LED lighting technology has evolved dramatically in recent years with continued improvements in brightness, packaging, and efficiency. These improvements have made possible not only the replacement of fluorescent and incandescent bulbs in virtually every existing application, but they have also made possible countless new ones. One only has to look at a new car to see this shift in action, with LEDs acting as primary and accent headlights, indicator lights for instrumentation and ambient lighting throughout the passenger compartment.
The increasing utilization of LED technology in these applications requires the embedding LEDs into more surfaces comprised of varying materials, all creating new challenges for engineers and manufacturers. In addition to mounting and physically integrating the chips into and onto surfaces, they have to be powered. Power circuits often have traditionally had to be creatively hidden to avoid compromising the aesthetics of the interior surfaces.
A CHASM design partner was requested by a client to build a prototype of a futuristic automotive center console. This console had to enhance the driver's experience in a number of ways:
It had to be shaped to enhance BOTH the ergonomics AND the aesthetics of the cockpit
It had to facilitate functional controls of the vehicle AND use lighting to enhance the driver's environment
It had to be easily manufacturable
It had to reduce the weight of its current cockpit equivalent
Utilizing existing materials and design methods would require that at least 1 or 2 of the aforementioned objectives be compromised. However, using printed electronics methods and materials a futuristic console design resulted was that:
Consisted of a few printed circuit layers on clear substrate material
Incorporated touch buttons and sliders to activate all necessary controls
Incorporated LED lighting as both functional indicators AND ambient lighting sources
Had multiple functions powered by a single transparent electrode layer
Could be thermoformed into the traditional cosmetic structure expected in an automotive interior