Car interiors of tomorrow: lighter, brighter, more functional.

Today and tomorrow, we will look at ‘high tex’ materials for seats, headlinings and panels. It is not only in the electric cars of tomorrow that the interiors are set to become feel-good zones with a host of different innovative features. Designers now have, at their disposal, new kinds of textiles and fibre-based lightweight composites that emit light and heat, conduct electricity and even have sensory capabilities. These developments – some of them still ‘hot from the laboratory’ – are meeting with interest from manufacturers of cars, lorries and buses alike. Often still in the research phase and, hence, hardly beyond the prototype stage, never mind in regular production and available for the mass market, they recommend themselves for applications in air, rail and sea travel because of their fantastically useful properties.

What can car drivers and other users expect to find between car carpets and headlinings over the next few years? Certainly a great deal of ergonomics, using sustainable and naturally effective materials and tactile surfaces that make it possible to create individuality of design in cars as well as elsewhere. The key focus here: cockpit lighting, adjustable mood lighting and touchpads for the driver, all tailored to the customers wishes. Korean manufacturers, Kia, have already risked a first step in the direction of light-emitting textiles in their city car ‘Soul’. In two versions of the model, a luminescent (unpowered, light-emitting) inscription with the word ‘Soul’ has been woven into the upper part of the seat back.

Meanwhile, German textile research’s dialogue with the automobile and motor-vehicle industry has moved on considerably; Sabine Gimpel, Head of Marketing at the Textile Research Institute Thuringia-Vogtland (Textilforschungsinstitut Thüringen-Vogtland – TITV) in Greiz, identifies several areas of application for smart textiles in car interiors, from the point of view of her research institution which specialises in textile micro-systems technology. Looking at electrically powered vehicles then this might, for instance, be new kinds of seat heaters. “Up to now, they have been deep in the squab. But there, the covering material acts as insulation. With new materials, it is possible to build the heating elements into the seat covers, the arm rest surfaces or the door panels and thus design the seat construction to be much lighter.”

Ms. Gimpel sees further opportunities in applications using sensitive textile panels for, say, determining what is on a seat squab (in a crash, if, say, there is only a handbag on the passenger seat, then the airbag won’t deploy) and for monitoring bio-signals by means of textile sensor technology to check on the driver’s current state of health. Ms. Gimpel, an expert in this field, is convinced that light-emitting textiles with woven LED threads and glare-free light sources, as well as woven electroluminescent surfaces, will meet the need for both orientation and ambience in cars of the future. In Greiz, continues the Head of Marketing, there is a technology that is just now reaching the operational stage of industrial – and hence cheap – manufacture of light-emitting textiles. With this technology, LEDs can be attached to conductive threads using an embroidering machine and the (soldered) contact then created. When this material is mass-produced, headlinings can be illuminated in a way that both saves energy and is individually tailored to the taste of the purchaser; so, too, can interior door panels.

Tomorrow, we will have the second part about exciting new products around light textiles and so-called “emotional light”

Background picture:  Source – TITV

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