Quest for ‘new-car smell’ dictates interior materials changes
The sensory elements of smell, touch, sound and sight are influencing material innovations for vehicle interiors more than ever.
Chinese buyers abhor certain new-vehicle smells. And with forecasters at IHS Automotive projecting annual light-duty passenger vehicle sales in China to reach 29 million by 2020, there are obvious financial motivations for ridding car and truck interiors of the objectionable odors associated with certain widely-used plasticizers and adhesives.
“That odor kind of goes hand-in-hand with VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) requirements- and China to a certain extent is going to lead how VOC limits are set,” Rose Ann Ryntz, Ph.D., Vice President of Advanced Development & Material Development at International Automotive Components (IAC), said in an interview with Automotive Engineering at the 2016 WardsAuto Interiors Conference in Detroit.
Although it's unlikely that all OEMs will have the same VOC specification standards, moving to organic chemicals is on the industry's docket, said Ryntz, moderator of a materials innovation panel at the conference.
“We're moving away from VOC-laden PVC slush [programs] at IAC, and we're looking to do more with polymeric plasticizers for slush PVC as well as slush TPE-type [projects]. We're also looking at how the construction of vacuum formed bi-laminates are put together with adhesives, since the adhesives can be a big source of VOC and odor,” she said.
3M debuted a new line of low-VOC attachment tapes at the WardsAuto conference. These thin tapes are designed for armrests, center consoles, instrument panels, door bolsters, and other interior applications that require bonding and dimensional stability during lamination.
The recently launched Xpreshn Lux, a low VOC surface material in Benecke-Kaliko's Xpreshn product line, gives a softtouch sensation to instrument panels, door trims and other cabin locales, according to Dominik Beckman, the company's Global Director of Marketing and Innovation Management. Benecke-Kaliko is part of the ContiTech group.
“It has an ultra-soft lacquer coating, and the formulation is ultra-soft as is the foam layer. The whole construction is ultra-soft. It's more than just a soft foam, Beckman said about Xpreshn Lux.
Company officials claim that Xpreshn Lux, making its global debut in the Cadillac XTS sold in China, is up to 500% softer than Tepeo, Benecke-Kaliko's low-density polyolefin foil used in surface materials.
Xpreshn Lux is thermoformed and an up-level Xpreshn version is in the final stages of development.
The new version “will be cut-and-sew for a TPO-type of material, so that's definitely different than the traditional processing method of vacuum-forming,” Beckman said.
New AUTOSAR platform: more freedom for vehicle electrical architectures
Because they require controllers that communicate with each other more randomly than the fairly dedicated links between current-day modules, advanced-safety, connectivity and autonomous features are altering vehicle electronic architectures. That's prompted the Automotive Open System Architecture (AUTOSAR) development partnership to devise a new standard that adapts to changeable communication patterns.
The AUTOSAR Adaptive Platform, currently targeted for completion in 2017, is designed to help engineers create more flexible electrical architectures. AUTOSAR Adaptive will provide a software framework for more complex systems and help engineers increase bandwidth by implementing Ethernet.
In forthcoming architectures as diverse as infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), increased and faster communication will be necessary to provide features and functions that can't be handled by dedicated modules alone. The rapid proliferation of electronic controls and communications has fueled growing acceptance of AUTOSAR and the new upgrade augments existing deployment of the standard.
“It's important not to think of AUTOSAR Adaptive as a replacement for AUTOSAR,” said Alexander Much, head of software systems engineering for car infrastructure at Elektrobit. “Currently, vehicles have very static architectures where brake and steering modules send a lot of messages to nodes that ‘know’ who and where all the units are,” he said. “Now, more dynamic things are coming, where nodes don't need to know where computers they are communicating with are located or when they're going to transmit.”
“AUTOSAR Adaptive will concentrate a bit more on ADAS needs in the short term,” said Kurt Krueger, North American Product Line Director for Embedded Software at Vector CANtech. “Highly automated driving systems must be dependable and have fail-safe operational capabilities. This can only be accomplished with high-performance microcontrollers, computing power, and high data transfer rates.”
Designed to meet key requirements with regard to autonomous driving, the AUTOSAR Adaptive Platform comes with features such as high data processing capacities, service-oriented communication and updates over the air, Rathgeber explained. He added that AUTOSAR strives to be a key enabler on the way to the self-driving car by making the new platform accessible to as many manufacturers, suppliers and developers as possible.
Among the development committee's goals is to create a dynamic system that includes middleware and supports complex operating systems using a Posix interface and multicore microprocessors. Its main communication approach is based on service-oriented communication and IP/Ethernet.
The platform will be capable of supporting adaptive software deployment while interacting with non-AUTOSAR systems.