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How Micro Lens Arrays (MLAs) Improve Visual Intelligence In Architectural Lighting

How Micro Lens Arrays (MLAs) Improve Visual Intelligence In Architectural Lighting

By: Kevin Green, Global Commercial Director, BrightView Technologies

There is a fundamental demand uniting lighting objectives across outdoor and indoor architectural environments. Whether it’s spotlighting specific design features or illuminating a room with unique light patterns, precision is the name of the game in bringing innovative concepts to life.

As architectural demands have grown more varied and sophisticated, solutions to help serve the optical needs of these applications have also evolved. The following article provides insights on how designers can leverage micro lens array (MLA) technologies to bend and shape light in driving custom, high-performing optics.

Building blocks for better optics

MLAs consist of microscale lenses engineered to manage and shape light for specific applications. The lenses are created in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit the required light output based on a given light input. MLAs are embossed, etched or molded onto or in optically clear substrates such as PET and polycarbonate films.

Through a manufacturing method that combines digital embossing tools with gray scale lithography, MLAs can be produced in a high volume, roll-to-roll process. This production process enables designers to tailor and generate MLAs uniformly and efficiently. Versatility has made these technologies a valuable optical resource in not just the lighting space, but also in emerging markets such as consumer and automotive displays, LiDAR and sensing systems, among others.

Meeting architectural demands

In architectural environments, there are several trends where MLAs can provide benefits in lighting design and implementation. In outdoor spaces, elliptical distributions are now commonly used to produce precise lighting and control across various surfaces. Lighting designers can use MLAs to support a multitude of configurations for these applications, including color mixing, wall grazing and beam control to highlight certain design features – from surface textures and molding details to archways and windows.

Additionally, elliptical lighting distributions are often implemented with asymmetric spreads across a fixture – some shining stronger in certain directions than others. A single lighting unit accommodates several diffusors producing a different effect per specification and purpose in terms of lighting performance. The flexibility of MLA technology allows designers to meet each specification within a single unit.

MLAs address a range of objectives for indoor architectural lighting, marrying performance requirements for angle control, source hiding or aesthetics with overarching business demands in efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The multi-purpose function of MLAs has been demonstrated in the emergence of “batwing” lighting distributions, which are used to achieve flatfield beam profile without a central hot spot.

By deploying an MLA-based 2D batwing solution, for example, lighting designers can leverage batwing beam shaping capabilities in all azimuthal directions – creating illumination at a greater fixture spacing than many of their traditional counterparts. Deploying fewer fixtures creates savings in terms of both costs and energy consumption.

Simplify complex designs

 As optical designs and trends continue to evolve, the requirements for different lighting designs and distributions will also change. This dynamic has been evident recently in the industry’s gradual shift to smaller devices and equipment. An example is museums which commonly deployed a six-inch LED downlight to highlight certain exhibitions or objects. Now, the size expectations for similar downlights have decreased to as small as an inch in some applications.

Changing expectations impacts the design process, sometimes adding more complexity in establishing the right specifications for an application. There may not always be a quick or clear-cut way to calculate the necessary optical surface for a desired target profile. Designers may need to conduct testing and prototyping to ensure the best optical configuration, yet they can’t afford to take hours or days to complete the necessary simulation processes.

To ensure the most efficient approach, designers should aim to align with their manufacturing partner on the front end to assist in the tooling process. For example, BrightView’s manufacturing facilities possess the software and equipment capabilities to rapidly iterate a design through the creation of many versions of a lens in a single 8-12-hour run cycle. Parameters can be repeated, if necessary, until desired specifications are met.

Designers can generate the right-sized MLA efficiently through the iterative tooling process – which can then be quickly transitioned into production. Large-scale tooling runs in conjunction with the roll-to-roll manufacturing process to generate quality mass production.

The future illuminated

Lighting designers can’t always predict what’s coming next in terms of trends or expectations. The architectural industry is in a perpetual state of transition, but it’s important to remember that precision is always in demand. The ability to manage light in alignment with changing requirements will remain a key force for unlocking captivating, vibrant designs.

As the landscape evolves, MLAs will help serve as a catalyst for advancing customizable light bending and beam-shaping capabilities, bringing new optical visions to life. Lighting designers can utilize MLA technologies to enhance creativity amid ongoing innovation, leveraging visual intelligence to stay ahead of the curve in a dynamic, competitive marketplace.

About The Author:

Kevin Green is the Global Commercial Director at BrightView Technologies. He has more than 35 years’ experience leading worldwide sales and marketing teams from large, established companies like AT&T to industry leading startups. Green joined BrightView in 2010 to help drive efforts in the lighting industry. Directing particular attention to exceeding customer expectations and working with strategic partners, BrightView now has a presence in every major lighting market.

 

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