- CoverForm wins renowned SPE Grand Award 2015
- Touchpad integrated into center console
- Injection molding and application of scratch-resistant coating in a single process
- More durable than smartphone surfaces
In-car multimedia is a popular feature and part of everyday life. But it can lead to dangerous distractions. A particularly critical moment is when the driver diverts their gaze from the road to operate the multimedia monitor or control unit. An emerging trend is therefore head-up displays, a monitor in the driver’s field of vision, which work in a similar way to devices used by jet pilots, where the driver is given information directly via a projection on the front windscreen. Another trend is multimedia control units where drivers can simply use their hands to get a response without having to look. Automotive supplier Continental has developed a control unit for Daimler with unique features: a three-dimensional touch pad based on the CoverForm technology of Evonik and KraussMaffei.
Touchpad integrated into center console
The touchpad is integrated into the center console of several of Mercedes’ current model lines. It allows drivers to operate the multimedia system in an intuitive way smartphone users are accustomed to-by swiping, zooming and scrolling. Drivers can also write letters on the touch-sensitive surface using their fingers, to enter a satnav destination, for example.
Device can distinguish between coincidence or intentional touch
The touchpad then confirms the action via a vibration that the driver can feel, similar to a button, which means the driver can use the system without having to look at it and can therefore concentrate on the road at the same time. The touchpad, which is slightly curved, can even be used as a comfortable palm rest, as it is able to detect whether contact with the surface was purely coincidence or whether it was intentional.
More durable than smartphone surfaces
Touchpad surfaces naturally come under more strain the more they come into contact with human hands, and it is therefore important that the faceplate of the touchpad is even tougher than that of a smartphone-that is, extremely scratch and chemical resistant. “Rings and freshly-moisturized hands pose a very big problem for many materials,” says Sven Schröbel, from Evonik Industries. For this reason, the hardest type of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), such as Plexiglas (in the Americas: Acrylite) combined with an additional coating is employed.
Injection molding and application of scratch-resistant coating in a single process
Traditionally, the method used for manufacturing three-dimensional components with such features was injection molding followed by a separate lacquer coating, a process involving 14 steps in total. A complex method. Now chemicals company Evonik and machine manufacturer KraussMaffei came up with a new, special technology: CoverForm. It enables injection molding and the application of a scratch-resistant coating to be combined in a single, fully-integrated process, making the manufacture considerably quicker and more cost-effective, and the component suitable for mass production.
Several years of joint development work
The new touchpad is the result of several years of joint development work between Evonik, KraussMaffei, Continental and Daimler. For a number of months now, Continental has been using the CoverForm process to manufacture the top layer of the touchpad and also assembles the entire device. More than a million faceplates are expected to be produced as early as 2016.
CoverForm to produce scratch-resistant plastic coverings for consumer electronics
But it is not just the automotive industry where CoverForm has found its purpose. It is also used as an alternative to produce anti-glare, scratch-resistant plastic coverings for consumer electronics, household devices, home technology and watch covers. Evonik is marketing CoverForm together with KraussMaffei. This means that customers only have to deal with practically one source-from the conceptual phase through to the start of series production.