Auto manufacturers’ concept vehicles increasingly exhibit car cockpits with no mechanical switches or buttons. The solid, seamless and gently curved surfaces are, instead, equipped with functions activated by touch. Concealed under the surface are control elements that only become visible when required, but this elegant appearance belies a complex underlying technology.
German coating manufacturer Leonhard Kurz has developed a Human Machine Interface (HMI) concept panel equipped not only with a capacitive touchscreen, but also a touch panel. The central operating element of the instrument panel is a touchscreen with multi-touch function and supplementary touch buttons. The touch panel is used to control a backlighting function that is integrated into the design. When the illumination is deactivated, the touch controls and ambient lighting disappear, and the surface takes on an opaque and solid appearance.
A large, unusual, nature-oriented design named Fading Lines was developed especially for the concept panel. This distinctive design progresses from a continuous gradient to a high-gloss black piano surface. Besides the unusual surface design, the geometry of the component also exhibits a special characteristic. The display area of the component transitions into the operating panel in an organic curve. This accentuates the operating area, and the curved geometry acts as a tactile aid.
A technology alliance of specialist partners has enabled the concept development. The design of the HMI was implemented by Kurz Digital Solutions. The sensor technology for the FFB- and IML-capable touch sensors was supplied by the Kurz subsidiary PolyIC. The process technology for FFB integration comes from the stamping machine manufacturer Baier, another member of the Kurz Group. Other industry partners were involved in the project. The concept panel received a Red Dot Award 2020 for product design in the automotive category.