Automotive injection molder Techniplas LLC supplied cognitive, programmable lighting to the front and rear fascia of the Snap vehicle to further enhance vehicle safety and visual communication.
The lighting displays various traffic symbols to pedestrians and also indicates vehicle battery life on the exterior.
"This kind of cognitive, programmable lighting gives you the ability to create complete images, signs for communication purposes — from vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to pedestrian and vehicle to other passengers on the interior," Avi Reichental, vice chairman of Techniplas and CEO of its digital business unit in Ventura, Calif., said in a Jan. 5 phone interview.
"And in essence, it renders all of these surfaces that historically were 'dumb' surfaces into smart, connected surfaces and really into human-machine interfaces," he added.
The light guides are made of Plexiglas from German specialty chemical company Evonik Industries AG and supply light via high-performance LEDs. Various 3D effects are created by multilayer structures of the individual optical fibers, the company said.
Techniplas also provided the housings that encase the embedded cognitive lighting on the Snap. To manufacture the housings, which are made from ABS, the company leaned on its new additive manufacturing center in Ventura.
"All of the parts that are housing and encapsulating the lighting were 3D printed by us," Reichental said.
From start to finish, Reichental estimated it took about 200 hours to print all the parts that went into creating the complete fascia.
"It was very delicate and very comprehensive, but we did it in a few hundred hours, and we think that it begins to — no pun intended — illuminate the future of cognitive lighting," he said.
A key initiative at Techniplas is to mainstream the use of additive manufacturing inside its own factories for things like jigs and fixtures, Reichental said. The company is also looking to "hybridize" the technologies between injection molding and 3D printing to help automakers take lightweighting to the next level, moving beyond material substitutions and into mass reduction.
"We're pushing very hard and moving very fast to shape future vehicle design by using generative design and topology optimization to reduce weight in the part without any degradation to performance," Reichental said.
"[Rinspeed] continues to inform the future of mobility, and we believe that our cutting-edge technologies together with Rinspeed positions us to be one of the companies that is making and shaping the connected world," he added.