K 2016: New era beckons for plastics and automotive design

The use of plastics in future automotive projects will only be limited be the ability of manufacturers to produce large, complex, high-quality parts on an industrial scale, according to a leading designer.

In a presentation entitled ‘Pushing Boundaries of Future Automotive Design’, Demian Horst, of the Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden, told an audience at the K Show in Dusseldorf yesterday that large parts that did “significant things”, such as light reactive panels, would need to be able to be consistently made in sizeable numbers to make an impact.

plastics design
K 2016: New era beckons for plastics and automotive design

Horst also outlined the role of the designer in the fast-evolving world of automotive construction, and said that as vehicles become more advanced, people in his line of work simply had to be able to adapt.

“Designers have to change. Cars are becoming smarter, systems are talking to each other and there is the issue of autonomous vehicles and shared mobility,” Horst said, suggesting that while more people would use cars, fewer people might own one.

“It’s not just about ‘form’ anymore,” Horst said, speaking at a talk hosted by German materials giant Covestro. “Vehicles are becoming ‘alive’, and we need to consider the range of new technologies involved when designing parts for mass manufacture.”

The impact of additive manufacturing might mean more bespoke vehicles, Horst said, leading to more inspiration for the design community.

However, what Horst called “optimised construction” would be an important factor. “Things such as adaptive transparency to be smarter than tinted glass, thermal management to reduce energy use, and 3D holographic maps behind a polycarbonate skin [on a car’s dashboard] are all areas to consider,” he added.

Also, OEMs would focus less on what the front and rear of a vehicle looked like, and more on the identity of its side, such as what the doors, trim and panels looked like, as fewer people actually owned the cars they occupied – in the wake of ‘shared mobility’.

This was where design “could balance form and function”, Horst added.Horst and a team of student designers from the Umeå Institute of Design worked on a concept car project with CoveThe vehicle is being displayed on the materials firm’s stand at the K Show.