3d printed light pipes (also called light tubes) are components that are used to redirect light from its source to a desired location. Some of the most popular applications for light pipes include vehicles and electrical instruments where they are used to illuminate indicators such as the dashboard on your car or backlight displays such as the letters on your keyboard. Other applications include Solid-state lighting, where light pipes are used as mixers to create a wide range of colors from various multi-colored LEDs, and projectors, where light pipes are used to create an even light distribution.
Light pipes can be made one of two ways, either as a mirrored tube with a hollow center, or as a transparent solid material. The hollowed designs require reflective walls to maximize the input light, while solid material designs rely on total internal reflection. The main cause of light loss in solid transparent designs is due to reflection loss at the input (start) face and at the output (end) face. Hollow designs, on the other hand, are at a higher risk of light loss due to absorption on reflection. Since solid, clear materials offer less light loss, that is what we will focus on, and this is where SLA 3D Printing comes into play. Though production level light pipes will be more cost effective to do with industrial processes such as urethane casting, prototyping light pipes will be far more cost effective to do with 3D printing, as it has no overhead for tooling and allows for as many CAD changes as necessary before deciding on the final design.
When designing a light pipe, it is important to consider your application first. In most cases, the goal is to take light from your source and redirect it to a desired location, and in doing so, you want the maximum amount of light to be captured as possible. In order to do this, a few basic principles should always be in place.
Since we are looking for materials with the highest amount of internal reflection, we can immediately exclude any material that is not clear, which leaves us with 3D Printed SLA Accura Clearvue. This material offers the closest level of clarity to optically clear as possible and will not cost an arm and a leg to use. As for post processing, there are a few options available, however for this application, a polished clearcoat will be the most suited for the best possible outcome.
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