Avery Dennison is Bringing More Light to Drivers: Full Cube Technology Means Safer Roadways

Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:00 am PDT


Tony McCaugherty, European Regulatory Affairs Manager, Avery Dennison Reflective Solutions Europe, Middle East, Africa

Ever wondered just how traffic signs work? It’s something we take for granted every time we get into our cars and drive. If you take a closer look at today’s modern traffic signs, you’ll see that there is new technology at work that is helping to make your commute just a little safer each time you get behind the wheel.

Traffic sign technology has been steadily changing over the past twenty years. Retroreflective sheeting - the material that covers the face of the traffic sign allowing it to be visible at night by reflecting the light from your automobile - has evolved from glass beads to precision microprismatic retroreflectors with more than 20,000 such elements in every square inch of material. Even microprisms have changed with the original truncated cube design being surpassed by state-of-the-art “full-cube” technology. But how does this technology benefit drivers?

How Retroreflective Sheeting Works
Microprismatic sheetings reflect light from your vehicle’s headlight back to the headlight, typically in the shape of a cone. Given typical automobile geometry, your eyes are pretty close to the brightest portion of the cone.  It’s of interest to note that you typically only see the sign - not the sign support structure or other nearby objects.  These other objects are not covered with retroreflective sheeting, so light is scattered and not returned with enough intensity to be seen easily.

Cone of Light

Truncated CubeIn a typical truncated cube reflector, light enters and bounces off three sides before returning to the driver.  But light striking the outermost corners (shown below in black) is scattered and lost. Only about 60% of the cube is active - and after accounting for the actual structure of the sheeting itself, dirt on the sign, etc., at best only around 40% of the light returns to the driver.

Now, imagine taking just the most active areas of the cubes (shown below by a dashed line), and stitching them together side-by-side to create a retroreflective sheeting that eliminates all the dead corners.  You end up with full-cubes that are 100% efficient - and our newest OmniCube™ sheeting. After some loss of light through the structure of the sheeting, 60% of the light, or 50% more than the older cube structure, is returned to the driver.

Managing Light
The highway safety industry understands that brighter signs get noticed - they improve legibility, and give drivers more time to read and react - key contributors to improving safety. But an especially valuable benefit of full cube technology is the ability to manage the additional light and extend it to places where it can be of better use to more drivers.

The center of the cone of light returning from the sign is the brightest area viewed by the driver.  Older prismatic sheetings return that light in a narrower cone than OmniCube. Younger automobile drivers with keen eyesight and whose eye position is close to the plane of the headlights are still well served by traditional prismatic sheetings.

But what of today’s growing population of older drivers with reduced visual acuity? What about SUV’s, delivery vans, and heavy trucks whose drivers sit in an elevated position relative to the plane of the headlights - often well outside of the brightest part of the cone of light? This is where OmniCube truly shines. With 50% greater light return, the cone of light is larger - better accommodating older drivers and disadvantaged driver positions as show in the comparison below.

As transportation professionals around the world dedicate themselves to a reduction in highway crashes and fatalities, it’s exciting to see growing numbers of public agencies recognize the benefits of OmniCube and implement specifications for use on their roadways. Learn more about this technology by watching our OmniCube™ video.

To learn more about our Reflective Solutions, visit us at: reflectives.averydennison.com
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