • Efficiently handles electric conduction
  • Manages heat well

COB LED

For COB, the most common materials used for the substrate are sapphire and silicon carbide. With aluminum oxide, the former acts excellently as a good electric conductor on top of being a durable material for the LED chips to hold on to. On the other hand, the latter is a material made from a combination of metal oxide and carbon. Since it’s metallic, it is a good conductor of electricity and its resistance to rusting and heat makes it an even better material to use as a substrate. 

While not as often used, ceramic and CooLam are two materials used for COB as they both have electromagnetic properties that make them a good option for a substrate. 

CSP LED

CSP normally uses ceramic and other types of glass, which is entirely different from the metallic material that COB uses as a substrate. Of course, the decision for the material to use falls on the manufacturer. Some of the factors that manufacturers consider when making this decision are the following:

  • Material’s durability
  • Resistance to heat
  • Excellent insulation

Conclusion

To properly compare COB vs CSP LED, take into account all the factors and elements that positively or negatively affect the LED display performance. Both COB LEDs and CSP LEDs have their own characteristics that make them unique and stand out from each other. You can make a decision based on these differences. 

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