The Eurecat technology centre has developed a smart plastic surface just 3 millimetres thick which has an interface that allows users to communicate with a machine, software or intuitive system with built-in LED lighting and capacitive sensors which is expected to be embedded in the central electronic system of the new generation of cars.

“The need for digital transformation and the growing importance of design, integration, personalisation and standing out from the competition means the industry is constantly evolving and developing highly innovative products and services,” says David Pardos, Head of Business Development in Eurecat’s Mobility team. “By way of example, functional surfaces with haptic response activation featuring tactile sensations are gaining ground.”

The innovation has been created as part of the Púlsar project which has been run at Eurecat’s plastronics pilot plant. The facility specialises in functional printing and embedded devices and “has a track record spanning over 10 years of experience in electronics whether printed, hybrid or injected in plastic parts and functional fabrics,” notes Cristina Casellas, Head of Technology Transfer at Eurecat. “This enables the technology centre to deliver solutions to complex and specific challenges across a wide range of sectors such as the automotive industry.”

The Púlsar project can be seen at the Automotive Interiors fair this week in Stuttgart (Germany) where Eurecat is also showcasing plastic parts which imitate various textures such as marble, wood and fabric along with plastronics parts simulating push buttons with printed contact sensors and embedded optoelectronic devices.

Functional fabrics for the automotive industry

Eurecat has also devised coatings for fabrics or 3D printing on fabrics using biodegradable material combined with material from textile industry waste. Likewise, it has generated shape memory fabrics to enhance comfort plus cellulose-based fabrics for better sustainability. It has also produced fabrics with thermoelectric and pressure-sensing properties to activate seat heating for use in automotive interiors.

At this year’s Automotive Interiors Expo Europe fair, Iker Arroyo, head of Eurecat’s In Mould Electronics line, is on the speaking programme with a talk highlighting “the quantum leaps plastronics is making due to its integration into low-cost, high-performance printed electronics in structural plastic parts”. New use cases are also to be presented to further explore the challenge of thermoforming processes.