Indication lighting and functional illumination systems do more than simply provide status lights in the user interface. They enhance the visual design of the product, from aesthetics to branding. Effective designs do a better job of communicating with the user, making the product easier to use, more efficient, and more aesthetically pleasing. In today’s competitive marketplace, all of these factors are important.
This is where things can get challenging. Between the recession and the pandemic, companies have pared down their engineering departments to focus on their core value propositions, such as industrial controls, medical diagnostics, or electric vehicle (EV) charge stations. Support technologies like light pipes and illumination system designs tend to be underserved. And that can be a problem, given the importance of these subsystems to the success of the device. This is where outsourcing LED indication and illumination engineering can help.
Case #1: When You Have an Unusual Design
From EVs to medical devices to home electronics, creativity and innovation rule the day. Developing a simple user interface with a flat-face LED or light pipe can be straightforward. An OEM might be able to tap the resources of their vendor’s sales engineer to choose an effective LED and light pipe combination. When the project involves a complex design with larger shapes in different colors, developing an effective solution often requires far more expertise than most OEMs have. That’s when it’s time to outsource to a company with expertise in LED and light pipe technology as well as support electronics and PCB layout.
Case #2: When Cost Counts
Integrated subassemblies can boost functionality and innovation while reducing cost of design and manufacturing. A fluid pump manufacturer wanted a creative user interface for a product supplied to a national retail chain. They needed a display that provided a branded appearance with integrated sensors and connectivity for remote condition monitoring. Our team developed a custom subassembly that involved not just the LED and a customized light pipe diffuser plate, but also the sensor chip and power subsystem. Once the customer signed off on the design, we began manufacturing the subassemblies. Instead of buying a bag of parts, the customer received a ready-to-install subassembly with full documentation and technical support.
Case #3: When Time-to-Market Matters
Even OEMs with light-pipe expertise in house may be better off outsourcing some projects. A design may simply be too complex at the outset. Other times, it can appear doable – until prototype after prototype fails to meet performance requirements. Outsourcing the LED and light pipe engineering can help organizations avoid expensive dead ends. They get a finished design that meets specifications quickly. Meanwhile, their in-house engineering team can focus its time where it brings the most competitive differentiation. The result is a faster transition from prototype to product – and profits.
Tips for getting started
- Consult with your vendor early – this applies whether you are considering outsourcing or not. It can help prevent squandering time on designs that won’t work.
- Involve all of the stakeholders – kickoff meetings with your vendor should include key members such as software engineering, quality assurance, even marketing to ensure that all design constraints are identified up front.
- Understand the distinction between the “must haves” and the “nice to haves.” Everything comes at a price in terms of cost and time, so you want to be sure that all additions deliver proportional value.
Facing a challenging project? Access the LED indication and illumination professionals of Bivar’s Advanced Solutions Team.