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Soft-touch surfaces on 3D curved automotive interior parts

Partners: LIGHTMOTIF (Netherlands), CRF (Italy)

This work  is based on a technology previously developed by Lightmotif that enables laser ablation of micro and nanoscale features on 3D curved moulds by ultrashort pulsed lasers. Lightmotif and CRF cooperate with the goal to obtain a method that enables the production of polymer parts for car interiors with added functionality due to a micro- and nano-textured surface, achieved by a textured mould. The surfaces should show a soft-touch effect that results from a largely reduced contact area of skin and polymer part. Besides the haptic properties of the surface other relevant aspects like aesthetic properties of the textures should be optimized.
The objective  was to validate the manufacturing process of real automotive parts with soft-touch surfaces. For this purpose, a mould insert for a real automotive part was selected: a ‘glovebox’ element of a Fiat Grande Punto dashboard. Besides serving for validation and demonstration, the injection moulded parts were also used to assess the influence of the texture angle on he release properties of the textured parts out of the mould.

The textured inserts with engraved logos on the mould surface

Injection moulded parts

Analysis of the injection moulded parts showed that the release of parts moulded was not limited by damage during the demoulding process. The analysis of the functional (soft-touch) properties showed very similar results on these 3D curved parts as compared to the earlier tested flat parts.

Laser-based selective metallization of 3D-shaped polymers

Partners: FTMC (Lithuania), EKSPLA(Lithuania), ELAS(Lithuania), AMSYS (Israel), CRF (Italy), BIOAGE (Italy)

The objective was to develop reliable schemes for direct writing of 3D wiring by laser radiation. The main aim was to perform surface processing of standard plastics instead of using highly specialized material which are expensive. We achieved all the targets, manufacturing demonstrators in the two main sectors as automotive and sensor.
Two new technologies for laser-based selective metallization of polymers for moulded interconnect devices were developed in APPOLO which are applicable for carbon-doped and pure polymers used in car industry.

CRF selected the glove box cover of the Fiat 500 as a demonstrator for the integration of electronics. This specific component was first implemented on the USA version of the car and from July 2015, it is also included in the new facelift version for the European market. The main aim is to substitute the traditional manual opening system with a touch sensitive electronics that automatically opens the glove box when the user touches the sensitive area. All samples were electroless plated firstly with copper.

Glove box cover samples coated with copper and copper + silver


Demo for automotive sector

All the components for glove box cover were assembled using a silver bi-component conductive glue based on silver paste. In particular, the connections were stuck before with a normal tape to the plastic substrate.


Breakthrough solutions in laser patterning for reduced friction

Partners: Scanlab GmbH (Germany), SKF B.V. (Netherlands) and Lightmotif B.V. (Netherlands)

The goal of the project was to assess how recent galvoscanning system improvements could be used to improve the speed and/or quality of high-definition laser surface texturing processes. A fast gating mode and a faster / small aperture scan head were tested for an application where mould inserts needed to have a micropillar texture. SKF, end-user of this project, uses the mould inserts for the production of seals. The texture is used to change the properties and appearance of the seal.
A high definition texture will often have many small features that. A fast process for making such textures requires a complex gating pattern where the laser needs to be rapidly and accurately toggled on and off, especially for high scan speeds. Ideally, the scan system control hardware should support laser output modulation at full speed that the laser hardware can handle (> 2 MHz).

Fast pixel mode for SCANLAB RTC5

A faster pixel output mode for the SCANLAB RTC5 control board was integrated and tested using scan speed of up to 6 m/s. This fast pixel mode allows scanning of straight lines while modulating / gating the laser at the full rate that the laser hardware is capable of (> 2 MHz). A hatch pattern stroke with many small line segments can be scanned in a single pass at high speeds without loss of texture definition.

Two images of about 40 µm diameter pillars made with the exact same process (2 m/s scan speed), executed with a standard / 308 kHz pixel clock (left) and using the fast pixel mode (right)

Small aperture scan head with digital encoders

The intelliSCANse® 10 is SCANLAB’s smallest aperture scan head which features the digital encoder technology required for highly accurate laser micromachining. Compared to the intelliSCANde® 14 mm the tracking error / time lag is almost twice as small (0.11 ms vs 0.21 ms). Both scanners were tested, and the results confirm that for the same high accuracy the time spent on re-positioning (jumps) and accelerating (run-ins) can be halved when using the smaller aperture.

Mould inserts

Mould inserts for a bearing seal mould were textured using the improved scan system. The process used a relatively high scan speed (2 m/s) to avoid heat accumulation. Thanks to the fast and accurate gating the texture’s small features still have a high definition. The fast dynamics of the small 10 mm aperture scan head enable a relatively high duty cycle when processing small
tiles (70–90 %)


The developed technology was used to machine different pillar patterns in rings on balls made of stainless steel and cemented carbide, to be used for dissemination of the results. The picture shows a measurement of the texture on a steel demonstrator ball.

Different pillar patterns are applied in rings to this demonstrator and 3D profile of a pillar texture on one of the demonstrator balls

Breakthrough solutions in ultrafast laser equipment for decorative finishing in automotive chrome plated parts

Partners: Lasing (Spain), Maier (Spain), UPM (Spain)

The goal of the project was to improve the quality of unique decorative chrome plated parts for the automotive industry using advanced laser technologies and design a complete solution to be integrated into factory line.
There were two different business sectors involved in the experiments, 1) Special Automotive Parts decoration from End User side (Parts manufacturer) and 2) Development of advanced laser systems from Integrator side. Precision laser applications are very complex due to the number of variables that are involved, making critical to control them for real manufacturing lines. Significant thermal changes produced mainly in all industrial environments creates essential problems that need to be controlled and resolved at real time as internal misalignments between laser sources and processing heads, laser power losses, 3D errors due mechanical drifts, making necessary to find new solutions capable of minimising these effects.
LASING designed a new concept of Analytical & Control tool named BGB (Beam Guide Box) that integrates all the optical and mechanical components that ensure an advanced and repeatable laser processing. The BGB can be installed in front of any laser, CW or pulsed with emission ranges from 1064 nm to 320 nm and technically provides the following specifications:
1) Continuous analysis of laser beam path obtaining beam pointing and beam profile data.
2) Automatic beam path correction using two sets of CCD´s sensor and Piezo mountings.
3) Motorized beam size expansion from 1x to 4x.
4) Automated energy control using polarisation optics.
5) Continuous energy and 2D beam analysis.
6) Fast and precise divergence adjustment to perform 3D or fast 2.5D processing.
7) Fast pulse counting electronics capable of detecting one pulse missing during the laser processing.
8) 2D Galvanometer head with F-theta or Telecentric lens.

Automotive exterior parts marked with different process parameters and different designs

A comprehensive assessment of ps equipment for decorative marking of chromed part for automotive industrive has been done. A laser parametric window using ps laser sources emitting at 532 nm has been established in such a way that all the specifications needed for marking the targeted chromed parts have been fulfilled.