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When materials meet electronics: Novel frontiers in automotive

Dr Nello Li Pira, head of the physical analysis department at FCA – CRF, analyzes the future of materials used in sensors, touch surfaces and biomimetic components.

What is your presentation about?

The car of the future will have an elegant and ergonomic design with embedded sensors, touch surfaces and biomimetic multicolored components. Cars will be made more functional and will be based on more intelligent materials; dashboards, central consoles, knobs, panels, seats, ceilings, armrests and kick plates will be made by novel processes and materials that are more intelligent and customized. All the manufacturing phases necessary for successful integration will be evaluated regarding the materials and processes as well. An example of the application of system integration will be shown, focusing on improved functionalities and complexity.

What are customers demanding in their future car interiors?

Our cars are becoming more similar to mobile phones or laptops with a big battery and a sofa. So onboard connections, infotainment, entertainment, intelligence and autonomy are becoming fundamental demands in vehicles. This means an increase in electronics content, with a consequent rise in the complexity of component design and manufacturing.

What technology will be most important in the car of the future?

Several technologies will be important in the car of the future. We believe electrification and connectivity will be the main revolutions we will see in the future. Even if both of these demand an improvement in electronics and increase in components, the connectivity will be more involved in integration and miniaturization due to the introduction of new functionalities such as touch and active materials for infotainment, entertainment, safety (ADAS) and communication.

Will increasing complexity in terms of manufacturing equal increasing cost?

The goal is the development of low-cost and highly reliable processes for robust manufacturing. The high demand in integration and consequently in component production will help to keep costs affordable. Finally, the target is not a new disruptive process, but the adaptation and innovation of existing ones. Therefore, integration of existing well-established processes will be the most promising approach in the forthcoming technologies. It means injection molding and printing, or lamination and forming (UV and thermo), can be easily merged with electronics approaches such as sintering, attaching or die joining. However, many steps of development are need in miniaturization, material flexibility and compatibility.

What are the fundamentals of successful system integration?

There are four fundamental steps in system integration: reliability, flexibility, cost and compatibility. Reliability is fundamental for the robustness of the developed solutions and their components. Flexibility is related to the capability of materials to be integrated with a high degree of freedom in any shape, geometry and figure. Costs are a central aspect of innovation and depend on market demand and the ability to penetrate new needs and markets. Compatibility is not only related to material-to-material but also to material-to-process and material-to-function.

Don’t miss Nello Li Pira’s presentation, ‘When materials meet electronics: novel frontiers in automotive’ at the Future of Automotive Interiors Conference Europe. More information about the conference and its most current lineup can be found here.

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