A typical application of such a system is general household lighting where a user is able to create multiple shades of white or colored light with just one fixture. Such flexible lighting fixtures enrich the end user experience by giving control over light that consumers have never been able to experience before. The flexibility of these fixtures is enabled by two very important aspects: the possible color gamut of the fixture and the number of unique mixed colors the fixture can create, which is known as color resolution. For some applications, users desire as large of a potential color gamut as possible. This allows the fixture to create more vibrant colors that do not appear to be washed out.
One other aspect of a white light fixture that is often important is its color rendering index (CRI) rating. This is essentially a rating of how well colors and objects look when they are illuminated with the fixture. CRI is better when a light fixture emanates more unique wavelengths of light for a given mixed color.
Each of the three aspects gamut, color resolution, and CRI can be optimized by a single design factor: the number of uniquely-colored LED channels in the system. Having more LED color channels increases the possible color resolution exponentially with each channel added, as well as increases the color gamut since the different LED colors will cover a greater area of the color space. Finally, using more wavelengths of light to mix colors increases the CRI rating of the fixture.
Four-channel color combinations often work well for LED color mixing fixtures. Two common combinations are RGBA (A is for amber) and RGBW (W is for white). The RGBA combination gives a larger gamut than RGB or RGBW, and it generally creates light with a good CRI. The RGBW combination doesnt have a larger color gamut, but it has a good CRI and more of the primary mixed color that is desired: white. The number of channels does not need to stop at four. LED lighting fixtures with five, six, or even seven channels are sometimes necessary for very high-performance or high-end systems. While there are clear advantages to having more independent LED channels, there are drawbacks, including the obvious need for more hardware (LEDs and drivers) as well as an embedded microcontroller with more complex firmware. In such a system, the controller continuously calculates the appropriate dimming levels needed for each LED color channel. The output for each channel must be finely adjusted in order to mix to the proper color.
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