2017 Show Report

Inaugural Automotive Interiors Expo proves to be a huge success!

The first ever Automotive Interiors Expo in Novi, Michigan has set a very high standard for future years, with visitors and exhibitors alike united in their praise of the show’s dedicated focus and convenient location in Novi. Held alongside two companion events, a total of 1,200 people attended the event, which was staged in mildly extraordinary circumstances – a complete water outage that affected the first two days!

An inaugural taster of what’s to come, this year’s event was limited by the current size of the Suburban Collection Showplace, which, following the completion of a planned major expansion in summer 2018, will enable the show to more than double its size for next year, with space to accommodate at least 200 exhibitors.

Some 75 exhibiting companies unveiled exciting technology debuts live on the show floor, as exemplified by MacDermid Enthone, a leading provider of corrosion reduction chemicals, wear resistance and surface aesthetics, which unveiled its newest REACH-compliant trivalent chromium plating process.

The TriMac ECLIPSE is designed to deposit a dark decorative chromium layer over bright or satin nickel deposits. The dark coating is suitable for a range of decorative automotive applications, including door handles, grilles and exterior trim.

“The process offers exceptional CASS performance and resistance to attack from calcium chloride-containing salts, with the deposit consistent over normal current density ranges and UV stable,” said Chrissy Pullara, decorative business development and product manager at MacDermid Enthone Industrial Solutions. “What’s more, the process is tolerant to current interruptions, can provide a more uniform metal distribution and reduces or eliminates high current density burning when compared with conventional hexavalent systems.”

On the Diamond Coatings booth, the developer of indium tin oxide and optical coatings solutions announced the opening of its new US$3m manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona. The factory, which covers an area of 2,150m2 (7,000ft2), is equipped with in-house-built machinery and has an annual coating capacity of 38,000m2 (125,000ft2). One of the largest trim manufacturers in the world, Grupo Antolin, is supplied by the facility.

“The new facility was established in order to expand our presence on the US market as we’ve been successful supplying to the European market for 10 years now, with reject levels less than 1ppm,” said Diamond Coatings president and owner Jason A Eite.

Elsewhere on the show floor, Galva Decoparts highlighted how its new production plant adds to its injection molding and tooling manufacturing capabilities for plastic parts. The Indian company, which specializes in tooling, fabrication, injection molding, vacuum metalizing and painting for plastic parts, and chrome plating, will start commercial supply from its new greenfield plant in January 2018, allowing it to double its capacity for chrome plating and subassemblies. Its injection molding capabilities are from 50 to 850 tons, with its painting unit able to cover components up to 300mm.

“We work with clients from concept to product realization, providing electroplating in sizes up to 2,400 x 1,500mm for a bright chrome finish,” said Hardik B Chheda, director of Galva Decoparts. “We’re also the only Indian company to run a 24-hour satin process, up to 1,600 x 1,500mm.”

Finally, ZSK spent much of the show in discussions with industry innovators about its capabilities in adding technical functions to materials. This unique technology can be applied on various types of materials, such as carbon or fabric, for integration in different areas of the vehicle, to create contemporary new products that respond to touch.

The technique is, for example, already applied by several major seating manufacturers to produce heated seats, which are supplied to vehicle OEMs including Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

ZSK national sales manager Nick Mattina said, “A potential future application could be in infrared heating in vehicles. This is particularly relevant for electric vehicles where efficiency is extremely important; instead of climate control, this technical embroidery could be applied to heat just one area of a vehicle – i.e. in the armrest, the A-pillars and B-pillars. We’ve also spoken to people looking at using it on fabric to open or close the windows, for example.”

Visitors to Automotive Interiors Expo, Novi, Michigan were impressed with the diversity of technologies on display, as well as the networking opportunities that the expo presented.

“For an industry professional working within interiors, the show provides a concentration of companies, enabling you to see a large number of people face-to-face in one go,” said Adam Halsband, managing director, Ruhl Strategic Partners. “I visited to understand the latest industry trends in advanced materials and manufacturing, so the interiors section initially drew me in, but I saw some interesting sensors and testing equipment, too.”

Other visitors, such as Joe Kornowski, CTO of JTK, also had their eyes on specific technologies to help with their requirements: “All of the interior technologies on show here are super impressive, especially all the robotic machines that make the interiors. I was looking for an embroidery machine that embroiders wires right into the cloth, and another machine that allows you to stitch LEDs and circuit boards straight into the fabric. I found both. It’s really fascinating stuff.”

Likewise, John Taggart, director of business development at Synapse Business, said, “There’s just so much technology on display; the technical content is awesome. This is a great showcase for anybody interested in the interiors market.”

Vijay Gunasekaran, a student at Kettering University in Michigan, also found the show to be beneficial from an academic standpoint: “I’m doing a project on styrenic components and finishes and this is the best place to learn about what’s happening in the automotive interiors industry. I’ve met some great companies whose insight is going to help me a lot with my work.”

Exhibitors were equally pleased with the quality of those in attendance. “This show was fantastic for building our contacts in the area. We were so busy we didn’t even get a chance to look around the rest of the show,” said Jason A Eite, president and owner of Diamond Coatings. “I’m confident we’ll secure some business as a result, having met many OEMs, including Ford, GM, Grupo Antolin, Omron, AGM Automotive and Yangfeng.”

“The benefits of attending the show were tremendous; the networking opportunity with a varied supply base in particular was phenomenal,” enthused Alan Wagner, director, Hyundai Dymos Michigan LLC. “We invited a number of our current customers along and potential clients who found it extremely valuable too, not just with our products but with other producers who were serendipitous. Another element I really liked was the diversity of products and services on display; we don’t just make seats, we test them, so there was a lot of crossover.”

Pam Phipps, sales manager, Necal Corporation, said her company exhibited with the aim to further pursue contacts within the industry and promote the Necal brand within the automotive interior trim business. She did not leave disappointed: “We had a great reception and, while at the show, we even sent out a sample to be produced in prototype form for an OEM! Overall, we made many contacts within the interior business that we would have never known about had we not attended the show.”

And Marvic Mendez, automotive sales manager at Tenowo Nonwovens, added, “We are a new company in the US market, and the show enabled us to make valuable connections with several potential customers, such as Tier 1 seating suppliers, including Magna, Faurecia, TS Tech and Lear. One particular benefit was making contact with a company that can help us obtain some data, which will help us sell our material to OEMs.”

Automotive Interiors Expo will return to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, USA, on October 23, 24, 25, 2018.

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