(19)
(11)EP 3 321 573 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
16.05.2018 Bulletin 2018/20

(21)Application number: 17200632.2

(22)Date of filing:  08.11.2017
(51)Int. Cl.: 
F21V 8/00  (2006.01)
B60Q 3/00  (2017.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
MA MD

(30)Priority: 09.11.2016 DE 102016121475

(71)Applicant: Lisa Dräxlmaier GmbH
84137 Vilsbiburg (DE)

(72)Inventors:
  • Bayersdorfer, Bernhard
    84171 Baierbach (DE)
  • Zaviyalov, Alexandr
    84036 Landshut (DE)

  


(54)OPTICAL CONDUCTOR AND LIGHTING SYSTEM


(57) An optical conductor (2; 8; 2; 12) has a plurality of spherically curved light-extraction areas (5) on its surface (6) that are arranged in spaced relationship to one another and have a particular height (h) and a particular radius (R) of surface curvature, wherein h/R ratios of the respective height (h) to the respective radius (R) of all light-extraction areas (5) are at least essentially equal and lie within a range of [0.1; 0.45], specifically of [0.1; 0.4]. A lighting system (1) comprises one or more optical conductors (2) and one or more light sources (4) for irradiation of at least one light-injection area (3) of the optical conductor (2), wherein a first light (N) radiated from the front (7) of the optical conductor (2) can be emitted unscattered from the lighting system (1) and/or second light (S) emitted outside of a first light path is absorbable by the lighting system (1). The invention is particularly applicable in vehicle lighting systems.




Description


[0001] The invention relates to an optical conductor with a plurality of spherically curved light-extraction areas on its surface that are spaced apart from one another and have a particular height and a particular radius of surface curvature. The invention also relates to a lighting system comprising one or more optical conductors and one or more light sources for irradiation of at least one light-injection area of the optical conductor. The invention further relates to a method for producing an optical conductor. The invention is particularly suitable for use in vehicle lighting systems.

[0002] DE 10 2012 215 165 A1 discloses a composite decor, particularly for use in decor elements in vehicles, comprising an at least partially light-permeable decor layer and a luminous layer with light-emitting zones of which one or more of these light-emitting zones and the decor layer are movable relative to one another.

[0003] DE 10 2011 082 343 B4 discloses a composite decor with a decor layer and a light-guiding layer, wherein the decor layer is perforated to form openings in the decor layer and the light-guiding layer is provided with interference points acting as individually recognizable luminous points, lines or areas when light is coupled into the light-guiding layer. For all angles of viewing the decor layer of the composite decor it holds true that one or more of the luminous points, lines or areas formed by the interference points are hidden by the decor layer when the decor layer is viewed from one angle, but they are visible from one or more other angles of viewing.

[0004] DE 10 2014 116 180 A1 discloses a lighting system for vehicle interiors, comprising a light source that emits visible light and a component arranged relative to the light source in such a manner that light emitted from the light source passes through it, and also comprising a transparent substrate with a surface area through which light emitted from the light source passes, and a lenticular screen structure having a plurality of regularly arranged lens elements and being formed on the surface area of the transparent substrate. The invention also describes using the lighting system and its component to illuminate the interior of vehicles, wherein three-dimensional lighting effects are generated that can be perceived differently by a viewer/occupant in the interior space, depending on the angle of viewing.

[0005] It is an object of the present invention to overcome the disadvantages of the prior art at least in part, and specifically by simple means to provide a highly regular surface illumination and/or a highly regular appearance with the added possibility of creating design effects.

[0006] This object is accomplished in accordance with the features of the independent claims. Preferred embodiments can be found in particular in the dependent claims.

[0007] The object is accomplished by an optical conductor with a plurality of spherically curved light-extraction areas on its surface that are spaced apart from one another and have a particular height and a particular radius of surface curvature in which h/R ratios of the respective height to the respective radius of all light-extraction areas are at least essentially equal and lie within a range of [0.1; 0.45], particularly [0.1; 0.4]. The area involved is a mathematical range of values that includes a subset between 0.1 and 0.45, with the values 0.1 and 0.45 themselves being part of the subset.

[0008] One advantage of this optical conductor is that due to the equal h/R ratios, even light from light-extraction areas of different sizes is locally radiated with virtually the same emission characteristics (such as with equal angular distribution or light-intensity patterns), with the result that a light pattern of highly regular appearance is generated through the light-extraction areas. Optical design effects can easily be created by arranging the light-extraction areas over a surface area. Different degrees of light extraction across the surface of the optical conductor can easily be varied by altering the density and/or height of the light-extraction areas.

[0009] The range of [0.1; 0.45], particularly [0.1; 0.4] provides the advantage that a share of the light ("first light") extracted from the optical conductor in the desired direction is greater than that of the light in the undesirable direction ("second light"). Thus, in this area the extraction effectiveness of the first light is especially high. Contrary to this, large h/R ratios of 0.45 or more rather result in inefficient light extraction.

[0010] The light-extraction areas may also be referred to as interference points.

[0011] The optical conductor may be a transparent body such as one of plastic (e.g., epoxy resin, PC, PMMA, ABS, silicone, etc.) or of glass. The optical conductor may also be designed to guide light by total internal reflection and may then also be referred to as a TIR body.

[0012] What is understood by a spherically curved light-extraction area is in particular a surface area of the optical conductor with a cross-section at least in one plane having a surface curvature in the shape of a circle segment. Therefore, the light-extraction area has a specific (maximum) height h in relation to an adjacent surface area of the optical conductor. A corresponding (circle) radius R is associated with the surface curvature.

[0013] The h/R ratios of the light-extraction areas are at least essentially equal, and in particular identical. In particular, h/R ratios that are at least essentially equal may be understood to be ratios that differ little enough from one another that distribution of the first light radiated from the optical conductor is not impeded for practical purposes. For example, h/R ratios fluctuating within a range of +/- 10%, specifically +/- 5%, specifically +/- 2%, specifically +/- 1% from a nominal value may be viewed as being essentially or virtually equal.

[0014] If the height of at least two light-extraction areas differs, their radii differ accordingly. For example, this height may be increased in order to extract more light using a light-extraction area. However, to maintain a uniform light radiation pattern generated locally by the light extraction area, the radius must be enlarged accordingly.

[0015] In one embodiment, the height and thus the radius of the light-extraction areas increase with increasing distance from a light-injection area of the optical conductor. This makes it possible for light to be emitted by the optical conductor with uniform brightness over an area as well. The increase can be continuous or almost continuous, alternatively in steps or areas, which simplifies production. Alternatively or additionally, for the same purpose, the density of the light-extraction areas may be increased with increasing distance from the light-injection area.

[0016] If the h/R ratio lies within a range of [0.25; 0.35], there is the additional advantage of a broad angular distribution (light intensity distribution) of the first light extracted from the light-extraction area.

[0017] In a particularly advantageous embodiment, the h/R ratio is at least approximately 0.3, particularly exactly 0.3. This value yields an especially advantageous combination of high extraction efficiency and broad light radiation. If the h/R ratio is at least approximately 0.3, then, for example, this may correspond to a fluctuation range of +/- 10%, specifically +/- 5%, specifically +/- 2%, specifically +/-1%.

[0018] In another embodiment the height of at least two light-extraction areas differs. By this means different degrees of light extraction can be varied easily or different quantities of light per light-extraction area can be set.

[0019] A further development provides that the radius R lies within a range of 0.1 mm to 1 mm. Yet another embodiment provides that the height h lies within a range of 0.01 mm to 1 mm.

[0020] In still another embodiment the at least one light-extraction area has a spherical cap shape; specifically, all light-extraction areas have a spherical cap shape. This enables implementation of especially uniform and easy-to-produce light-extraction areas, particularly by means of simple drilling with a ball cutter.

[0021] In still another embodiment the at least one light-extraction area has a spherical line shape; specifically, all light-extraction areas have a spherical line shape. In particular, a spherical line shape can be understood to be a line form created by a lateral motion of a spherical cap-shaped surface. The end sections of the otherwise cylinder section-shaped spherical line form have a semicircular peripheral contour, for example, when viewed from above. This enables implementation of easy-to-produce light-extraction areas, particularly by means of a simple bore and lateral displacement of a ball cutter. Spherical line-shaped light-extraction areas have the additional advantage that the degree of light extraction may also be easily varied by adjusting their length.

[0022] In an additional embodiment, the optical conductor is provided in the shape of a plate with a back and a front, the front being provided for the extraction of the first light and the light-extraction areas being provided on the front and/or on the back. In this way, a flat optical conductor with a large light-radiating area can be provided. In a further embodiment light can be or is coupled into the optical conductor through a lateral surface. The optical conductor may have a constant thickness.

[0023] In a further embodiment the light-extraction areas are arranged and/or dimensioned to provide uniformly bright radiation of the first light over an area. Particularly in the case of a lateral light injection or irradiation, this can be achieved by increasing the height or radius of the light-extraction areas as the distance from the light-injection side of the optical conductor increases. By this means, the optical conductor is also capable of radiating large-area light with highly uniform brightness. Alternatively or additionally, for the same purpose, the density of the light-extraction areas may be increased with increasing distance from the light-injection area.

[0024] In general, the size and/or density selected for the light-extraction areas may be such that for typical distances from the observer the light-extraction areas are not consciously perceived as being distinct areas. For example, if the density of the light-extraction areas is sufficiently high or a lateral spacing of the light-extraction areas from one another is close enough, the impression may be made that the surface - particularly the front - of the optical conductor is regular or has been uniformly processed.

[0025] Another embodiment provides that the light-extraction areas are arranged and/or dimensioned for unevenly bright radiation of the first light over an area. Thus, variable-brightness design effects such as fonts, symbols, patterns, etc. may be introduced with particular ease. However, since the light-extraction areas have the same emission characteristics due to their equal h/R ratio, the variation of brightness generated by this means does not change depending on the angle.

[0026] Another embodiment provides that at least one light-extraction area is a depression. The depression may be made directly into the optical conductor, for example by material removal as with a ball cutter. In the case of a depression, the height h may also be understood to be the depth of the recess relative to the surrounding surface area. To provide recesses with different depths h, for instance, drill bits with different radii may be used.

[0027] In yet another embodiment at least one light-extraction area is a protrusion. This can be produced, for example, by means of a tool such as a casting element. Recesses complementary to the protrusions may be introduced into the tool, for instance by means of a ball cutter.

[0028] The object of the invention is also achieved by a lighting system comprising one or more optical conductors as described above and one or more light sources for irradiation of at least one light-injection area of the optical conductor. The lighting system yields the same advantages as the optical conductor and can be designed analogously.

[0029] In particular, the first light radiated from one side (the "front side") of the optical conductor can be emitted unscattered from the lighting system, meaning with no scattering element (such as a diffusing disk) optically connected downstream of the optical conductor. This allows for a particularly simple and inexpensive structure.

[0030] In an additional embodiment the lighting system is designed in such a manner that the second light radiated from the optical conductor outside of a first light path may be absorbed by the lighting system. One example of this is a light-absorbing surface arranged behind the optical conductor.

[0031] In another embodiment the lighting system is a vehicle lighting system. The vehicle may be a motor vehicle (such as an automobile, truck, bus, etc., or a motorcycle), a rail vehicle, and aquatic vehicle (such as a boat or ship) or an aircraft (such as an airplane or a helicopter).

[0032] In a further embodiment, the lighting system makes up the lighting system for the interior of a vehicle or a portion thereof (such as a module). This interior vehicle lighting is applicable in a particularly advantageous manner for illuminating interior surfaces with minimal sheen, as with black leather, or as luminous and/or design elements.

[0033] In an additional embodiment the lighting system represents a component of a composite decor.

[0034] However, the lighting system may also be the exterior lighting of a vehicle or a part thereof (e.g., a module) such as a headlight, a taillight, etc.

[0035] In a further embodiment, the light-extraction areas of the optical conductor are arranged so as to be visible from the outside (i.e. looking from the outside of the lighting system onto the same, especially onto its light-emitting surface). Thus, the light-extraction areas may also be used as design elements.

[0036] The object is also accomplished by a method of production of an optical conductor as described above, in which the light-extraction areas are produced with a ball cutter. For example, this may be implemented by drilling directly into the optical conductor and/or by introducing a bore into a tool for producing the optical conductor. Cutter heads with correspondingly varying radii may be used to change the radius of the light-extraction areas. The ball cutter can be moved laterally (i.e. perpendicular to the direction of drilling) to product a spherical line.

[0037] The above-described properties, features and advantages of the present invention, as well as the manner in which they are achieved, will become clearer and more easily understood in the following schematic description of an embodiment, and they are explained below in greater detail with reference to the drawings.
Fig.1
shows a lateral cross-section of a lighting system with an optical conductor in accordance with a first embodiment having a plurality of light-extraction areas;
Fig.2
shows a detail of an optical conductor according to Fig. 1 in the vicinity of a light-extraction area;
Fig.3
shows a polar diagram of a light intensity distribution for an h/R ratio of 0.3;
Fig.4
shows a polar diagram of a light intensity distribution for an h/R ratio of 0.1;
Fig. 5
shows a polar diagram of a light intensity distribution for an h/R ratio of 0.5;
Fig. 6
shows a plan view of an optical conductor according to a second embodiment;
Fig. 7
shows a plan view of an optical conductor according to a third embodiment; and
Fig. 8
shows a plan view of an optical conductor according to a fourth embodiment.


[0038] Fig.1 shows a lateral cross-section of a lighting system 1 with a plate-shaped optical conductor 2 in accordance with a first embodiment. The optical conductor 2 has a lateral surface 3 serving as a light-injection surface to couple in light L. The light L in this case is generated, for example, by a plurality of LEDs 4 aimed at the lateral surface 3. The light L coupled in at the lateral surface 3 spreads by total internal reflection in the optical conductor 2. When the light L strikes a light-extraction area 5, it is deflected in such a manner that it can subsequently exit the optical conductor 2. The light-extraction areas 5 thus act as interference points in the light conduction. The light-extraction areas 5 here are arranged on a back 6 of the optical conductor 2.

[0039] A portion of the light L deflected from the light-extraction areas 5 exits the optical conductor 2 at the back 6. As the second light S, it is not further used. For example, it can be absorbed by an absorbent surface (not shown) and/or it can be reflected by a reflecting surface (not shown) and, where applicable, it can then be at least partly used as the first light. Another portion of the light L deflected from the light-extraction areas 5 exits the optical conductor 2 at a front 7 and, being the first light N, it is further used.

[0040] As shown in Fig. 2 as a detail, the light-extraction areas 5 are embodied as spherically curved protrusions with a spherical cap-shaped surface. The light-extraction areas 5 have a height h. A constant radius R in particular is assigned to the spherical cap-shaped surface. All light-extraction areas 5 have an equal h/R ratio, in the present case of 0.3.

[0041] The light-extraction areas 5 shown in Fig. 1 may have different heights h and/or radii R, as long as the same h/R ratio is maintained. In particular, light-extraction areas 5 spaced farther apart from the lateral surface 3 may have a larger height h and a larger radius to locally radiate a larger quantity of light. By this means, a particular quantity of light radiated from the light-extraction areas 5 can be kept constant, thereby facilitating uniformly bright emission of the first light N over the entire front 7.

[0042] As an alternative to a spherical cap-shaped surface, the light-extraction areas 5 may have a respective spherical line shape in which they extend longitudinally in a direction perpendicular to the plane of the image.

[0043] Alternatively or additionally, light-extraction areas 5 may be provided on the front 7.

[0044] The lighting system 1, for example, may be external vehicle lighting such as a headlight or internal vehicle lighting such as decor illumination, or it may be a component thereof.

[0045] In particular, following its emission the first light N may be radiated unscattered out of the lighting system 1 from the front 7. A dissipating layer may therefore be omitted. This may be particularly advantageous if at the same time the optical conductor 2 or the light-extraction areas 5 are visible or may be viewed from the outside. The light-extraction areas 5 may then be used as design elements.

[0046] Fig.3 shows a polar diagram of a light intensity distribution Iv of the first light N across a polar angle ϕ for an h/R ratio of 0.3; At h/R = 0.3 the first light N is emitted in a comparatively large solid angle range, particularly also in a direction x that is perpendicular to the front 7.

[0047] Fig.4 shows a polar diagram analogous to Fig. 3 for an h/R ratio of 0.1. Contrary to the h/R ratio of 0.3, the emission takes place in a narrower solid angle range. The light radiation in the perpendicular direction x is virtually zero.

[0048] Fig.5 shows a polar diagram analogous to Fig. 3 for an h/R ratio of 0.5. Contrary to the h/R ratio of 0.1, the emission takes place in an even more narrow solid angle range with a primary direction of radiation that deviates even more strongly from the perpendicular direction x. The light radiation along the perpendicular direction x is very low.

[0049] Fig. 6 shows a plan view onto the back 6 of an optical conductor 8 according to a second embodiment. In this optical conductor 8 the light-extraction areas 5 are arranged in transverse rows 9 that are uniformly spaced in a longitudinal direction of the optical conductor 8. The light-extraction areas 5 thereby form a rectangular matrix-shaped surface pattern. The light-extraction areas 5, for example, may have an equal height h within each of the transverse rows 9. The height h of the light-extraction areas 5 of the individual transverse rows 9 may increase with increasing distance from the lateral surface 3; specifically, for instance, from transverse row 9 to transverse row 9 or in blocks every n >= 2 transverse rows 9, etc.

[0050] Alternatively, the light-extraction areas 5 may be arranged in groups. The groups may be distributed over the optical conductor in a matrix-like manner.

[0051] Fig. 7 shows a plan view of an optical conductor 10 according to a third embodiment. The optical conductor 10 has the light-extraction areas 5 arranged in diamond-shaped groups 11. Neither the groups 11 nor the light-extraction areas 5 are arranged in a matrix pattern.

[0052] Fig. 8 shows a plan view of an optical conductor 12 according to a fourth embodiment. The structure of the optical conductor 12 is similar to that of the optical conductor 10. However, the light-extraction areas 5 are now arranged in differently shaped groups 13, 14.

[0053] It will be appreciated that the present invention is not limited to the embodiment illustrated.

[0054] In general, by "a", "an", etc. a singular or plural may be understood, particularly in the sense of "at least one" or "one or more", etc., as long as this is not explicitly ruled out, for instance by the expression "exactly one" etc.

[0055] Also, a number can indicate precisely the given number or it can also include a customary tolerance range, as long as this is not expressly ruled out.

List of Reference Numbers



[0056] 
1
lighting system
2
optical conductor
3
lateral surface
4
LED
5
light-extraction area
6
back of the optical conductor
7
front of the optical conductor
8
optical conductor
9
transverse row
10
optical conductor
11
group of light-extraction areas
12
optical conductor
13
group of light-extraction areas
14
group of light-extraction areas
A
detail
h
height of the light-extraction area
Iv
light intensity
L
light of the light-extraction area
N
first light
R
radius
S
second light
ϕ
polar angle
x
perpendicular direction



Claims

1. An optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) comprising a plurality of spherically curved light-extraction areas (5) arranged on surface (6) of the optical conductor in spaced relationship to one another and each of the plurality of spherically curved light extraction areas having a height (h) and a radius (R) of surface curvature, wherein

- h/R ratios of respective height (h) to respective radius (R) of all light-extraction areas (5) are substantially equal and

- the h/R ratios lie within a range of [0.1; 0.45].


 
2. The optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) according to claim 1, wherein the height (h) of the plurality of light-extraction areas (5) increase with increasing distance from a light-injection area (3) of the optical conductor.
 
3. The optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the h/R ratios lie within a range of [0.25; 0.35] and are particularly at least approximately 0.3.
 
4. The optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein respective heights (h) of two or more light-extraction areas of the plurality of light-extraction areas differ.
 
5. The optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one light-extraction area (5) of the plurality of light-extraction areas has a spherical cap shape, and in particular, all light-extraction areas (5) have a spherical cap shape.
 
6. The optical conductor (2) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one light-extraction area (5) of the plurality of light-extraction areas has a spherical line shape, and in particular, all light-extraction areas (5) have a spherical line shape.
 
7. The optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) is provided in the shape of a plate with a back (6) and a front (7), the front (7) being provided for the extraction of a first light (N) and the plurality of light-extraction areas (5) being provided on at least one of the front (7) and/or on the back (6).
 
8. The optical conductor (2; 8) according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the plurality of light-extraction areas (5) are arranged for uniformly bright radiation of the first light (N) over an area.
 
9. The optical conductor (10; 12) according to one of Claims 1 to 7, wherein the plurality of light-extraction areas (5) are configured to provide uniformly bright radiation of the first light (N) over an area.
 
10. A lighting system (1) comprising one or more optical conductors (2; 8; 10; 12) according to Claim 7 and one or more light sources (4) for irradiation of at least one light-injection area (3) of the one or more optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12),

- wherein the first light (N) capable of radiating from the front (7) of the optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) can be radiated unscattered from the lighting system (1)
and/or

- a second light (S) radiated outside of a the first light path is absorbable by the lighting system (1).


 
11. The lighting system (1) according to Claim 10, wherein the lighting system (1) is a vehicle lighting system.
 
12. The lighting system (1) according to one of Claims 10 or 11, wherein the lighting system (1) is a vehicle interior lighting system.
 
13. The lighting system (1) according to Claim 12, wherein the lighting system (1) is a component of a composite decor.
 
14. The lighting system (1) according to one of Claims 10 to 13, wherein the light-extraction areas (5) of the optical conductor (2; 8; 10; 12) are arranged so as to be visible from the outside.
 
15. A method of production of an optical conductor according to one of Claims 1 to 10, wherein the light-extraction areas (5) are produced with a ball cutter.
 




Drawing




















REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description