New Designs: Features from the 2022 Auto Interior Expo

February 20, 2023 • Posted in Events

We can talk about in-mold labeling (IML) technology all day long, but at last fall’s Auto Interior Expo in Michigan we had the opportunity to showcase some of our newest capabilities and designs in-person.

We also heard lots of feedback about the kinds of parts you’d like to see. So we produced some new designs, specifically ones that showcase fine-expression silk printing (FESP), to create dynamic and high-definition patterns.

booth auto interior expo

There was also a lot of interest in dead-front displays, which gives the benefit of a clean, flat aesthetic while an electronic product or function is turned off — but when illuminated the display lights up and draws attention to the icons or text that are enabled. This lends a modern look and some really inventive functionality.

Based on questions we heard from booth visitors — like "Can you make this color with dead front?" and "Can you make this pattern with dead front using IML technology?" — we blended a few processes and made new samples to show what’s possible for design teams. Without compromising on quality, we’re able to combine some of our most popular technologies to give your product an aesthetic and innovative edge.

appliance display

Dead Front Display

Dead front can be used for both safety and creative purposes. This technology provides clean lines and an uncluttered face for parts, allowing for details to show only when graphics are illuminated. When you think about it, lots of products in the market can benefit from dead front displays — from home appliance panels to aeronautical equipment. The most common colors are black, silver, and white, though we’re also able to do complex colors and patterns like wood grain, marble, metallics, dots, carbon fiber, waves, smoke, leather and scales.

1st Surface Texture

You have choices on finish — a non-glossy (or matte) finish is absolutely possible. Our in-mold and printing technologies can make your plastic part feel like the real thing. Wood grain, brush, raised dots, carbon fiber — all of these patterns can produce a realistic sensation when touched.

Alternatively, if a design warrants a glossy surface, we can print various patterns and finish the part so that it has a smooth, polished feel.

Hidden Pattern

Oftentimes, a part with dead front shows as black or flat when the backlight is turned off. However, we had lots of requests to see how colors and patterns can also work with dead front displays! With our new sample designs, a standard pattern shows when the light is turned off (like wood grain, marble, Pointillism, etc.). But when the light is turned on, it can illuminate an image, text, or icons.

We’ve developed a new way to have the standard dead front look, plus have additional designs showing. Below are a few examples. In the blue sample, the part has a dotted pattern when the backlight is off, and a pattern with cogs when the backlight is turned on.

dead front parts
wood grain dead front
wood grain fesp

Combining Technologies

Blending the above methods opens up a whole new world of decorative plastic part designs. Imagine a wood grain part that looks and feels like a natural material, and yet can show words, numbers or icons when lit from behind. Furthermore, these parts can be bent and shaped so that dead front displays are shown in new three-dimensional ways. We predict the start of new trends with these manufacturing capabilities that can support big design ideas!

auto interior booth parts

A Special Thank You

Lastly, we owe a special thank you to Charlotte Iggulden of UKi Media & Events for the excellent introduction article during the 2022 Expo. Many people reached out with their design questions after reading her article. Thank you, Charlotte!

Have questions of your own? Get in touch with our team to talk about meshing your design ideas with our leading-edge capabilities. We’ve enjoyed making new samples based on what our customers want to see, feel and learn about. And of course, we look forward to bringing them to the Expo in 2023!