Car interior parts with seamless, intelligent surfaces

DirectCoating technology enables design, comfort and infotainment

Cooperation between Covestro, Votteler, Reichle and Merck
With the help of Covestro's DirectCoating technology, automotive interior parts with seamless, smart surfaces can be produced quickly and effectively. © Covestro

How can intelligent surfaces provide more design freedom and functionality in car interiors and still be produced cost-effectively? Covestro investigated this important question together with a team of three industry partners: Votteler Lackfabrik GmbH & Co. KG, laser texture specialist Reichle Technology Center and Merck KGaA as a manufacturer of pearl effect pigments.

The result is an effective concept for the production of interior parts with seamless, intelligent surfaces using Covestro's DirectCoating technology. The coated component is produced in two steps using a polyurethane reaction injection molding (PU-RIM) process.

Covestro will showcase the project during Digital Expo 2021 from September 14-16. For more explanations, join Covestro experts Dr. Markus Mechtel, Thomas Michaelis and Esther Grau Zuriaga for a webinar starting at 10 a.m. CEST on September 14.

Multiple challenges
For the current development of dashboards for car interiors, Covestro collaborated with Votteler Lackfabrik, Reichle Technologiezentrum and Merck KGaA. © Covestro
Car manufacturers and their suppliers face the challenge of integrating smart functions such as display and ambient lighting and touch control, in addition to a wide range of visual and haptic surface properties. Above all, the aim is to manufacture durable products as cost-effectively as possible in order to achieve broad acceptance in the industry. The goal is car interiors that can easily serve as a lounge, workspace and driver cockpit. In this way, an environment can be created in the car that combines comfort and infotainment with a feeling of safety.

 

PURIFLOW® paint systems from Votteler Lackfabrik GmbH & Co. KG enable outstanding surface properties such as good scratch resistance and a self-healing effect, but also a feel that ranges from soft leather to hard metal. These benefits, and the ability to create completely seamless surfaces, are thanks in part to polyurethane coating raw materials from Covestro.

 

In implementing the innovative solution, Votteler drew on the manufacturing expertise of Reichle Technologiezentrum GmbH, which operates Europe's largest laser texturing site. The company provided laser-textured PU-RIM molds for the project. Covestro supplied process technology know-how, coating raw materials from the Desmodur® and Desmophen® ranges without solvent additives, and Makrolon® and Bayblend® polycarbonate plastics, which proved to be a key to the project's success. Effect pigments from Merck® KGaA can be used to achieve various color and transparency effects.

DirectCoating: innovative technology for producing coated parts

 

In the DirectCoating process, the plastic substrate is first produced in an initial cavity by injection molding. The resulting part is then transferred to a second, minimally larger mold. The cavity between the substrate and the laser-engraved RIM mold corresponds exactly to the desired volume of the coating that is injected there. This creates a coated precision part in just two steps. It requires little rework and is highly resistant to chemicals and daylight. DirectCoating also offers advantages over conventional coating methods, including a shorter and faster process, no overspray and no need for a separate drying step.

 

About Covestro:

 

With 2020 sales of EUR 10.7 billion, Covestro is among the world’s leading polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative, sustainable solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. In doing so, Covestro is fully committed to the circular economy. The main industries served are the automotive and transportation industries, construction, furniture and wood processing, as well as electrical, electronics, and household appliances industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. At the end of 2020, Covestro has 33 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,500 people (calculated as full-time equivalents).

 

Forward-looking statements

 

This news release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Covestro AG. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Covestro’s public reports which are available at www.covestro.com. The company assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.