Covestro and partners develop cost-effective smart surface production process

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Automotive interior technology developer Covestro says it has been investigating the development of seamless surfaces suitable for the integration of intelligent cockpit features, to create greater design freedom for engineers while still allowing cost-effective production.

Together with materials developer Votteler Lackfabrik, laser texture specialist Reichle, and Merck, a manufacturer of pearl-effect pigments, Covestro says it has developed a concept for the manufacture of interior components that can incorporate smart functionality yet have a seamless surface.

The company notes that car manufacturers and their suppliers face the challenge of integrating smart functions such as display and ambient lighting and touch control, in addition to a wide range of visual and haptic surface properties. The resulting parts must be durable and able to be manufactured as cost-effectively as possible to achieve broad acceptance in the industry.

To achieve this, Covestro’s DirectCoating process has been combined with Votteler’s Puriflow paint system and Reichle’s laser texturing processes. The properties of Votteler’s paint enable surface textures ranging from soft leather to hard metal to be recreated on the substrates from Covestro. Reichle provided laser-textured PU-RIM molds for the project.

Using the DirectCoating process, a plastic substrate is first produced in an initial cavity by injection molding. The resulting part is then transferred to a second, minimally larger, mold. The cavity between the substrate and the laser-engraved RIM mold corresponds exactly to the desired volume of the coating that is then injected. This creates a coated precision part in just two steps. The resulting part is claimed to require little rework, is highly resistant to chemicals and daylight and can be integrated with smart interior sensors or other devices.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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