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DirectCoating: truly seamless surfaces for car interiors

New car designs integrate smart functions into many interior surfaces. Coating manufacturer Votteler worked with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Reichle to apply Covestro DirectCoating solutions in a range of seamless interior trim surfaces using cost-effective polyurethane reaction injection molding (RIM) technology.
Task

Enable smart interior surfaces for in-car design freedom

Votteler is a leading producer of coatings for the automotive sector. Like many automotive suppliers and vehicle design professionals, they are constantly on the lookout for more cost-efficient production processes, especially when it comes to producing car interior trim parts for seamless surfaces that incorporate smart functions. 
 
For automotive OEMs and their suppliers, the task is to deliver a wide variety of transparent, translucent and solid-color structures, with surface characteristics that range from leather haptics to the feel of glass and metal, while also housing smart display, ambient lighting and touch control functions. Above all, this range of smart surfaces and durable coatings must be produced cost-effectively for wide uptake in the automotive sector.  In addition to allowing vehicle designer imaginations to soar, these smart components and their plastic coatings also need to provide resistance to chemical exposure, sunlight and tough everyday use.
 
Direct polyurethane coatings like PURIFLOW® from Votteler, when applied with reaction injection mold (RIM) technology, can serve as a cost-effective solution. This enables new smart car interior designs that work easily as a lounge, as a workspace, and as a driver cockpit. This can provide an in-car environment that includes a feeling of safety with comfort and information.

With DirectCoating polyurethane raw materials and products from Covestro, we can facilitate seamless car interior design. Our Puriflow Coating Systems deliver exciting surface trim characteristics including high scratch resistance and a self-healing look, along with haptics ranging from soft leather up to hard metal.

Manuel Seiz

Business Unit Manager, Votteler Lackfabrik GmbH & Co. KG

Explore our digital DirectCoating exhibit for yourself!

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Challenge

Unite partners’ expertise for cost-effective smart surfaces

The challenge was for four strong partners with varied types of material and process know-how to manufacture a wide range of seamless vehicle trim components with integrated smart functions, and to achieve this cost-effectively. 
 
 
In implementing this innovative solution, Votteler drew on the expertise of Reichle, a family-run company with Germany's largest laser welding location, which provided its manufacturing know-how with precision laser-engraved injection molds. In parallel, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany came to the party with pearl effect pigments that could enable a range of color and transparency effects with Votteler’s own Puriflow Coating Systems. Covestro provided material and process expertise that proved key to the project’s success. 
 
 
This process meant rethinking and simplifying the traditional plastic injection molding and polyurethane spray coating processes for interior car parts. The partners saw Covestro DirectCoating technology as the enabler for a much simpler production process that could successfully deliver the wide range of haptics, transparency, ambient lighting effects, and the seamless, premium metallic and glass-like surface characteristics required in modern vehicles. 
 
 
In the DirectCoating process, the plastic substrate is first injected into the cavity of a mold. The resulting component is then transferred to a second, slightly wider mold with its additional width exactly matching the intended thickness of the coating layer. The near-zero VOC (volatile organic compound) coating is injected into this cavity using a reaction injection molding (RIM) mixing head, yielding a precision part with integrated coating in just two steps. The resulting molded polyurethane part requires little rework and offers high resistance to chemical and light exposure.

Our precision laser-engraved molds enabled a wide range of seamless, smart interior trim parts to be produced in a two-step process with no overspray. The resulting parts require no rework and little finishing.

Marco Reichle

CEO,Reichle Technologiezentrum GmbH

Solution

Versatile molding solution with DirectCoating

Our DirectCoating polyurethane coating raw materials enabled Votteler, Reichle and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany to produce a wide range of molded interior car trim components with tough plastic coatings and smart functionality using a simplified two-stage process.
 
Employing laser-engraved RIM molds made by Reichle, the plastic substrate was injected into the first cavity, followed by near-zero VOC Desmodur® and Desmophen® liquid coating materials in the wider mold, applied via a reaction injection molding head. Desmodur® and Desmophen® can be adjusted in curing reactivity to ensure a fast and reliable RIM process and enable polyurethane coating characteristics and haptics  ranging from soft touch to hard glass-like surfaces. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany effect pigments meanwhile give the materials their light and color accents in Votteler's Puriflow systems. Film insert molding enables the integration of smart functions into the varied surfaces. Makrolon® Ai and Bayblend® polycarbonate grades have been specifically developed to give molded parts enhanced optical properties. 
 
The extensive range of structured surface types, diverse colors, backlighting and haptic effects ranging from leather-similar to glass-like, all widen the interior design possibilities for vehicle designers who are seeking to create dramatic, truly seamless smart surfaces for the cars of tomorrow. DirectCoating also brings production advantages over traditional coating methods, including a shorter and quicker process, no overspray, and no need for a separate drying step.
 
Creating smart interior trim parts cost effectively was a four-sided collaborative effort. For more information Votteler automobile trim coatings, please click here.
More detail on Reichle laser engraving and mold technology can be found here. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany with its industrial pigments are at home here, and you can contact Covestro for coating raw materials and polycarbonate grades here

Truly seamless interior trim parts require many different colors and degrees of transparency. Using Merck pigments and DirectCoating technology from Covestro, Votteler was able to create a wide portfolio of smart interior trim surfaces, containing everything from smart displays to ambient lighting.

Dirk Zahner

Global Head Automotive Marketing,Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Key Benefits

  • Cost-effective: Reaction injection molding enables quicker production without a drying step.
  • Design freedom: PURIFLOW® Polyurethane coatings from Votteler enable many textures, finishes and transparencies.
  • Precise: Precision RIM parts mean no overspray and less rework and finishing.
  • High quality: Process enables glass-like surface coatings with premium characteristics.
  • Future-proof: Makrolon® Ai and Bayblend® grades meet future needs in optical properties today.

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