LOPEC 2023: Printed electronics for greater safety and sustainability in traffic


LOPEC will be opening its doors at Messe München ICM from 28 February to 2 March 2023. The focus topic Mobility will be the common thread running through the world’s leading exhibition and conference for flexible, organic, and printed electronics.

Whether it is a seat belt reminder, seat heating or a driver assistance system, cars have increasingly more extra electronic features. Vehicle construction therefore counts on printed electronics, since only they are lightweight and thin enough to fit seamlessly into any designs and lightweight constructions. “Under the focus topic of mobility, LOPEC will showcase numerous applications for the transport sector,” says Armin Wittmann, exhibition director LOPEC at Messe München. They range from curved touch displays, innovative sensors systems and lighting concepts to smart tires.

The printed sensors from LOPEC exhibitor IEE have already been installed in 400 million vehicles worldwide. Among the latest products from the Luxembourg-based automotive supplier is a multizone sensor for hands off detection (HOD) in the steering wheel. The HOD detects whether the driver is firmly gripping the steering wheel or only touching it lightly or not at all. That ensures greater safety, for example, when switching from autonomous to partially assisted or manual driving since the sensor checks before leaving the autonomous mode whether the driver has the car under control.

The driver monitoring system of the Dutch research institute Holst Centre also helps to avoid accidents. It is based on printed sensors in the car seat, which measure the heart and breathing rate. If the driver is tired or in some other worrying condition, the system will raise an alarm. Ton van Mol, managing director at Holst Centre, will give a plenary talk at the LOPEC Conference. The Holst Centre will also be presenting itself in the exhibition.

One of the highlights at the LOPEC Conference will be the plenary talk by Corrado Rocca, head of research & development at Pirelli’s Cyber Unit. The Italian manufacturer wants to use tyres as a data source. Built-in sensors can register a wide variety of parameters, from tire pressure and wear to road conditions. Rocca will describe how smart tyres like these contribute to greater safety, sustainability, and new services in the transport sector.

Printed electronics also make tyres fit for the Internet of Things. Built-in RFID chips transmit the recorded data to the vehicle owner and auto repair shops, allowing better planning of maintenance processes and tire changes. Information about material and manufacturer stored on the chips also helps with recycling.

Electronics installed in vehicles must work reliably – also when subject to heavy mechanical stress, heat, freezing cold and damp. Robust materials provide the basis for that. Leading international manufacturers offering conductive inks and pastes, carrier materials, as well as insulating and protective materials for printed electronics will be represented at LOPEC with big names in the industry like Covestro, DuPont Teijin Films, Elantas, Henkel and Heraeus Epurio.

LOPEC will also provide information about new production processes and facilities. The high-pressure moulding technology from LOPEC exhibitor Niebling, for example, is used to produce 3D plastic elements with integrated electronics, including touch modules with illuminated symbols for door panels, steering wheel and centre console. Bayflex Solutions from the United States, in turn, will be presenting endurance testing equipment in Munich. The equipment folds, stretches or bends components millions of times under adjustable environmental conditions.

Wittmann stresses: “We can see in more and more applications at LOPEC that printed electronics meet the high demands of vehicle construction, and the potential is still far from being exhausted. With LOPEC, we bring together players from along the entire value chain, thus driving developments that are essential for tomorrow’s mobility.”

Caption: Sensor technology in the car seat: The driver monitoring system from the Dutch Holst Centre registers the driver’s physical condition and warns them if they are tired or in a worrying state of health (photo: TNO/Holst Centre)

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