Fiber optic has become a popular backlighting solution for keypads and switches. Like fiber optic data-exchange cables, it consists of thin glass or plastic fibers through which light flows. But fiber optic backlighting isn’t the same as traditional data-exchange cables. It’s used specifically for illuminating a device, so it requires a unique design. In this post, we’re going to reveal the basics of fiber optic backlighting and how it works.

The Basics of Fiber Optic Backlighting

Also known as optical fiber backlighting, fiber optic backlighting is a backlighting solution that’s characterized by the use of glass or plastic fibers, known as light guides, that propagate light from a single source. In other words, the light guides themselves don’t produce illumination. Rather, they are illuminated from some other source, such as a light-emitting diode (LED). When activated, the LED or other source source products illumination that flows through the light guides from the base, thereby illuminating the respective keypad or switch with which it’s used.

The light guides used in fiber optic backlighting are typically embedded under the keypad’s or switch’s graphic overlay layer. At the base of the light guides is an LED that, when activated, produces light. The light then fills the light guides to illuminate the graphic overlay layer. That’s the basics of how fiber optic backlighting works.

Lifespan of Fiber Optic Backlighting

Since it used an LED for the actual light light, fiber optic backlighting has an incredibly long lifespan. It’s not uncommon for fiber optic backlighting to last for 100,000 or more hours. For most consumer — as well as many commercial — applications, fiber optic backlighting won’t burn out. Only after 100,000 hours of use will the LED die and, thus, need to be replaced. Other types of backlighting have a shorter lifespan, so they don’t last as long as fiber optic backlighting thanks to its LED light source.

Energy Consumption of Fiber Optic Backlighting

In addition to a long lifespan, fiber optic backlighting is also energy efficient. The fiber optic backlighting solutions used here at Nelson-Miller consume roughly 20 to 50 mA of power. Therefore, they are a cost-effective alternative to other backlighting solutions that consume more power. With its low power consumption, fiber optic backlighting costs less to operate than other solutions.

Heat Production for Fiber Optic Backlighting

Another advantage of using fiber optic backlighting over other backlighting solutions is low heat production. All backlighting solutions produce heat, and fiber optic is no exception. With that said, fiber optic backlighting produces significantly less heat than other backlighting solutions.