Spanish energy and chemicals company Repsol is working with Finland’s TactoTek to develop technology to make it possible to manufacture smart surfaces for automotive applications using polyolefins.
To date, such surfaces have usually been made with other plastic materials. However, in the automotive industry, polyolefins, with their versatility, physical and mechanical properties, are the materials that are most widely used. Repsol, a supplier of multiple products for the automotive sector, including polyolefins, invested in TactoTek at the end of 2019 through its Repsol Corporate Venturing investment fund. The company’s offering varies from including fuels and lubricants to polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyols, which may be found in numerous interior and exterior vehicle parts.
The Finnish company, which was founded in 2011 in Oulu, has developed a manufacturing process called 'in-mould structural electronics' or IMSE, which involves integrating printed electronics and standard electronic components, such as LEDs, into 3D injection moulded parts. With IMSE technology, just about any thin plastic surface can become a user interface without the need to incorporate mechanical buttons or other traditional controls.
The technology, which is also also known as plastronics (plastic integrated electronics), is already being used in the automotive industry, for example, through the integration of touch controls, wireless connectivity, and lighting in vehicle interior panels, as well as in consumer electronics to provide functional surfaces for any electronic device or in wearable products, electronic devices that are used as clothing or accessories.
Repsol is already a supplier of multiple products for the automotive sector, including fuels, lubricants, and different polymeric materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyols, which may be found in numerous interior and exterior vehicle parts.
Repsol has also adopted a new circular economy model to recover materials used in cars at the end of their useful life, for recycling back into the company’s manufacturing process. The plastics recovered in this way are reprocessed into new high-performance materials in Repsol’s Reciclex range.