“Consumers say they want to be ‘surrounded by light’ in their vehicles, much as they are in their homes,” says Brian Popsy, 3M Automotive Business Development manager, “but you can’t do that with a ‘corporate lighting unit’ you plug into the headliner. It will take new concepts that are not commodity components, but provide real savings and advantages on a systems basis.” Here are two examples of 3M Automotive’s (Livonia, MI; www.solutions.3m.com) thinking on the subject.
Despite a name that conjures up images of computerized lighting, Light-By-Wire (LBW) surface mounts LED lights on flat cable connectors to create a low-profile, thermally stable lighting system. Says Popsy: “We can put as few or as many LEDs as we want along the cable and eliminate the bulbs, sockets, and connectors of an incandescent light with a direct-mount product that needs little protection over it.” Some of the applications for LBW include foot well, dome, task, mood, and spot lighting. IDifferent color LEDs can be combined into a single package that allows the driver to change the lighting color. Even when placed behind a film designed to direct the light in a specific direction, the total package thickness for a typical LBW application is about 0.06 in.
This technology uses small, highly precise notches cut into a clear thermoset polyure-thane rod to direct light at the proper angle and with the right dispersion while preventing hot spots from the LED at each end. Though the PLE technology also can be used in areas LBW lighting might be used (cupholders, overhead lighting, etc.), it is well-suited to replacing interior and exterior incandescent light sources as well as providing a subtle, sophisticated interior light source. 3M has developed examples where a PLE replaced incandescent and multiple LED CHMSL designs, added safety lighting by illuminating liftgate grab handles, provided directed cargo area lighting, illuminated map pockets and cupholders by adding an integrated proximity sensor, and placed low-glare reading lamps in the front seatbacks. “PLE has controlled light dispersion because the tubing cuts are engineered for a very specific spread of light,” says Popsy. “Without them, you’d have a glowing tube with very little utility.”—CAS