Custom Light Pipe Capabilities

Our team offers custom LED light pipe design

Custom Light Pipe Design

Custom design services to optimize output and indication

Light pipes are clear tubes that transmit light from a light source, such as an LED to a user interface. Designed to carry light short distances with high efficiency, light pipes can bend light around corners and tight spaces delivering excellent visual indication with minimal loss of light intensity.

Even with all of the design options available in standard flexible and rigid light pipes, there’s still plenty of need for a custom light pipe solution. Having a custom light pipe designed for your application may seem expensive, but you may be surprised at how affordable a custom design can be, often ranging from $500 to $5,000 (not including tooling costs). Before you enlist the help of an engineer for a custom light pipe, you’ll need an idea of the following:

  • Number of colors needed in LED
  • Number of indicators on device
  • Specifics on working environment
  • Desired illumination intensity
  • Desired viewing angle
  • How far away the light indicator needs to be viewed
  • Do you need help with design and production, or just design?
  • Estimated annual usage of device (EAU)
  • Budget and timing
  • Access to design files and lighting specs (existing designs only)

 

Tell Us About Your Project

VCC offers a full suite of custom design capabilities to help you meet or surpass your goals

Custom Light Pipe Design Webinar

Walk through our design process using a real client project.

Extensive Experience + Capabilities

Proper light pipe design enhances operator safety, improves efficiency, and in many cases, drives down production costs. And when the design is inefficient, there can be light loss, hot spots, inefficiencies, and even misreadings of the indicator.

To ensure your light pipe is the perfect fit for the application, environment, and device, our engineering team is made up of seasoned professionals across multiple disciplines, including:

  • Mechanical engineering
  • Optical engineering
  • Electrical engineering 

By combining design know-how with state-of-the-art technology, VCC can easily develop a custom light pipe that meets or exceeds your optical and design requirements.

Our in-house capabilities include light-ray tracing and quick 3D prototyping to help you validate your design before investing in tooling. We finish our SLA prototypes with a polishing process that achieves 90% of the finished design so clients can be 100% confident prior to moving into tooling.

Plus, when you’re ready for production, we have North American production facilities and value-added services like PCB assembly to help you save time and money while streamlining your supply chain.

wireless bluetooth cable sound device light ray study

Selecting the Right Light Pipe Requires Design Know-how

Many factors can impact the overall performance, cost, and life of an indicator. VCC’s team asks the right questions up front to get the best result possible for our clients. 

Technical considerations include:

Product design

• How many indicators are needed?
• How far apart will the power source and LED be?
• How will the light pipe be mounted?
• How far does the light need to travel? Around curves and angles?
• How much room on board or panel?

Application Environment

It may seem obvious, but the environment plays a huge role in machine reliability and operation. Before landing on a light pipe, ask yourself, “Where will the device be used?”

• Outdoor and high-moisture environments
• High-vibration environments
• Programmable power unit
• Storage and operating temperatures

Light Pipe Position

Of course, light pipe position can impact the light properties. To minimize light loss, a general rule is to use an LED with a narrow viewing angle of 160 degrees or less and position the light pipe and LED no more than 0.05” apart.

Refractive Index and Total Internal Reflection (TIR)

To get light to shine through a light pipe at the desired exit point, calculations must be precise to account for refraction and total internal reflection. We have experience designing custom light pipes that incorporate these two phenomena in physics, whether the light pipe is made of acrylic, polycarbonate, or another material.

These factors are just a fraction of the details and variables that go into developing the right light pipe for your device. 

Once a design has been created, we run light ray simulations to measure efficiency and eliminate light loss. Then, keep reiterating until the design is optimal.

Need Custom Light Pipe Design?

Tell us about your project so we can understand your goals.

Light Pipe Design Process

Like with any new product design, the decisions made early in the process can shape some of the constraints that must be accommodated later in the process, from the size of the light pipe to the type of material used. When the design has been perfected, the light pipe moves into production where it will be ready for assembly within a few weeks. The whole process can take as little as 2 weeks or as long as 12 — it all depends on the complexity of the design. VCC collaborates with product designers to deliver custom solutions that exceed their expectations. Here’s how the process works:

Engineering Drawing

A team of engineers collaborates with OEMs and designers to establish goals and optical requirements. VCC works closely with you to prepare detailed drawings, parts lists, and circuit schematics. 

Light Simulation

VCC offers a full suite of custom light pipe design and testing services. Using the latest light modeling software, our team can run light simulations, such as ray tracing to track the path of light through the light pipe to devise the ideal solution. The design is then revised and optimized until the ideal optical requirements are met.

Light Pipe Prototype

VCC helps you cut development times using rapid prototyping techniques for plastic components. We use a 3D printer to prototype the light pipe and further test it prior to tooling the custom solution, ensuring the ideal viewing angle and lighting properties are achieved.

tooling and production in vcc tijuana mexico

Tooling + Production

Once the light pipe prototype is approved, it’s time to move into tooling. Because the 3D prototype we provide is 90% accurate to the finished product, you can feel confident investing in the tooling after you’ve validated the design.  

After the tooling is complete, we fabricate and assemble our components nearby in Mexico, ensuring you receive the utmost level of quality, IP protection, and cost savings — just a few of the many benefits nearshore manufacturing provides.

Proven Performance: Custom Light Pipe Projects

Venue Valet

Light engine for innovative in-theater food service device

Data Storage

Intricate light pipe for a data storage device with design constraints

Medical Device

Complex custom light pipe for sleek medical device

Light Pipes FAQs

Most frequently asked questions regarding light pipes

Core Capabilities

No matter the industry or application, the right illuminated components can make all the difference in improving the human-machine interaction, which ultimately leads to better outcomes.

To help designers and engineers make more strategic lighting decisions early on, we’ve developed the following list of frequently asked questions when it comes to light pipes.

1. What types of light pipes does VCC offer?

VCC offers clients an extensive light pipe portfolio with solutions for essentially every need and design configuration.

If your product requires a custom design, our team can develop the ideal solution, then test and prototype it before production.

Rigid – light pipes made of optical-grade polycarbonate or acrylic that can be vertical or right-angle in orientation. Rigid light pipes are designed to move light short distances.

Flexible – light pipes made of fiber optic material that can be bent to up to 30 degrees to accommodate the design. Flexible light pipes are designed to move light longer distances than rigid versions.

Board mount – light pipes that are mounted to the printed circuit board (PCB) at the power source of the device. VCC offers board mount products for rigid and right angle light pipes.

Surface mount – light pipes that are mounted to the control panel of the device instead of the PCB. VCC offers both flexible and rigid light pipes that can be surface mounted.

2. Does VCC customize the standard light pipes?

VCC can customize our existing light pipe products, depending on the application, requirements and light specifications needed. In some cases, a fully customized solution may be more cost-effective than modifying an existing design. Our team is happy to assist you in exploring customization options for your light pipe needs.

3. Does VCC offer fully custom light pipes and light pipe design services?
Yes, VCC offers a full suite of custom light pipe design and testing services. Using the latest light modeling software, our team can run light simulations, such as ray tracing to track the path of light through the light pipe to deliver the ideal solution.

We can also use a 3D printer to prototype the light pipe and further test prior to tooling the custom solution, ensuring the ideal viewing angle and lighting properties are achieved.

Light Pipe Design Guide

Explore this resource for a deeper dive into proper light pipe design

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