By Liz White, UT staffBurscheid, Germany-Automotive interiors and seating supplier Johnson Controls Inc. is using a new reaction-injection-moulding technology for the first time, in the instrument panel of a medium-segment vehicle. JCI says the method gives a "high-quality and cost-effective moulded skin that allows even very complex designs to be applied over large surfaces." The supplier stresses that surface design of instrument panels plays an important role in a vehicle interior: pleasant 'feel' and high-quality looks are vital.With this new technology, JCI said it can, for the first time, carry out the entire process in-house. In contrast to conventional RIM, using two material components, only one material, aliphatic polyurethane, is needed. RIM alpha-as JCI has christened the technology-reduces process times significantly, while giving a high-quality, soft-touch surface. Moulded skins are moving into lower vehicle segments, because of the benefits they bring, pointed out Krister Gamaggio, director product and business development for interiors at Johnson Controls, in a company statement. "We see high market potential for our new RIM alpha technology, particularly in the lower medium and upper medium segments." Currently a single-colour system is being used, which JCI said may initially be exploited in series production in Europe. A two-colour version is also being developed and JCI said this will be ready for series production from around 2007. One advantage of RIM alpha is that the skin can be combined with any substrate, allowing a high-quality surface on plastics and on materials reinforced with glass or natural fibres. A closed mould allows surface thickness to be controlled, which JCI says helps in making hidden airbag doors."