MLPS facilitates clearer and more effective communication between devices and users, enhancing user experience.

User interface designs for electronic products need to clearly communicate the status of the device in a way that is most beneficial to users. A glance from the most prominent viewing angle should tell the story of the settings and process stage of the system. A logical and intuitive layout of the control panel should mirror the user’s understanding of its ongoing operation. Alerts and status indicators should display in proximity to corresponding controls.

This extra attention paid to interface experience makes the user feel in command of the device and minimizes confusion and the misreading of important cues. Electronics interfaces have not historically always been so considerate to users. In fact, poor design decisions in older electronics frequently caused operator error, resulting in losses in productivity and lapses in safety. UI design efforts, then, are not just aesthetic icing on the cake, but rather essential ingredients in creating a successful product.

LEDs and Logical Legibility

The simplest, most common, and most cost-effective design feature for human-machine interfaces (HMI) is LED indication. The numerous advantages of LEDs like longevity, luminosity, compact design, energy efficiency, and rugged and ingress protective mounting options have made them the obvious choice in most electronics. The result is a universal design language: red and green lights mean on/off, blinking lights mean ‘working’ and so on. Across the world, electronic UIs require little to no translation.

Flawed UI designs in the past had a good excuse. The internal electronics might be optimized for attributes like stability or efficiency in board layout, and so the location of LEDs had to follow suit. Examples of poor user experience can be seen in older (or today’s low-quality) electronic products. LEDs for indication might be mounted in locations on the device for the convenience of the circuit board, not the user.

This illustrates the importance of the introduction of light pipes, a class of components that acts as a bridge between the layout of LEDs on boards and the optimal logical layout for the user interface. Light pipes are conduits that fit over the LED and transport the colored light to a secure mount on the surface of the control panel.

To achieve effective transfer of light, light pipes are designed with a reflective coating and sealed to prevent leakage of visible frequencies. Bivar, the originator of ZeroLightBleedTM technology, supplies the light pipes that make premium electronics communicate with clearly legible messages. Due to this development, interfaces are free from ambiguous colors (‘is that yellow or orange?’) and users are not confused by internal lights shining through vents in the casing.

Light pipes have been a welcome innovation for the UI designer, not just because they make indicators look better. They provided the design freedom to lay out controls and indicators in a way that makes the most sense.

The New MLPS — Modularity in Light Pipes

The next evolution in this bridge between printed circuit boards (PCBs) and UIs is to make light pipes a less costly feature to implement in electronic designs. This, in turn, makes light pipes more accessible to a wider diversity of products.

This next step brings in the concept of modularity into indicators, treating light pipes not as a collection of separate tubes but as one consolidated part.

This innovation makes it easier to order for production, since the light pipes come from the supplier out of the package grouped together in a customized configuration. And it makes assembly easier and faster as well. The compact tray of all the required light pipes for a control panel can then drop into place on a PCB with a more secure mount, with the lengths of pipes in the exact dimensions to route to control panel openings.

Bivar’s Modular Light Pipe System (MLPS) takes advantage of the now common practice of positioning all LEDs in a project together on a board in the form of a matrix. The advantage to electrical engineers is generally more efficient utilization of board real estate. A device needing 12 indicators, for instance, might layout a 3×4 matrix of LEDs on the PCB.

MLPS-RT provides custom-length light pipes in a matrix-shaped positioning frame that slips over the entire grid of mounted LEDs. Now, rather than 12 separate mounts, there is only the four attachment points of the frame.

By following the MLPS method in product development, both electrical engineers and UI designers have more freedom for feature placement in a package that take less time and cost to employ.

Bivar is a trusted solutions partner for clients with UI and illumination requirements. With a long history of quality, reliability, and service excellence, Bivar is also constantly innovating, as shown in their new MLPS standards. For more information on how to start designing your UI through modular matrices, check out the MLPS overview video or contact us.