The days when vehicle interior ambient lighting meant at best the dim glow from instruments and switches are now an equally dim memory. Subtle ambient interior lighting solutions have become de rigueur for many cars across an increasingly broad price spectrum and now form a significant element of interior design.
An example of that is the new Mini Countryman. Schott, an affiliate of the Carl-Zeiss-Stifung (Foundation), has supplied fiber-optic technology for the car, illuminating a central area that stretches from the manual gearshift lever to the rear of the interior between the two back seats in four-seat configuration or between the front seats in five-seat form.
“Its shape is underscored by the contour illumination option offered by Schott that can be integrated, comprising light guides made of glass fibers inside plastic sheathing that draw their light from LEDs and shine evenly along the entire surface,” said Stephan Schabacker, the company’s Automotive Business Manager. “They are infinitely adjustable in mixed color shades of orange and blue.”
As part of a package option, the Mini’s ambient lighting also provides interior door panel illumination.
Schott regards interior ambient lighting as increasingly providing significant delineation between competitors in terms of brand image, notably in the premium and mid-range sectors. Additionally, lighting strips on doors, consoles, or contours offer passengers a sense of orientation, added Schabacker: “Individually adjustable light moods can be of benefit in different driving situations or during long trips and thus contribute towards greater safety.”
He also states that unlike conventional LED chains, the hybrid system used in the Mini offers homogeneous light in “nearly every possible color and intensity,” even along longer sections: “A special manufacturing technique ensures that the light that is fed in, exits across the entire surface of the fiber. Unlike the lighting technique used in the past, contour lighting is able to glow in a discrete manner without creating reflections, even if there is direct eye contact, so it does not need to be covered after installation.”
Special diffusion particles are added to the cable material, which can be dyed to complement specific metallic effects.
Contour lighting of the type fitted to the Mini is described by the company as providing low installation depth, excellent temperature management, long service life, ease of maintenance, and the flexibility of the light guides that Schott regards as virtually any contour and that can be manufactured in a wide variety of profiles.
Schott lists the plus points of its flexible, side-emitting, glass-fiber automotive contour lighting cables as offering homogeneous and evenly distributed light output over a length of several meters; no visible color shift; easy adaptability to a central light engine; design freedom; customized outer appearance in shape and color in non-illumined state; and cost saving because no extra tooling is required.
“We are trying to make completely new and creative lighting solutions that meet respective customer’s demands,” Schabacker said.