Printed electronics: Key technology for the car of the 21st century

Whether it is occupancy sensors, heating elements in seats, printed antennas or OLED taillights: The use of flexible, organic and printed electronics is increasingly market standard in the automotive industry.

In today’s cars you find flexible, organic and printed electronics as mature technology, e.g., when it comes to touch surfaces, in-mold electronics, printed antennas on car glassing and OLED rear lights. Printed electronic sensors are common in seat occupancy detection since more than a decade and currently entering steering wheels as hands-off warning systems. OLED dashboard with large and curved displays are in place now. Printed electronics open up great design possibilities in the car interior with the seamless integration of all kinds of sensors and smart Human Machine Interface functions.

Future applications of flexible, organic and printed electronics in cars

But the potential of flexible, organic and printed electronics is far from being exhausted. Especially for the mobility sector the future is driven by flexible, organic and printed electronics. In the near future we will have e.g., passenger posture detection plus driver condition monitoring which help us to drive safely, and OLED displays replacing side mirrors in cars.

And we expect even more smart features enabled by flexible, organic and printed electronics. In medium to long-term (next to sensors), communication and interaction will be a key feature. Future cars will communicate with cars and other road users via outside displays, changing car paint and rear lights. Autonomous driving cars will lead to a revolution of the car interior. From a mere vehicle steering position today to a leisure and entertainment lounge tomorrow. From controlling the vehicle to relaxing, working, and entertaining. Flexible, organic and printed electronics with its possibilities to provide lighting, displays, speakers, sensors, heating etc. — all integrated seamlessly in the seats, claddings and roof will change the way you experience a car completely.

Flexible, organic and printed electronics are currently conquering the interaction between passengers and future information and entertainment systems. While computers in cars are taking over more and more routine tasks—soon also the driving—occupants will, for instance, increasingly take advantage of a wide variety of entertainment offerings. Flexible, organic and printed electronics make it possible to seamlessly integrate appropriate interfaces such as touch sensors and displays at almost any place in the vehicle interior.

With the use of OLED lights, flexible, organic and printed electronics made the first real appearance in cars—currently in the form of taillights with increasingly fascinating designs. No other light source offers such an enormous freedom of design as OLEDs thanks to their ultra-thin and flexible construction. Inside the vehicle, OLEDs with their homogeneous light enable impressive ambient lighting.

Organic photovoltaic cells (OPV) integrated in the vehicle also offer interesting options. In the roof area, for example, they can generate the required emission-free electricity so that ventilation of the vehicle when parked in strong sunlight is ensured and the interior gets less heated.