Modular table concept for the car of the future

Joint project of Covestro, Engel Austria and Dr. Schneider

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Many things will change in the car of the future. New forms of mobility will turn the car of the future into a multifunctional, mobile living and working space. In the interior, there will be new functions, a trend towards individualization, but also the desire to make the best and most comfortable use of space. To make this new “living space” functional, flexible and appealing, lightweight and easily moldable plastics are the material of choice.

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Covestro takes things one step further by using a continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite (CFRTP). Its Maezio material is extremely robust and lightweight, while also providing outstanding opportunities for high-quality and aesthetic design. One such current example of what is possible is a space-saving, modular table concept for autonomous vehicles. Covestro has developed it in cooperation with the mechanical and process technology provider Engel Austria and Dr. Schneider Unternehmensgruppe as a direct supplier to the automotive industry.

The objective was to construct a normal-sized table that is as thin as an Ultrabook, and can be stowed just as easily, for instance between the back seats, but is mechanically extremely durable. This table measures 41 cm in length and 32 cm in width, with its thickness increasing from 5 mm on the outer edge towards the inside to 10 mm – which is less than half the thickness of conventional car tables. The later fitting of hinges, already accounted for in the molding process, and ready-molded trays for pen and tablet reduce the number of components and save weight.

Together with the companies Engel Austria and Dr. Schneider, Covestro developed a space-saving, modular table concept for car interiors. The thermoplastic composite material Maezio is used here, which is extremely robust and lightweight, but also enables new aesthetics.

Light and robust sandwich construction

An initial version featuring a sandwich construction is shown in the interior concept. The upper and lower sides each consist of 1 millimeter thin layers of the polycarbonate composite material. The sandwich core is a rigid low-density polyurethane (PU) integral skin foam based on Baydur 20. Weighing just 690 grams, the table is twice the size of a conventional one and can even be loaded with 50 kg instead of 5 kg.

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The manufacturing process was developed with partners at the LIT Factory of the Linz Institute of Technology (LIT) at Johannes Kepler University (JKU) in Linz, Austria. Here, with the help of digitalization, potentials ranging from product development to reuse can be optimally identified and leveraged.

The second step of the project aims at enabling a smooth and economic large-scale production of the table with series-proven processes and to transfer the know-how gained to other applications of CFRTP composites.

The reinforcing carbon fibres on the surface give the table a special design.

Not just for the automotive industry

The polycarbonate composite Maezio is not only a highly interesting material because of its low weight and moldability. With its noble carbon look, it is also ideal as a surface material for optically appealing surfaces for housings of laptops, smartphones or tablets, but also for sporting goods and other articles. In addition, thanks to their carbon look, clear coatings but also opaque coatings enable the production of durable products with unique surface properties that meet customers´ high demands in terms of design.

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