Consortium of 16 companies under the direction of KEX Knowledge Exchange AG develops prototype of new heating


Companies are regularly faced with the challenge of understanding and evaluating the influence of new technologies and trends on their business and of initiating corresponding innovation processes. In order to successfully implement innovations, expertise in different and new fields of technology is necessary. Existing networks are mostly not sufficient for this – there is a dearth of novel ideas. The methodology of KEX Knowledge Exchange AG (Aachen, Germany) breaks this down: In consortium projects new companies from different industries come together to jointly tap the potential of technological hypes.

In the consortium project Printed Electronics, the BMW Group, Lohmann GmbH & Co. KG and Papierfabrik Louisenthal GmbH under the direction of KEX Knowledge Exchange AG have recently developed a prototype of a new heating concept for electric cars. “An automotive OEM, a manufacturer of banknote and security papers and an expert in adhesive applications are working together to develop a possible solution for one of the central challenges of the electric car: This network aspect is what makes our consortium projects so special,” says project manager Frederik Klöckner.

At the beginning of the consortium project, KEX presented possible fields of application for printed electronics. The consortium decided to examine printed heating elements in more detail and to develop a prototype for panel heating in electric cars. KEX analysed and evaluated various concepts for the prototype, which were discussed in the consortium. The decision was made to install a heating foil as close to the surface as possible in order to achieve the most energy-efficient result possible. It can also be produced cost-effectively in a roll-to-roll process and is therefore scalable to mass production.

For the development of the prototype, the BMW Group provided the original components of the glove compartment of the BMW 7 Series in which the heating elements were installed. Louisenthal had newly developed a flexible and transparent PET film in which a fine-meshed metallic net is embedded. The use as heating foil was tested for the first time in this project. Lohmann implemented the bonding of the layers as well as the electrical contacting of the film: Conductive adhesive solutions ensure the contact is sufficiently thin not to be visible on the component’s surface. KEX provided key support to the development of the prototype methodically and ensured access and rapid exchange with the network at the RWTH Aachen Campus.

"The trusting cooperation in the consortium and the methodology of the agile approach were decisive for realising a functional prototype in the shortest possible time," says Mario R. Keller, strategic technology marketing at Papierfabrik Louisenthal GmbH, explaining the benefits of the project.

During the final meeting of the project, the prototype was presented to the consortium: With the help of a thermal imaging camera, the temperature and homogeneity of the thermal radiation were detected. The heating system can realise surface temperatures of over 60°C. The functional prototype was developed within three months. “Key success factors were the close collaboration of the four companies involved in the implementation together with 16 consortium companies such as Tesat-Spacecom, Rehau and SRG Global, from the concept stage to the very joining of the components,” says Klöckner. “The prototype is by no means the end product; it is intended to give impetus and show that the rapid implementation of alternative concepts in heterogeneous consortia is possible if innovations are approached correctly.”

Caption: From left to right: Frederik Klöckner (technology manager, KEX Knowledge Exchange AG), Dr Daniel Lenssen (director business development, Papierfabrik Louisenthal GmbH), Gabriele Nau (senior market manager consumer goods & electronics, Lohmann Group), Dr Christoph Mersmann (research, new technologies, innovations, BMW Group), Mario Keller (strategic technology marketing, Papierfabrik Louisenthal GmbH). (photo: KEX Knowledge Exchange AG)

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