Many things will change in the car of the future. New forms of mobility will turn the car of the future into a multifunctional, mobile living and working space. In the interior, there will be new functions, a trend towards individualisation, but also the desire to make the best and most comfortable use of space.
To make this new ‘living space’ functional, flexible and appealing, lightweight and easily mouldable plastics are the material of choice. That’s what Covestro, one of the world’s leading suppliers of premium polymers, wants the industry to believe.
The company has developed a continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRTP) which uses robust and lightweight Maezio material, while also providing outstanding opportunities for high-quality and aesthetic design. One such current example of what is possible is a space-saving, modular table concept for autonomous vehicles. Covestro has developed it in cooperation with the mechanical and process technology provider Engel Austria and Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe as a direct supplier to the automotive industry.
As thin as an Ultrabook but very durable
The objective was to construct a normal-sized table that is as thin as an Ultrabook, and can be stowed just as easily, for instance between the back seats, but is mechanically extremely durable.
This table measures 41 cm in length and 32 cm in width, with its thickness increasing from 5 mm on the outer edge towards the inside to 10 mm – which is less than half the thickness of conventional car tables. The later fitting of hinges, already accounted for in the moulding process, and ready-moulded trays for pen and tablet reduce the number of components and save weight.
Light and robust sandwich construction
An initial version featuring a sandwich construction is shown in the interior concept. The upper and lower sides each consist of 1 millimetre-thin layers of the polycarbonate composite material. The sandwich core is a rigid low-density polyurethane (PU) integral skin foam based on Baydur 20. Weighing just 690 grams, the table is twice the size of a conventional one and can even be loaded with 50 kg instead of 5 kg.
The manufacturing process was developed with partners at the LIT Factory of the Linz Institute of Technology (LIT) at Johannes Kepler University (JKU) in Linz, Austria. Here, with the help of digitalisation, potentials ranging from product development to reuse can be optimally identified and leveraged.
The second step of the project aims at enabling a smooth and economic large-scale production of the table with series-proven processes and to transfer the know-how gained to other applications of CFRTP composites.