When researching backlighting technologies for keypads and switches, you may come across light guides. They’ve become increasingly popular in recent years. Keypads and switches typically feature buttons. While some of them only feature a traditional backlighting system, others leverage a light guide film. For a better understanding of light guides and how they work, keep reading.

What Are Light Guides?

Light guides are thin sheets that are designed to distribute or “guide” the light of a traditional backlighting system. Also known as light guide films, they promote an even level of brightness throughout keypads and switches.

Keypads and switches often feature a traditional backlighting system, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs). When turned on, the LEDs will produce light. This light will travel through the light guide, at which point it will be distributed across the keypad or switch.

Do Light Guides Produce Light?

Some people assume that light guides produce light, but this isn’t necessarily true. Only backlighting systems produce light. Light guides are an optional feature of keypads and switches, but they don’t actually produce light. Instead, light guides distribute the light of a traditional backlighting system.

Traditional backlighting systems consist of LEDs. The LEDs are responsible for producing light, whereas the light guide film will distribute this light. The bottom line is that light guides work in conjunction with a traditional backlighting system; they don’t necessarily produce light.

Benefits of Light Guides

With light guides, keypads and switches are less likely to suffer from uneven brightness. Uneven brightness means that some areas of a keypad’s or switch’s interface are brighter than other areas. You can prevent uneven brightness by choosing a keypad or switch with a light guide film. The light guide film will distribute the light evenly so that bright spots don’t occur.

Light guides can reduce the number of LEDs required for a keypad’s or switch’s traditional backlighting system. A typical keypad or switch may require a half-dozen or more LEDs for its traditional backlighting system — assuming it doesn’t have a light guide film. Adding a light guide film to it, though, may reduce the LED count to just four or five. The light guide film will distribute the LEDs’ light across the keypad or switch so that fewer total LEDs are required.

Another benefit of light guides is a longer battery device. Many battery-powered devices feature a backlighting system. With light guides, they can use fewer LEDs. And a lower LED count translates into a longer battery life. There are just a few benefits of light guides.