Lighting Industry

Your masterclass in product design and development


Protolabs’ Insight video series

Our Insight video series will help you master digital manufacturing.

Every Friday we’ll post a new video – each one giving you a deeper Insight into how to design better parts. We’ll cover specific topics such as choosing the right 3D printing material, optimising your design for CNC machining, surface finishes for moulded parts, and much more besides.

So join us and don’t miss out.


Insight: Lighting Industry


Hi and welcome to another one of our insight videos.

This time around we’re going to be trying to shine a light on… well, on light. You see, while glass has been the king of lighting ever since the days of Edison, these days we don’t need to be quite so restrictive.

There are plenty of fascinating new materials and clever techniques out there that can help the lighting industry create products that are better looking, more durable and more flexible than ever.

Take, for example, some work we did with OceanLED a few years back. This was a project all about creating components for marine lighting on private boats, so you just have to know that looking good and being reliable were top of the shopping list. Here, plastic injection moulded parts were combined with LEDs to create lights that could work on deck, or even below the waterline – something that’s tough to achieve with glass, but comparatively straight-forward with modern plastic designs.

Now, that’s just one situation, but there plenty of ways that modern manufacturing tech can help make all kinds of lights, or at least the bits of plastic sitting around the lights. One of the most popular of these is Optical Liquid Silicone Rubber. Or LSR for short.

This material gets used a lot because, simply put, it’s a great replacement for glass. It’s almost as transparent as the best glass money can buy and isn’t going to lose any of that transparency as it ages or gets exposed to heat sources. It’s also much lighter than glass, as well as a fair few other plastics, and is optically and mechanically stable at up to 150 degrees, which is more than enough to cope with any heat put out by LEDs.

On top of that, it hits a pretty wonderful sweet-spot of flexibility – enough that you don’t need to worry about it cracking or shattering if it gets dropped or bumped into, but not so floppy that it’s hard to use or handle. This makes it particularly well-suited for use in vehicle lenses, by the way, as you don’t need to worry about it getting bumped around or suffering under the stress of vibrations.

There are also some really interesting things that you can do with it, such as mixing liquid optical LSR with colourants or phosphors to really play up its impact when you get the light shining through it.

Of course – and staying on the topic of doing interesting things with your materials - injection moulding isn’t the only sort of modern manufacturing out there. There’s also the possibility of using 3D printed materials to help achieve impressive designs or to efficiently produce a short run of custom crafted products.

I mean, let’s just look at the major benefits of 3D printing and think about how they could apply to the lighting industry.

Number one: Complex geometries. This is something that enables designers to let their imaginations run wild when it comes to creating new fittings and fixtures. This is especially true when it comes to organic shapes like helixes and honeycombs, which can be difficult to achieve with any other kind of manufacturing.

This flexibility can also allow lights to be made to fit some more unusually designed buildings, such as filling up little cubbyholes and unusually shaped recesses.

Second: Efficiency in short runs.

Not every lighting project out there is going to need hundreds of units. Plenty of projects need – or want – customised lighting designed around a particular building, event or even just one room. In that case, 3D printing can represent a cost-effective way to produce maybe just a handful of lights without having to invest in moulding or other equipment.

Next on the list: Prototyping. Even if your final aim is to have a large amount of stock, 3D printing is great at quickly being able to get your prototypes ready for testing.

And lighting is one of those industries where you really don’t know quite how things are going to look until you have the product there in real life. It really can be where art meets science. Rapid prototyping makes it easy to tweak and tinker until things are working just right.

Between all these factors, it isn’t hard to see why more and more of the lighting industry is looking towards modern manufacturing technology.

Anyway, hopefully that has provided a bit of illumination, but we’re just about out of time for today. So, I hope you’ll join me again next week when we’ll have another great video waiting for you.  Have a great weekend and I’ll see you then.



With special thanks to Natalie Constable.