From fabrics to lighting, foams to fasteners, veneers to laminates, and seating to switches – the 2019 edition of Automotive Interiors Expo was the biggest yet, with a record number of attendees enjoying the latest products and innovations from over 180 exhibitors.
Meanwhile the free-to-attend Style & Technology Studio saw some 40 expert speakers address everything from plastic metalization through to the integration of optical fiber for interior customization.
Attendees were able to touch, feel and sample colors, textures and quality finishes, while also discovering new HMI materials, lighting technologies, advanced materials, and manufacturing processes.
Leonhard Kurz displayed a number of eye-catching, interactive backlit interior component concepts, including a backlit door trim featuring an innovative ‘day-night’ design. Inspired by nature and called Cloudy Feathers, the trim boasts touch functionality realized by capacitive POLY TC touch sensors, manufactured by Kurz subsidiary, PolyIC.
“We’re here at Automotive Interiors Expo to show the possibilities when you combine electronic foils with function foils and touch sensors, in a design context,” explained Thomas Hagen, area sales manager for Kurz, during the first morning of the show. “The show has already been very busy, with very exclusive visitors coming from all over the world.”
Toyota Boshoku displayed an exquisitely finished door trim for the Lexus LS Series, featuring ornamental cut glass and hand-folded satin detailing, to highlight its expertise in Japanese craftsmanship. The door trim was made using the company’s innovative, lightweight Kenaf natural-fiber based material, which uses a unique, patented method whereby heat-expandable microcapsules fill the gaps between the fibers during molding, to provide a rigidity comparable to that of conventional materials, but with a 20% weight saving. “We want to show new technology, but with traditional Japanese thinking, too,” explained Shinji Tominaga, general manager, R&D, Toyota Boshoku.
Webasto Roof & Components SE came to Stuttgart to display its latest innovation for its panoramic sunroofs that feature integrated ambient lighting, as already installed on the BMW 7 series. Individual designs, including logos, can now be printed on the panel. The graphics become visible when light shines through, without compromising transparency. Further features include dynamic lighting effects and flexible light guides that are up to 4m long. These can be installed within the frame of the roof system and enable a variety of light signatures and intensities.
“The Panorama Roof is the only one to offer surface ambient lighting effects – it can make patterns across a much bigger surface area,” explained Webasto’s Oliver Heisel, innovation management, advanced engineering, sunroofs and components. “We are seeing great interest from China for ambient light functions, and this product is already installed in both the BMW 7 Series and 5 Series.”
With modern car interiors full of screens, the last thing you want is for them to reflect light and distract the driver. Hence MacDermid Enthone Industrial Solutions was in Stuttgart to debut a version if its XtraForm Antiglare film, which is particularly suited for displays. The films are specifically designed for deep-draw 3D film insert molding (FIM) applications and automatic processing, and are available in a range of different gloss levels and clarity.
“XtraForm Antiglare is an automotive-approved formable and textured film that allows images to be seen without the distraction of surface glare from bright lights or the reflection of moving objects,” explained Alan Gardner, MacDermid’s global marketing manager.
“With this solution, applicators can develop antiglare surfaces of 15 to 75 gloss units. We’re using this show to demonstrate how the textured surface gives high-quality optics, through an exceptional combination of gloss, clarity and haze, and feel – making it ideal for dashboards and display units with high-performance characteristics.”
Recticel Automotive revealed its new Colo-Sense X Lite high-performance polyurethane skin for automotive interior applications, which offers substantial weight savings for OEMs, combined with premium optic and haptic characteristics, as well as high quality and durability levels.
A spin off from the company’s already popular Colo-Sense Lite product (installed on the new Audi A6), Colo-Sense X Lite offers a further 20% weight reduction by using less material; up to 50% VOC emission reduction for compliance with the most stringent industry requirements; and improved flexibility, making it less sensitive to deformation – an important logistics consideration where more efficient stacking is required.
“X Lite is ready for the market, today, and is ideal for instrument panels but also applicable for gloveboxes, middle consoles and door panels, but our main focus is instrument panels,” explained Yvan Vanluchene, Recticel’s perceived quality manager. “At the beginning of the show we already encountered some interested OEMs who visited us, as well as some Tier 1s that were passing by – it is very useful to be able to make connections to such people.”
Prettl Lighting & Interior GmbH used the 2019 edition of Automotive Interiors Expo to showcase its involvement in Rinspeed’s ‘microSNAP’ concept, which features an autonomous electric driving ‘skateboard’ unit with a detachable ‘pod’ body. The concept reflects a trend for small autonomous vehicles that swarm out to deliver their goods to the customer ‘just in time’ without detours. Delivery pods can be easily switched for two-seater ‘robo units’, which take the shortest route to convey passengers to their destinations efficiently and in comfort.
Prettl supplied the head- and tail-lights for the vehicle, which were designed with greater visibility for other road users, especially pedestrians, in mind. “Our new Intelligent Rear Light, featuring ISELED technology, which is integrated into the microSNAP, has 360 LEDs, but in a very thin housing, as every LED has its own microcontroller, so we don’t need so many cables,” explained Olaf Leifheit, CSO, Prettl Lighting & Interior GmbH.
“There are only four cables to control all these LEDs, which means the housing takes up a lot less space when assembling a car. Last year, we showed our first ambient lighting solutions for interiors and we had a great reaction. This year, especially with the concept car on the booth, it’s unbelievable – it’s been very busy with lots of visitors.”
Style & Technology Studio
Highlights from this year’s free-to-attend Style & Technology Studio, conveniently located to side of the show floor, included an exclusive presentation on the first day from Steve Crijns, senior design manager at McLaren Automotive Ltd, who revealed the interior design story behind the Speedtail, McLaren’s new three-seater Hyper GT, which features a central driving position.
The car has a £2m price tag and is limited to 106 units, all of which were sold before the project even started. “With a price tag like this, customer expectation is sky high and the pressure was on to deliver something truly special,” said Crijns. “The car is designed for maximum customization opportunities, which is where the future of hypercars and ultimate luxury is going. Each customer has a designer assigned to him/her to develop colors and materials that will be unique for each car.”
The second day saw Dr Klaus Philipp, manager for advanced development at Toyota Boshoku’s Prototype and Technology Center, present a range of future innovations for automotive seating with excellent ride comfort. As part of his presentation, he revealed the company’s latest seating concept, with a strong focus on the most important features of comfort: proper posture, appropriate support of the human body, efficient control of vibration transmission, and flexible fit considering the variety of human bodies and their individual differences.
Don’t miss next year’s show!
After such a successful 2019 event, the show’s organizers are now planning an even better edition in 2020: the dates for your diary are June 16, 17, 18, 2020 (Messe Stuttgart, Germany).