By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News Staff
Detroit, Michigan -- Johnson Controls Inc. is stripping down auto interiors to reduce weight, and giving automakers a new design element to play with. But it may offer a threat to some of the accepted technologies in automotive skins.
In its re3 concept, unveiled 11 Jan at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, JCI showed door panels, instrument panels and other interior trim parts made without a traditional cover skin like PVC, urethane or thermoplastic olefin.
Instead, the company proposed improving the look of a resin and natural material blend normally used as an inner substrate. The concept, called Fibrewood, is compression moulded mix of thermoplastic and natural fillers such as kenaf and hemp, specially treated to create a smooth surface that will resist stains and fading.
"Typically, you're covering that with vinyl or different cover stocks, and we thought, why not leave that off?" said Danny Larsen, principal designer for interiors.
"There's a certain fashion or eco-statement that you're able to make with it. When you look at it, you might think: 'That's not very appealing. That's something I'd buy at the hardware store.' But, when you take that and add leather and chrome and other details to it, you create a whole new design aesthetic for the interior of the vehicle," Larsen said.
It's not just about design. By eliminating cover skins, JCI can reduce the weight of interior trim parts by 30 percent and simplify manufacturing, Warsaw said.