Show Review 2018

2018 show provides visitors with a glimpse of the future of automotive interiors

  • 3,000 visitors and innovations galore!
  • New trends and new technologies draw the auto interiors community to Stuttgart

Exhibitors and visitors to the 2018 edition of Automotive Interiors Expo were united in their praise of the show as an extremely useful and valuable event in terms of both making new contacts and discovering the latest technologies and innovations.

“I’m really impressed with all the different companies that are here and all the progressive products and solutions they are exhibiting,” said Margreet de Kok, senior scientist at Holst Centre. “The conference sessions and presentations cover a wide range of topics, and it’s great to see so many people active in the field here.”

“It’s our first year here, and we’ve had some really good levels of interest,” added Emma Matthews, brand and marketing manager at Leedum, which displayed its latest breakthrough, LED seat piping.

Carlos Bandres, an R&D Engineer at CTAG – Automotive Technology Centre of Galicia, noted: “The show is very good – we’ve had a lot of new contacts for the products we have here, so it’s been good for us.”

Meanwhile, first-time visitor Luis Silva, engineering manager at Trecar, was impressed with the breadth of exhibitors and complimentary technologies on display: "My impressions of the show are very good. I found the machines for embroidery and leather perforation particularly interesting."

“There are a lot of companies and competitors from a number of different countries here. There’s so much to take in, I think it’s all really interesting,” said Rohail Qadri, a consultant with MPR China Certification.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here and from my first experience it’s fantastic! I’m looking for potential customers and it’s been very good so far,” said Sebastian Bauer, key account manager, IDEAL Automotive.

More exhibitors than ever before

Automotive Interiors Expo Europe 2018 once again provided unparalleled access to the latest advancements, announcements, trends and innovations in automotive interiors from over 140 exhibitors, who welcomed a record audience of 3,000 attendees to their booths over the full three days of the show (June 5, 6, 7, 2018, Stuttgart, Germany).

Described as “the A to Z of car interiors”, with exhibitors’ products found in just about every car manufacturer in the world, from BMW to Ferrari and Volkswagen to name a few, visitors were treated to more new materials, technologies and concepts than ever before.

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.

Visitors could also explore and experience the present and future of interior design, how autonomy will impact on materials and lighting, the rise of display technology and how nanotechnologies and printed electronics will offer an exciting new world of possibilities and functionality for passengers.

Automotive Interiors Expo Europe was held alongside four complementary events – Automotive Testing Expo Europe, Engine Expo Europe, Global Automotive Components and Suppliers Expo, and Autonomous Vehicle Technology World Expo, which all took place in adjoining halls at the Messe Stuttgart. Some 14,000 visitors flooded through the doors over the full three days (June 5, 6, 7) of the combined event – in all, some 800 companies showcased the next generation in automotive technologies and services.

Future forecasts

Exhibitors were in bold mood when asked to forecast the future direction of the industry. Juha Kokkonen, CEO of Canatu, a developer and manufacturer of 3D formable and flexible transparent conductive films and touch sensors, predicted the death of the humble button: “Fundamentally, there is a move from physical switches to touch and voice,” said Kokkonen, speaking on the first day of the show. “I see a lot of OEMs moving in that direction: the Mercedes S-Class, Porsche Panamera, Range Rover Velar, for example. The key question is how to bring an easy, intuitive user experience.”

His views were echoed by Japanese component manufacturer Screen Laminatech’s Koji Hara, who emphasised the ever-growing size and role of screens inside the vehicle: “The display is a key material in the future car interior,” he said. “The next generation of displays might be installed on the roof or door, with one use for information, and the other for lighting, as you can also use displays to replace lighting [components]. This is very important.”

In fact, interior lighting was a key theme at this year’s show: “Lighting will perform two roles: firstly, as a passenger in an autonomous vehicle you need to relax, and lighting can be used to create a specific atmosphere like you would feel at home, or it can be used to correspond to a passenger’s mood,” said Roch de Preneuf, business development director at EFi Lighting, speaking on the first day.

“Secondly, when the vehicle needs to warn the driver to take back control, lighting might be used as an alert message. The key thing is we are going to need more and more lighting but without ruining the aesthetics of a vehicle – it should be hidden until lit, such as our Light Guide product.”

Other vendors chose to highlight the exciting new developments underway in in-car entertainment, driven in part by the increasing time for leisure offered to occupants of autonomous vehicles. CTAG – Automotive Technology Centre of Gallicia, a non-profit R&D outfit devoted to supporting the automotive industry, was in attendance at Automotive Interiors Expo to promote a novel system for sound.

“Any part of the car can be a speaker,” said Carlos Bandres, R&D Engineer at CTAG. “In an autonomous car, you might not be facing forward. You might be facing backward or you might be in a novel position, so with any part being a speaker you can adjust the sound for the people inside the car.”

The system displayed consisted of a mock cockpit with a car seat, two doors and a dash – all with integrated speakers. “It’s more like a home cinema system – you have a TV in the front and the seat vibrates to things like explosions in action movies,” explained Bandres.

Innovation Design Forum

Meanwhile, a wealth of expert voices discussed the latest industry issues during Automotive Interiors Expo’s free-to-attend Innovation Design Forum. Leading speakers at the 2018 event included Dr Paul Lacharmoise, director, Eurecat Technology Centre, who delivered a presentation entitled ‘Printed electronics: The next generation of interior design’; Dr Antti Keränen, CTO of TactoTek, who presented a paper entitled ‘Merging form and function with injection-molded structural electronics (IMSE)’; and Rich Byczek, global technical director, Intertek, who helped the audience to better ‘Understand BSR (buzz, squeak and rattle) evaluation’.

A highlight from the last day of the Innovation Design Forum was a particularly interesting presentation from Byczek’s Intertek colleague, Dorine Berns, entitled ‘Navigating the automotive VOC test method roadmap’.

“People spend a lot of time in their car and VOCs can be health hazardous,” explained Berns, VOC technical lead Europe. “It’s a closed circulation and emissions from components can be in the air. There are also environmental regulations, which all differ depending on what region you are in,” she continued.

At first it was just the OEMs doing their own testing, but now governments are getting involved, with the European Union, Chinese and South Koreans setting their own standards, which all OEMs therefore have to conform to.

“There are numerous methods for testing for VOCs, all the way from individual components to a complete test of the entire car, where the vehicle is placed inside a large chamber and the quality of the air inside the car is measured. The ultimate goal for an OEM is to pass this test,” she added.

After such a successful 2018 event, the show’s organisers are now planning an even better edition in 2019: the dates for your diary are May 21, 22, 23, 2019 (Messe Stuttgart, Germany).

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