Ellumiglow over the years have made 10s of thousands of EL Panels, and over the years one of the most common questions is "can my EL Panel or EL Tape be cut?" While there is no clear answer to this question, we want to outline why it's a tricky question to help you better understand why, and give you the best chance of success if you do decide to cut your Electroluminescent Panel.
Most EL Panels produced on the market consist of 4 basic layers; an ITO-coated top layer, a conductive phosphor layer, a dielectric layer and a bus bar or electrode. When a panel is produced at the factory, the panel is laminated as a whole protecting it from moisture, oxygen, and debris that could otherwise get inside causing premature degradation of the phosphor and ultimately decrease the lifespan of your panel. When you cut into the factory seal, this exposes the inside of the panel to the elements, which can cause decreased lifespan. Depending on your location, humidity, heat, or UV exposure can all play into the degradation of the phosphor, so keeping it sealed as much as possible is highly recommended.
Any EL Technology (including EL Wire) uses a high voltage and frequency to excite the phosphor layer. Cutting into the panel also exposes the high voltage to the user, which can shock the user if touched. While there is not much current that goes through a typical panel, caution should be used when handling any electronic devices. Making sure to IMMEDIATELY seal any of the cut edges surrounding the panel is highly recommended and will give your Electroluminescent Tape (or panel) the best chance of success. The bus bar layer of the EL Panel is designed and manufactured to evenly distribute high voltage across the entire field of the panel. This helps the panel light up fully, and evenly to produce the same voltage and frequency throughout. By cutting this bus bar, it reduces its ability to maintain an even distribution which could create an uneven light output. Occasionally, this uneven distribution can cause the panel to fail due to the increased resistance between the panels conductive layers. While this is not as common, it is possible to happen.
These are some of the common pitfalls when cutting EL Panels. If you are looking to experiment with a shape, or prototype for a custom application, sometimes cutting the panel is the easiest choice. However in mission critical situations or items that require a repeatable process, we only recommend having the panel designed at the beginning with any type of custom shape manufactured. With this option, the design possibilities are endless and provides years of glowing awesome. Our custom lighting division can work from basic dimensions to scaled vector designs and can even produce custom colors, print overlays including graphics or logos, and even create multiple segmented channels throughout the panel allowing for custom animated effects. To request a quote for custom manufactured panels, please visit Project Submission Form.