solar panel custom light pipe design

Solar Energy Panels

“Ironically, this solar panel design was experiencing light loss until VCC optimized the light pipe.”

Design & Engineering Service
Light Ray Simulation
Solution Development
3D Prototyping
Design for Manufacturing
Plastics Manufacturing
SLA Samples
Quality Assurance

Application Characteristics

Solar panels can be a great source of renewable energy. However, they must be monitored with great care. Left unregulated, an influx of too much solar energy can cause problems ranging from device destruction to fire hazards. Therefore, proper status indication is crucial for the safe operation of solar panel installations. 

The same bright light that charges these panels can make it difficult to read the status indicators on the control panel. Especially when the design isn’t optimized for the task at hand.

Our client came to us with a unique design challenge — drastically reduce the amount of light being lost in its current design while improving the panel’s poor daytime visibility.

light pipe medical device case study
vcc solar panel custom light pipe design
light pipe medical device case study

Application Requirements

Because of the glaring sun and control panel design, light needed to illuminate the side of the indicator rather than the top of it. With the current design, the top of the light pipe was not only wasteful — it caused challenges for technicians in properly assessing the operating status of the panels.

Our team needed to design a solution that would:

  • Direct more light from the side of the light pipe
  • Work with the pre-existing LED voltage specifications
  • Reduce amount of light being lost from the top of the light pipe
  • Enhance daytime visibility of device
custom pcb Assembly production manufacturing nearshore VCC

“We created an optimized design that performed 23.88% more efficiently on the side view while allowing the client to use the same LED as the previous version.”

Caleb Hwang
Design Engineer, VCC


To determine the best possible design, our team ran simulations using advanced light modeling software. 

We quickly discovered several inefficiencies with the existing design:

vcc solar panel custom light pipe design

Distance between LED and light pipe

because of the space between the light pipe and LED, 39% of the light was being lost

Dome shape of light pipe

when designing light pipes, it’s important to understand total internal reflection (TIR), or the angle at which the light turns back into the light pipe rather than going to the desired exit point. In this case, the dome shape caused most of the light to shine back down into the light pipe.

To address these opportunities for light loss, our team created a design that:


Extended the length of the light pipe by .5” to minimize light loss at the bottom near the LED


Leveraged a concave lens shape to reflect back more light to the cylindrical surface


Included a textured pattern to minimize TIR on the surface


Shift the light output focus from the top of the light pipe to the side view, which increased efficiency on the side surface from 2.00% to 25.88%!


Provided a 360-degree viewing angle for maximum visibility


Enabled more energy efficient and long-lasting operation of the product, taking overall efficiency from 30% to 46.02%.

light pipe medical device case study

These simulations validated our team’s updated design would meet the customer’s needs. We then used a 3D printer to create samples for testing prior to tooling the light pipe. 

Through a fast and collaborative approach to light modeling and prototyping, the VCC team ensured we had the ideal solution prior to production.

“By changing the surface and shape of the lens with a concave design, we were able to help reflect light back into the surface instead of losing it due to total internal reflection TIR.”

Caleb Hwang
Design Engineer, VCC

Results & Benefits

Through collaboration between VCC’s team and the client, we were able to deliver a light pipe design that provided the following benefits:

For the manufacturer:
solar panel custom light pipe design
More efficient design without having to change specified LED
solar panel custom light pipe design
Streamlined process with in-house 3D sampling and testing
light pipe medical device case study
Reduced risk of disruption due to nearshore manufacturing
For the end-user:
vcc solar panel custom light pipe design
Maximum daylight visibility for ease of use
vcc solar panel custom light pipe design
Faster reaction times thanks to 360-degree viewing angle
solar panel custom light pipe design
Long operating life of 100,000 hours

Increased Light Pipe Efficiency

Overall light pipe efficiency

time efficiency icon vcc

VCC Design

  • 46% 46%

Previous Design

  • 30% 30%

Value-Added Services

Using the latest in light modeling technology, our team quickly designed, tested and produced a light pipe that drastically optimized performance and reduced light loss. 

And we’d like to solve a unique design challenge for you, too. Our team can customize our off-the-shelf products or design something completely new to meet your mechanical, electrical and optical needs.

vcc solar panel custom light pipe design
vcc solar panel custom light pipe design
vcc solar panel custom light pipe design
nearshoring benefits lower supply chain risk

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Call Us 1.800.522.5546