Rethinking design for new use-cases and interior layouts

As interior design is moving towards a living room-type in-car experience, it’s important to consider the ergonomics of different use-cases,” says Juha Kokkonen, Canatu’s CEO. “Sometimes, the driver is close to the wheel and can easily control functions from the traditional locations. Yet with driving assistance and the autonomous driving of the future, their seat may slide further back, and controls will need to be relocated – in the armrest, for example, for a better user experience.”

Subtle functionalities

Canatu’s embedded 3D touch technologies support multi-modal use and enable areas such as armrests, door panels and the centre console to become smart surfaces. Within thermoformed conductive CNB (carbon nanobud) film, they bring functionalities to places where controls could not previously be integrated, or where clunky mechanical parts would have been obtrusive in the surface material.

Lights and icons for the controls can remain hidden when they are not needed, beneath translucent materials and textiles including fabrics and leather-like solutions. The 3D shapes of the smart touch surfaces allow for easy tactile sensing. These smart 3D touch shapes can be applied on top of a display for an experience of tactility based on their form. “In this case, instead of trying to look for a function on an icon-based, 2D flat screen, the driver can feel for the shapes intuitively without taking their eyes off the road ahead, giving decreased distraction,” says Kokkonen.

A different design concept and proposition

Using in-moulded electronics (IMEs) means that mechanical dials and knobs can be replaced by these 3D touch surfaces. Designers no longer need to find space to hide bulky electronics, as the electronics become part of the 3D structures themselves: this gives the freedom to rethink products, architecture and user interfaces alike, and to create sleeker, lighter-weight interiors. Within smart, thin 3D surfaces, IMEs enable electronics to be extended to new areas of the cabin. The whole design concept is different: “The product and electronics can now be thought of as one integrated part,” says Kokkonen. “It requires a re-thinking away from the traditional approach.”

“To get the best out of IME and its benefits, one should not just keep the original product design and replace the standard electronics with in-moulded printed electronics – you can achieve much more innovation, as well as a competitive cost structure.” The software-based printed electronics can further serve several functions in one place, for example in a multimodal display, and be seen as icons or LEDs. Where previously a control for each function was needed, now these can be combined into one 3D shape and used on the basis of need, i.e. switching a mode button. Not only does this reduce cabin clutter, it helps contribute to an overall lowering of vehicle weight and number of components.

“We have been creating innovative and high-quality concepts for smart 3D touch surfaces,” concludes Juha Kokkonen. “We believe that the technologies of the future can be created already today, combining design freedom and intuitive user experience.”

About Canatu

Canatu’s solutions bring design freedom and user experience to the next level for 3D shaped touch devices and enable autonomous driving in any weather. Canatu develops and manufactures innovative 3D formable and stretchable films and sensors for touch and heater solutions. These transparent and conductive films can be integrated into plastic, glass, textile or leather enabling 3D touch displays, smart switches and other intuitive user interfaces as well as 3D shaped heater solutions. The conductive films of Canatu are manufactured with a patented method using equipment developed by Canatu.

Canatu supplies these unique CNB™ films and touch sensors to touch module vendors and OEM’s in several industries, for example automotive and consumer electronics. Canatu is headquartered in Finland, with sales locations in Europe, USA, Greater China, Japan and Korea. Canatu has just moved to a new factory, which has room to increase manufacturing capacity 150 times for mass production, and where it has introduced the new automated CNB film production line plus one of Finland’s largest clean rooms.

Canatu – Shaping surfaces into experiences.