Fabrics are the automotive future
Seats, airbags, hoses, head linings and foot mats prove it: fibres are an integral part of modern cars. Nevertheless, the textile industry is not sitting back. At Techtextil, suppliers present the latest material and product visions for tomorrow’s (e-)car, including operating elements made of fabric, embroidered charging coils and knitted heating systems.
For example, Tübingen-based textile supplier Rökona presents two new developments, ‘Interfabrics’ and ‘Lumi Fabrics’. The company, which makes interlaid scrims for head linings and vehicle pillars on behalf of automobile manufacturers and suppliers, aims to introduced textile lighting effects and functions into car interiors. “Cars have lots of textiles that can be activated for interactive purposes”, says Rökona CEO Arved Westerkamp. If it was up to him, the mirrors, windows and lighting of tomorrow’s cars would be operated via textile surfaces.
Textile induction charging
Developed together with partners, such as Daimler, BASF and Bosch, the German Institutes of Textile and Fibre Research Denkendorf (DITF) are showing embroidered induction-charging coils in Frankfurt. Although contactless induction charging is extremely important for future electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, there is only limited space under them, which makes it very difficult to design compact induction-charging systems with high power densities. “We have developed an embroidery process to produce an inductive charging coil”, says DITF researcher Sathis Kumar Selvarayan. In this way, it is possible to apply complex and exacting designs to a based fabric in a space-saving way. Using the scalable and automatable process, copper strands are fixed with polyester fibres with the embroidered coil subsequently being cast like a fibre composite in plastic.
Knitted heating systems for electric vehicles
A knitted heating system for electric-vehicle interiors is being shown by Balingen-based Roma-Strickstoff-Fabrik Rolf Mayer at Techtextil. Fitted in doors, seats and foot mats, the new system heats electric cars more efficiently and, therefore, with less drain on the battery. The results of a preliminary study by the Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS) are encouraging. With the knitted heating system, the energy consumption of a vehicle can be cut by a kilowatt (approx. 45 percent) with no loss of comfort. This is equivalent to increasing the range of a two-seat electric car by 19 percent (CADC rural driving cycle) in comparison to a conventional fan heating system. Although the project from 2012 never really took off due to a lack of funding, “We have registered a significant increase in interest in textile heating elements in the wake of recent upheavals in the automobile sector”, says Jürgen Reichart, the Head of Roma’s Technical Textiles Division. Accordingly, he is showing the current state-of-the art in terms of fibre heating at Techtextil. After all, “Engineers from automobile manufacturers and suppliers are regular attendees of the fair.”
“Almost half of the around 1,500 exhibitors present new products, materials, processes and research results relevant to cars and trucks, as well as emergency and safety vehicles”, says Techtextil Director Michael Jänecke. Researchers, developers, designers and buyers from the automobile sector come to the fair to find innovations and ideas for tomorrow’s vehicles. According to the Association of the Finishing, Yarns, Woven Fabrics and Technical Textiles Industry (IVGT), there are over 40 textile applications in modern cars. And it will not be long before there are several more.
Cover image: Yanfeng Automotive Interiors