Printable electronics: Future automotive technologies

With the potential for improved control and operation through printed sensors, conformable, integrated displays and lighting, printable electronics will provide users with a new and improved driving experience.

The technology is starting to be embedded in mass market applications. The use of cost effective printing processes creates the opportunity for low cost manufacturing of electronic circuits on rigid or flexible surfaces. Printable electronic products have the potential to be thinner, lighter and more rugged, leading to the creation of a whole new range of products such as flexible displays, large-area energy efficient lighting, printed logic & memory, sensors, batteries, low cost solar cells and entirely new form factors for functional electronic devices.

3The crucial advantage of printable electronics for the automotive industry is that the technology enables outstanding quality displays, lighting and capacitive touch sensors to be embedded into the curved surfaces of the car. Future vehicles will have customised interactive cabin designs as the dashboard, central console, seats, ceiling and more. These new interactive surfaces will be able to adapted to driver and passenger needs. In addition, ultra-thin, conformable and large area OLED lights can be applied directly to the car’s body to achieve futuristic internal and external illuminations embedded in the cars design.The flexible and conformable nature of printable electronics means that in the future, innovative automobile concepts can be developed using model variants which allow for on the fly real-time changes during manufacturing, which are not only low carbon and highly efficient to run, but also to manufacture.

Printable electronics can easily functionalise the complicated geometries in vehicle design due to the flexibility and freedom in system layout. The integration of functionality with minimal space and weight constraints means that there will be no screws, buttons and knobs to protrude the densely packed innards of the car, leading to new pioneering vehicle designs and low cost manufacturing.

Printed capacitive sensors can also be integrated into the structure of the vehicle to measure pressure, movement and monitor structural integrity, as well as activating entertainment systems creating the opportunity for a number of new designs. Printed sensors and switches are also robust in nature as the sensor function within printed switches are not subject to wear.

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