Repsol and TactoTek to develop smart surfaces with polyolefins
Polyolefins are the most widely used polymers in the automotive sector due to their exceptional versatility, superior physical and mechanical characteristics, and lightweight, which reduces fuel consumption and emissions. At the end of 2019, Repsol made an equity investment in the Finnish start-up TactoTek, through its investment fund Repsol Corporate Venturing. The two companies are currently developing the technology to manufacture smart surfaces using polyolefins intended mainly for the automotive sector, representing an innovation in materials that enables new design and integration opportunities to different vehicle parts.
TactoTek, founded in 2011 and based in Oulu, Finland, has developed a manufacturing process called 'in-mould structural electronics' or IMSE. This innovative process integrates printed electronics and standard electronic components, such as LEDs, in 3D injection moulded parts. With IMSE technology, just about any thin plastic surface can become a user interface without the need to incorporate mechanical buttons or other traditional controls.
This innovative technology, also known as plastronics (plastic integrated electronics), is already being used in the automotive industry, for example, through the integration of touch controls, wireless connectivity, and lighting in vehicle interior panels, in consumer electronics to provide functional surfaces for any electronic device or in wearable products, electronic devices that are used as clothing or accessories.
Repsol is already a supplier of multiple products for the automotive sector, including fuels, lubricants, and different polymeric materials such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyols, which may be found in numerous interior and exterior vehicle parts. Furthermore, in line with its sustainability strategy, the company has promoted a new circular economy model to recover materials used in cars that have reached the end of their useful life. In this way, they can be recycled and incorporated back into the manufacturing process to obtain new high-performance materials within the Repsol Reciclex range.
Caption: An IMSE product from TactoTek (photo: TactoTek)