How Cecoceco Creates Active Wall Finishes With LED And 3D Printing

December 14, 2023 by Dave Haynes

I have written and blabbered away about how LED technology is maturing to a level that it is becoming a design consideration for architects and the people who create the look and feel of built spaces. But that thinking always assumed that clever creative could make the black surface of a big video wall, loaded with the right content, take on the look of its surroundings.

Now a spin-out from a company with deep roots in LED display tech has gone the next step, by coming up with LED display tiles that look like wall finishes. Imagine a building lobby wall that, in its off state, looks like stone or tile or decorative wood, but lights up – with animations or messaging that appears out of that decorative surface.

That’s the pitch for a new company called CECOCECO, which is a subsidiary of Chinese LED giant Unilumin. The company was founded by Jason Lu, who years earlier founded ROE, which is widely considered top of the heap for rental LED displays used by touring acts.

The companies are financially connected, but CECOCECO operates independently in terms of product design, technology, manufacturing, and sales.

Lu was getting bored with that business and wanted to innovate again. So with his wife Grace Kuo, they’ve come up with and are now marketing something called ArtMorph. We get into a good discussion here about the origins of the product, how it works, and who is interested.

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Jason and Grace, thank you for joining me. First of all, can you tell me what Cecoceco is all about? 

Jason Lu: I’m very happy to share the story about Cecoceco with you. I think, 16 years ago, I founded a company named ROE, and this company develops and manufactures LED displays, so we have 16 years of experience in that industry. To be honest, after 16 years, I got a little bit bored with that traditional business, and I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know what kind of product I could develop. So, one day, I found out that the traditional LED is always a black cabinet.

It’s difficult to put it in an indoor environment. So I hope we can do something new and put a traditional cabinet with some new masks together to 100 percent match.

Grace Kuo: So the story is, one day, Jason came into a hotel and he suddenly said, “Oh, that LED looks so ugly. Why do these beautiful hotels have this ugly black LED? It’s not really part of this hotel. You can really tell this is not a part of the hotel.” So he thought, why can’t we build these kinds of things that have the lighting or video source but you won’t see that ugly? You can take it as part of these decorations. You can make it as part of these buildings, which is how the idea came out. He thinks, oh, I should create some innovation, stuff which can make this environment look more material and beautiful and not only for the hotels, but also for restaurants, and also for libraries, every place should have those kinds of stuff, instead of the ugly black LED for atmosphere.

So, for context, just so people understand, ROE is very highly regarded as the best rental temporary LED displays on the market, and your company was acquired by Unilumin, correct? 

Grace Kuo: Yes. 

Were you still with the company until recently?

Grace Kuo: Jason’s still with the company because you know the story is like he said two years earlier, when he felt bored with this traditional business, he felt oh I should stop it. I should get out of this business and continue my passion for innovation so he left for two years, but at the end of last year, he came back and continued his leadership at ROE and then he also brought back the Cecoceco  team to ROE Visual. So, right now, Cecoceco is a subsidiary company of ROE Visual as well. 

So ultimately you’re owned by Unilumin? 

Grace Kuo: Yes. 

So we’ll make the assumption then that the underlying LED infrastructure technology is Unilumin? 

Grace Kuo: We are very independent. We develop everything and do everything by ourselves, even the manufacturing, so they’re basically only financially part of the group, but, besides that, everything is independent. 

So as I’m looking at this on your website, it appears to be relatively low-res LEDs with a veneer front to them, and the veneer can be stone, it could be fabric, it could be wood, or it could be something else, correct?

And how do you push the light through the veneer? Is it microscopically thin? 

Grace Kuo: So this is a good question. This is a key technology we have on these products, but Jason, can I give you more explanations, about how we make lighting come through those kinds of materials?

Jason Lu: Oh, yes. We tried a lot of different materials but finally we found out very special 3D printing technologies so we use these technologies to print the different masks. But it looks very real. When you touch it, you will feel this is real wood but it’s still printing technologies.

Oh, okay. if I see a stone wall where there’s light coming through, and I’m thinking to myself, how did they cut the granite or whatever that thin, they didn’t? It’s 3D printed to look like stone?

Grace Kuo: Yeah, there are two different ways we are doing this. One way is as Jason explained to you, but we also, actually, find out it’s really, goldstone, the real stone, that can work with our products which also can have very high lighting or display transparencies. 

Oh, so you can do it with real stone? 

Grace Kuo: Yeah, we can do it with real stone. 

Jason Lu: But the basic version is a print version. 

Grace Kuo: Yeah, so we have two versions. One is, the printing version, in which you can choose everything you want, you can choose wooden, you can choose stone or you can choose a different kind of texture, but we also have the real materials that can work with our products. So we’re working with one of the companies in the US, which is making a very special stone. They have very high lighting transparencies, which can work with our products very well. 

Jason Lu: But we start from the printing direction first because this is an easy way. But if some customer needs customizing, we will choose some real material, but I think we start from the basic printing idea. 

So you have a number of different faces or veneers or whatever that you already have available. But if you had an existing building and a lobby that was wood lined, you could color and tone match whatever the look of that would to create a custom veneer, right?

Grace Kuo: Yes, that’s possible to customize. 

Interesting. So, how bright is it? 

Jason Lu: It’s 700 nits, which is more than bright enough for what you’re trying to do, right? 

Grace Kuo: Yeah, I think so. We also discussed this with a lot of scientists and designers, and they felt 700 nits, for those kinds of motion products is more than enough. 

Yeah, I have seen some instances of low-res LED walls where they put a diffusion fabric layer in front of it to create something visually interesting without going to the full expense and everything associated with a full video wall to fill a whole lobby. This created the experience without all that cost and all the maintenance and everything. Is that kind of what you’re going for? 

Grace Kuo: No, actually we are approaching different way to achieve this goal because, yes, you can see there are several projects that already happened, with different materials on top of the traditional screen, but there are a lot of works on a project site, so you always get two layers, separately and you need to have a lot of completed works on the project side. 

So it’s gonna cause a lot of unpredictable problems and also cost a lot in labor, so our goal is to integrate these two ideas together and make one a finished product when the customer gets it, they get finished products and just make the quick install. They don’t have actual onset costs. 

Okay, and there’s a whole mounting system that you apply to the wall, fairly shallow by the looks of it, and it looks like the tiles themselves are less than an inch, and each of the tiles is ten by ten, I think, right? 

Grace Kuo: Each tile is 500 millimeters by 500 millimeters. 

So these things go together like a traditional LED video wall and you can stack them, tile them, and so on? 

Grace Kuo: Yeah, so you can build them as big as you want. 

And there’s no physical dimensional limit?

Grace Kuo: There is no physical dimension limit so it’s just units you can combine together. 

Jason Lu: And we also did some optic design to try and reduce the gap between the two modules.

To reduce the gap between the modules? 

Grace Kuo: With those kind of upper masks, visually, you’ve got some optical visible lines. So we also use some technologies to reduce these optical visible lines to make people feel this is really one picture, there are no optical lines, between units.

Right, because you want to make it disappear and just feel like the wall, the furnishings of the building. what typically is going to show on these… Is it immersive, it’s ambient, you’re not really doing messaging or anything, correct? 

Grace Kuo: What do you mean by messaging? 

You wouldn’t run text. You wouldn’t run a logo or something like that, probably?

Grace Kuo: It’s possible, because the resolution is more than enough to play the characters or any content. 

So you could read something, or would it be more of a large logo or something? 

Grace Kuo: No, you can read some things. 

If you were describing the pixel pitch, what would it be?

Grace Kuo: Objective.

Grace Kuo: Because we are not selling this as an LED display, we are selling this whole concept as a totally new experience that we are bringing to this market, so it’s based on the display technologies, but it’s not a display, it’s totally a mode product, emotional products, bring the different lighting or visual experience, to the people so that’s why we’re not selling on the resolution. 

So the people who you’d be accustomed to selling to and partnering with at ROE are the very different people for this product because I suspect you’re dealing with architects and designers of internal spaces. 

Grace Kuo: You are correct. So it’s currently totally different customers from what we have right now. So that’s why we said that Cecoceco was independent from the design to the sales. 

So when you go to these architects and interior designers, are they tilting their head to the side trying to figure out what you’re talking about, or do they get it?

Grace Kuo: Most designers or architects, when they hear these stories, they get it, so they know what we want to bring to this market. They know they see some things actually they’ve been looking for a long time because they are also really boring. With the LED screens, there are only high resolutions, but nothing new. So they feel there is something that can really be a game changer. 

What you’ve done here is the advancement of the idea that was in the Comcast Tower in Philadelphia some 15 years ago where you had, I think was P6 pixel pitch LED, with the content picking up the look of the side wood walls in the lobby but then stuff would appear on it. But as you were saying at the start, if it was off, it was black. 

And in order for it to always look like the rest of the lobby, it always had to be on versus what you’re describing where it could be off, and it’s going to look like the rest of the lobby. 

Grace Kuo: So it’s just part of the decoration. So that is where the idea comes from, you need to have fun things be part of these decorations, be part of this environment, because we don’t want to bring some high technologies and destroy the history in castles or even history is a restaurant, right? But we still want to bring these modes, bring these emotions to the people living there or sitting there.

We wanted that when the people came to step into this space, they didn’t feel, “Oh, there is some, some lighting or a display surrounding them.” But they felt, when they are lighting up, they say, “Oh, I’m in a beautiful, lighting environment.” 

So, do you consider this more an architectural lighting application than a digital display app application? 

Grace Kuo: So this is a combination because we have a full 16-17 years of knowledge about the lighting and lighting source or display source. We keep some balance between the lighting and displays and make sure, even with a display, they still can get the true lighting source out. So that’s why we do not use our traditional three RGB colors. We use multiple color combinations. 

So it’s not just white light? 

Grace Kuo: No, not just white light. It’s four colors, but it is not a traditional full RGB color. We draw multiple colors together to get more mature and to lighten up.

Jason Lu: So we use four-color LED. So that means the light quality is very high. So, the CII is very high.

Interesting. So when you said that architects and designers have been looking for this for some time and unable to find anything, why were they looking for this? 

Grace Kuo: I think because they want to offer something new to the end user, right? And I think they also have the same feelings as us just because the people like the video and the lighting, right? So that’s why we can see LED displays everywhere right now, but to be honest, in some places, it’s not the right place to put out the display. How many people are really reading the message from the display when they get in the galleries, they are going to galleries, they are enjoying the content, they enjoy the atmosphere. They’re not really reading the message from the LED, right? 

So if you can offer that kind of architecture stuff that can also bring this lighting or display experience, it’s a bonus for the market.

On the creative side, you’re selling to architects and interior designers who are used to specifying finishes, like this wall is going to be mahogany or granite or whatever. They don’t typically have to worry about creative files motion graphics, and so on. How do you deal with that? 

Grace Kuo: So we have our own developed controllers, which you can design any content you want to play out.

So you would design the content within your software? 

Grace Kuo: Yeah, we actually have some content galleries already set up, controllers, which you can choose directly, but you also can create your own, content with shaders, and play the different content. 

Is it a particular skill set to produce creative for this, or if you know your way around motion graphics, you’ll be fine?

Grace Kuo: You probably need a little bit of technical background, but it’s not that difficult. 

But if you work in After Effects or something like that, you’d be able to figure this out. 

Grace Kuo: Yes.

What about the cost versus conventional LEDs? So if I wanted to put something in a lobby and I was thinking about, let’s say, a 1.9-millimeter pixel pitch Unilumin LED wall or something versus the Cecoceco, is it similar cost, a lot less, or more? 

Grace Kuo: Oh, compared with the 1.9 millimeters, of course, it’s going to be lower than that resolution, so our target MSRP price is around $4,500 per square meter, which is quite acceptable after we talk with the market, especially for the buildings. At the very beginning of the design, they already can design these products be part of the creation materials. Basically, they can see me on some of the creation materials from the beginning.

So that’s when this is probably the easiest to sell into a building, right? When they’re putting the building up, and it’s just another number in a whole bunch of numbers versus coming at them cold and on a finished building and saying, “It’s going to be X to put this in too.” 

Grace Kuo: Yeah, so you can do it before they have to finish these buildings, but you also can do this after that, but if you make a better plan at the beginning, which means you can also see the materials, right? For the majority of the walls, you don’t need marble anymore. You just put our ArtMorph instead of the regular marble. 

Is it changeable? Let’s say there’s a building that starts off with your product that has a wood-like veneer on it and they do a renovation quicker than they’d expected and want to go to stone or something. Could they retrofit it?

Grace Kuo: Yes, this is a key point. This is another benefit of ArtMorph. The surface is actually changeable, especially, for houses, like hospitality, they would like to show different content, and different feelings, to their guests in different holiday seasons. So the textures are actually changeable, and it’s very easy to change. 

Is it the module that changed, or can you actually change the veneer? 

Grace Kuo: So you can actually just change the top part. 

So when did you get started, and when did you start selling? 

Grace Kuo: So we are ready to sell. Actually, we already started to sell but officially, I think we’re going to start selling Q1 next year, 2024. 

And are you showing up at trade shows with it? 

Grace Kuo: Yes. We’re going to bring this to the ISE in Barcelona in 2024. 

I’ll be there. 

Grace Kuo: Oh, good. looking forward to seeing you there.

So, are you going to have your own stand, or will you be associated with ROE and Unilumin?

Grace Kuo: Cecoceco is going to share a stand with ROE, but they’re going to have their very independent, separate area. 

And are you installed anywhere yet and can you say where it’s at? 

Grace Kuo: We are, but we can not yet say. 

But you’re actually selling and installing?

Grace Kuo: Yes. 

Where are you seeing the most interest? Is it North America, Dubai, or China? 

Grace Kuo: I think North America, of course, is a very important market for us because there are a lot of interior designers and some architecture, and Dubai, we haven’t done too much because we want to focus on a strong market and expand to other territories. So we are going to start from North America and the UK. We feel these two markets have a lot of talented designers. 

I would have thought you’d start in China. 

Grace Kuo: China wants to get this kind of influence from overseas. 

So where is the company based?

Grace Kuo: The company is based in Shenzhen, China. 

Do you have offices in North America?

Grace Kuo: We have an office in North America, which is in Chatsworth, Los Angeles. 

Suburban LA. Perfect. All right, this was great. I’m looking forward to seeing this in Barcelona. 

Grace Kuo: I’m looking forward to seeing you in Barcelona.

All right. I appreciate your time with us. Thank you.

Grace Kuo: Thank you, Dave. 

Thank you, Jason. 

Jason Lu: Thank you, Dave. I’m so sorry, I cannot explain my idea to you directly, but Grace is a very good partner of mine.

Grace Kuo: We are partners, yes. but Jason can give you more product introductions in Barcelona.

That would be perfect. I suspect there’s going to be a lot of people very interested in this. 

Grace Kuo: I think so, yeah. 

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