We routinely create products where the need for optical engineering expertise is a requirement. As you might imagine, when designing sophisticated systems for backlighting displays, optical readers or laser based systems, you must have a strong team of optical engineers. We have a diverse client base with complex optical problems. It has been necessary for us to have highly expert staff members in all phases of optical system design. This expertise must include optical system design, opto-mechanics, opto-electronics, image processing (realtime), etc. You may not realize how valuable this capability is – even in less sophisticated consumer or commercial products.
Deck Lighting Systems
With a strong consumer demand for high end and mid-level outdoor decking, a natural extension is to build architectural lighting into the deck railings, stairways and post caps. We have been able to create a huge value added aesthetic to the architectural lighting products for our client, AZEK… the premier decking material supplier. The typical, low tech approach to deck lighting is very easy.
You simply build in a small number of very high power LED’s and you now have lighted features. However, the aesthetic of such implementations is very low; these solutions are often harsh on the eyes because of bright hot spots and glare visible in the lens. They do not take advantage of the best of LED technology.
IPS created a system of illuminated post caps for AZEK which offer controlled distribution of light. Aesthetically, this results in a broadly illuminated exit window in the cap that is both pleasing and effective at distributing the light even though we only employ a small number of LED’s. It takes the hand of an optical engineer to select the right LED’s, position them properly in the cap and then design the lens pattern and the exit window texture to achieve an even distribution of the light without bright hotspots.
Design of Light Pipes
All kinds of products… consumer, commercial, industrial… use LED’s as indicators for status indication. You can easily spot the design of a light pipe which was created without the expertise of an optical engineer.
You’ll often see a very bright single point of light which, at best, is unattractive and, at worst, is annoying in intensity. Sometimes you’ll see products where engineers have tried to “brute force” solve the problem by using multiple LED’s. In a weak implementation all this does is provide unappealing bright glare points. With a little work by an optical engineer, a properly designed light pipe will create Fresnel lens features on the inside surface, evenly distributing the light. When you see a smooth, even glow across a large surface, you know you’re looking at a well designed light pipe. This cannot be readily achieved by trial and error (or without a lot of luck). A superior pipe is the result of selecting the right LED, proper positioning and a science-based design of the lens features.
These are just a couple of the areas where optical engineering talent makes or breaks a great product. Creating high speed bar code reading systems, back illumination of large LCD panels, image processing systems and laser based systems require a large team of designers and engineers. But just that extra little bit of optical engineering expertise applied to relatively simple products improves performance and aesthetic quality, making the consumer experience all the more enjoyable and the product all the more successful in the marketplace.