Have you heard of fiber optic backlighting? It’s become an increasingly popular backlighting solution for keypads, membrane switches, human machine interfaces (HMIs) and more. Consisting of thin strands of glass or plastic, it’s able to propagate light, thereby illuminating the keys or interface. With that said, you might be wondering what benefits fiber optic backlighting offers compared to other backlighting solutions.

What Is Fiber Optic Backlighting?

Fiber optic backlighting lives up to its namesake by involving the use of fiber optics. Also known as optical fiber backlighting, it consists of flexible and transparent strands of glass or plastic. To put its size into perspective, each strand is approximately the same width as a single strand of human hair. The individual strands are bundled together for use in keypads, membrane switches, HMIs and more.

It’s important to note that fiber optic backlighting doesn’t actually produce light. Rather, it propagates the light produced by a separate backlighting solution. Although there are exceptions, most fiber optic backlighting solutions use light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. The LED bulbs are arranged at the base of the LED backlighting where they are able to project light through the individual strands of glass or plastic.

Low Energy Consumption

Because it’s used in conjunction with LEDs, fiber optic backlighting is energy efficient. It still consumes some energy, but fiber optic backlighting offers a superior level of energy efficiency when compared to other backlighting solutions. Assuming a fiber optic backlighting solution uses LED, it will consume just 20 to 50 mA of power during operation.

Even and Consistent Illumination

Fiber optic backlighting offers even and consistent illumination. It’s able to distribute the light produced by the LED bulbs across the keypad or interface. Without fiber optic backlighting, some areas of the keypad or interface may be darker than others. Fiber optic backlighting prevents this from occurring by evenly distributing the light.

Long Life Expectancy

No backlighting solution will last forever. However, fiber optic backlighting typically lasts longer than other types of backlighting solutions. The glass or plastic strands themselves will likely never degrade. And the LEDs used in fiber optic backlighting can last for over 100,000 hours. As a result, you can rest assured knowing that fiber optic backlighting won’t burn out anytime soon.

The Bottom Line on Fiber Optic Backlighting

As you can see, fiber optic backlighting offers several benefits. It’s energy efficient, uses minimal power, offers even illumination and has a long life expectancy.