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Materials for lighting application challenges

Oct. 09, 2022

Acrylic and polycarbonate are tough, lightweight, plastic sheet materials with outstanding optical properties. Both are easy to machine and thermoform into complex shapes. These characteristics make them good choices for lighting applications, particularly for mass transit and aerospace where strength, durability, and light weight are required. Other lighting applications these materials work well in are: lighting fixtures, commercial lighting, sconces, retail merchandising, menu boards, jewelry cases, lenses, and for LED light diffusion.

Are light diffusing plastics right for your next project? Our plastics experts can answer your questions and advise on LED lighting applications.

Materials for lighting application challenges


LED lighting and diffusion solutions

LEDs are long lasting, energy efficient light sources. However, LEDs can be particularly challenging for lighting designers since LEDs create “hot spots” of focused light that can detract from the visual appeal of a fixture. Special grades of acrylic sheet, polycarbonate sheet, and polycarbonate film are engineered to diffuse LED hot spots without sacrificing light transmission.


Acrylic sheet for lighting applications

Acrylic - generally has superior optical properties compared with polycarbonate. It offers good light transmission, diffusion of LED hot spots, and is easy to fabricate.

Acrylic sheet is used for a wide range of lighting applications including:

● Commercial lighting fixtures

● Point-of-purchase displays

● Backlit signs

Acrylic has a number of benefits for lighting applications:

● Outstanding optical properties

● The highest light transmission of any plastic material

● Naturally UV stable for outdoor use (and available in grades with enhanced UV stability)


Polycarbonate sheet for lighting applications

Polycarbonate - is tougher and more durable than acrylic. It can operate at a higher temperature, and has superior flammability characteristics. Polycarbonate sheet and film have good light transmission, excellent diffusion of LED hot spots, and offer impact resistance along with good heat resistance. Polycarbonate film offers additional benefits including flexibility and formability. 

Polycarbonate sheet offers a number of advantages for lighting applications including: 

● Increased toughness

● The ability to operate at elevated temperatures

● Outstanding flammability characteristics

● Can be cold formed into complex shapes such as curved light diffusers

● Available in UV stabilized grades that are engineered for outdoor use

Special grades of polycarbonate are engineered to meet even the most stringent flammability requirements for aircraft and mass transit lighting.


Polycarbonate diffusers for machine vision systems

LED lamps can be especially challenging for manufacturers of robotic machine vision systems. These systems rely on high resolution cameras being able to detect contrast between the parts being inspected and the surrounding background. Machine vision software records the position and orientation of each part on a conveyor or on an assembly line. Some systems can even determine if parts are within specified dimensional tolerances.

LED front lighting and/or backlighting is used to illuminate the parts. In cases where the lighting is uneven, cameras may be unable to distinguish if parts are correctly positioned and within tolerances.


Applications include:

● LED light diffusers for machine vision systems

● LED light diffusers for visual inspection cameras

● Diffusers for automated parts inspection lighting


Fabrication and machining services

Take advantage of our plastic fabrication and machining services to save time and money on plastic parts. Utilizing in-house capabilities and partnering with fabrication specialists we provide customers with reliable fabrication solutions, machined parts and cut-to-size materials for any application.

Need materials for lighting applications? Contact us today.

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