DETROIT — Japanese auto supplier Bridgestone Industrial Products Inc. is preparing to launch production of a new coextruded acrylic accent-lighting program for cars and trucks and looking for opportunities to expand the product in the North American market.
Its Linear Light Guide is solid acrylic tubes of up to 4 feet in length, linked to LED lighting sources on each side. The product was introduced to the North American market during the recent Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress 2001 in Detroit.
The lights are an inexpensive, low-power, low-maintenance system that can provide decorative or safety illumination both inside and outside of the vehicle, said Stephen Graves, North American sales manager.
"We call it a `life of the vehicle' component," he said. "You don't need to replace any bulbs; it doesn't need to be serviced."
Bridgestone is launching the commercial production of the lights in Yokohama, Japan, this summer and is in development talks with some North American auto suppliers.
It already has gone on nonautomotive parts in Japan, including arcade games where it replaced neon lights, Graves said.
The acrylic and LED combination can mimic the decorative aspects of neon, with curves and a variety of colors, he said. An integrated reflective strip coextruded with the plastic allows the company to focus the light either onto a work surface or away from a driver's view, where it could be a distraction.
The acrylic is both tough and cool to the touch, meaning carmakers can install the programs in a variety of interior and exterior surfaces, he said.
"We were quite pleased when people would come up [to the display] thinking it was neon," Graves said. "That was the look we wanted, but neon just isn't practical."
The LED source has it limits, he admitted, since it is not bright enough to replace overhead lights, but Bridgestone is looking at options to improve the operation.
While the emphasis on the program is in automotive, the company is considering other uses, for instance the marine industry.
"This whole concept opens up lighting opportunities we've never had before," Graves said.