US chemicals producer Bayer MaterialScience has designed a concept console for cars based on a touch screen display which includes printed electronic capacitive switches.
The console, between the driver and passenger seats, incorporates Bayer's polycarbonate film, a backlit LCD display, printed hidden symbols and printed electronic capacitive switches.
Automotive companies are developing the concept. In one project Bayer's polycarbonate films and resins are being used to form an interior overhead console capacitive touch switch component. The film provides a uniform, low-gloss appearance and a very fine matte finish onto which layers of ink are printed, matching the car's interior colours and reduces fingerprints when the film is touched to activate the capacitive switches.
Additional layers of conductive ink are printed on the film in an engineered pattern, creating the electrical circuits for the switch that controls several vehicle functions, including interior lights, a garage door opener and inbuilt sunroof. After printing, the film is formed into the shape of the interior overhead console using high pressure forming, which maintains the functionality of the electrical circuits. To complete the console assembly, Bayer's Makrolon polycarbonate resin is injection moulded behind the film's second surface.
The capacitive switch stack has a thin profile, reducing component thickness from 2.75 in a quarter of an inch and reducing weight by 70 % when compared with traditional overhead consoles.
Printed electronics components and technologies have widespread potential applications in cars, not least because they provide additional circuitry and connection without adding weight. Recently BASF showed a radical concept for printed electronics - an OLED interior roof for providing lighting. Konarka is working with Webasto, in Germany, to integrate its printed solar cells with car sunroofs. But it will be some years, including cycles of product development and testing, before the automotive industry incorporates printed electronics into production lines.
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