Advanced Light Guide Material Drives Innovation

Posted by on May 24, 2024

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Meet Illumination Challenges Head-On with Next-Gen Light Guide Materials 

Advanced types of light guide material meet illumination challenges head-on and can spark novel innovations. Industries like consumer electronics, automotive, medical, and more face challenges like: 

  • Demand for smaller devices or application size 
  • Need for greater control over light direction 
  • Desire for application longevity and sustainability 

At Global Lighting Technologies, we view these challenges as drivers for innovation. We use various types of next-gen light guide material sourced from trusted global partners vetted by our teams in Asia. Our light guide materials help achieve brightness and uniformity goals. Plus, they support other customer goals like size requirements or off-axis viewing.  

Read on to see how advanced light guide materials and expert engineering pave the way for breakthroughs that redefine what original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like you can achieve. 

Top Drivers Impacting Manufacturers

1. Smaller Device & Application Size

When a small or thin device is the goal, we often turn to polycarbonate. Polycarbonate’s remarkable flexibility and durability allow ultra-thin light guides as thin as 0.15mm. This is ideal for industries where device space is at a premium, like consumer electronics and automotive applications.  

Do you create wearables or similar consumer electronics? Light guides made from polycarbonate create slim, lightweight devices. Polycarbonate light guides offer design flexibility without compromising performance, from fitness trackers to smartwatches to augmented reality glasses. 

Likewise, automotive manufacturing has tight restrictions on size, which can be overcome by using polycarbonate. An automotive manufacturer approached our team to place a light guide in their steering wheel to illuminate a logo. We encountered strict regulations regarding the total weight of the material due to airbag deployment. This required an ultra-thin light guide element to meet the specifications. Our team delivered on the requirements and the customer was satisfied.  

2. Control of Brightness & Light Direction

Advanced light guide materials combined with innovative optical pattern design can achieve superior control over brightness and light direction. Global Lighting Technologies Project Engineer Ashlyn Fridrich weighs in: “Our optical patterns are essentially made up of thousands of tiny dots. Wherever we put dots, you’re going to see the light output; the denser the pattern, the more light particles will interact with that and then be refracted up to users’ eyes. Sometimes, we design a pattern over an entire rectangle if the entire surface needs to be lit up. We would make this pattern denser so the light needs to do less work; that’s how we can make it look more uniform.”  

“We can also apply selective illumination. For example, one customer wanted light only in the four corners of their light guide. We put the pattern in those four corners, and it extracted the light there, so users wouldn’t see the light in the center where there was no optical pattern, and there weren’t dots.” 

With a background on how optical patterns fuel brightness and control, let’s cover light guide materials more in-depth here.

Various Types of Light Guide Material

Acrylic is a transparent material that we use to control brightness. It’s prized for its clarity and light transmission properties and is the primary material in many of our custom light guides. The inherent transparency maximizes light output, ensuring vibrant displays and uniform illumination for many applications.  

Diffusers are another light guide material used to control brightness. In this case, they even out the light and improve uniformity. With diffusers, it’s easier to achieve uniform light distribution. However, when we add brightness enhancement films, they help enhance light distribution and increase brightness. These films also allow us to adjust the angle at which light is distributed. For example, in automotive applications with TV screens, we use films to center the light on the screen and prevent distractions for the driver. Similarly, phone privacy screens ensure that the screen contents are not visible from off-center angles. These principles also apply when directing light to specific areas. 

3. Longevity & Sustainability

You already know that a sustainable device is one that end users can rely on for a long time. This is why we rely on combination plastics like modified silicone for specific applications (like monitors and TV screens) that require a low water absorption rate. While our materials do not absorb water in a way that affects their functionality, water molecules can penetrate materials on a microscopic level. 

From a component longevity standpoint, all our light guide materials are plastic, so they’re built to last and shouldn’t warp or bend unless designed to do so. OEMs can rest assured that handling instructions are included to protect other sensitive light guide components. For example, it’s important not to touch the light guides with bare hands or scrub them, as this could cause scratching. Usually, we provide a protective film on top of the light guide to reduce the risk of scratching.   

4. New Novel Ideas that Change Industries

OEMs can leverage our team’s extensive knowledge of light guide materials and innovative technology to inspire new ideas and drive industry-changing innovations. Combining traditional materials with new, novel materials like modified silicone expands the realm of possibilities for many industries.  

Beyond meeting current demands, we partner with innovative OEMs to pave the way for future developments. Global Lighting Technologies Project Engineer Ashlyn is working on an R&D initiative to understand chemical reactions during the dual shot injection process. Her team will continue to explore what happens when different colored plastics are used. Initiatives like these and the challenges our customers present us with are the catalysts for continued innovations in light guide materials. 

Sourcing Light Guide Material vs. Creating In-House 

When vetting a light guide manufacturer, OEMs should consider where the manufacturer is sourcing its materials: from its factories or a trusted network of suppliers. At Global Lighting Technologies, we take a strategic approach to material sourcing, partnering with outside manufacturers to procure high-quality light guide materials. While some companies may opt to create materials in-house, we recognize the value of leveraging the expertise and resources of established suppliers. 

Through collaborations with leading material vendors in Asia, we ensure access to a diverse range of cutting-edge materials tailored to meet the specific needs of each project. Our teams in Asia have deep connections to manufacturers and suppliers that embody the latest advancements in material science and technology. Moreover, outsourcing material production allows our teams to focus on what they do best: designing and manufacturing custom light guides.  

When we entrust material sourcing to experienced suppliers, we streamline operations, reduce costs, and accelerate time-to-market for our innovative customers. Additionally, partnering with external vendors provides our teams with access to a broader range of materials and expertise than would be feasible to develop in-house. 

Leverage Advanced Light Guide Material

The transformative potential of next-gen light guide materials is undeniable. These materials serve as a springboard of innovation for OEMs, driving device design and functionality progress. With materials like polycarbonate, acrylic, and modified silicone, OEMs gain access to a toolkit of possibilities. These materials enable the creation of sleek, compact devices, precise control over light direction and brightness, and a commitment to sustainability and longevity. 

Opportunities to leverage next-gen light guide materials will continue to develop. OEMs are encouraged to explore these possibilities, confident that their collaboration with trusted manufacturers will lead to groundbreaking innovations. Together, we illuminate the future of consumer electronics with next-gen light guide materials. Connect with our team to pave the way for unprecedented device design and functionality advancements. 

We bet you have a bright idea.

Let’s see how GLT can help make it a reality.

For even more information about GLT, view our company presentation at the link below.