Detroit — After years of mostly hiding in the wings, plastics stepped in front of the curtains at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Materials maker Covestro LLC had a booth in the AutoMobili-D part of the show, which showcases new and emerging technology; JEC Composites and Continental Structural Plastics Inc. each had space in the lobby of the event, showing various parts and talking to potential customers about their products; and Celanese Corp. paid to have floor mats installed, instructing visitors to download a map that would highlight parts throughout the show that were made with its materials.
All of that was in addition to Magna International, BASF and Denso Corp., which used conference space to meet with customers or have press events.
While suppliers have used the event to launch products and talk to customers, the 2019 show featured material makers pushing the advantages of plastics in the open. The largest presence came from Covestro's booth in the basement of Cobo Hall.
Covestro had a virtual reality headset that showcased the future interior of automobiles, and it pointed to areas where Covestro materials will enhance the experience and make it possible. In addition, the company showed lighting innovations and potential options for automakers to use the car's B-pillar — the section between the front and rear doors — as a design and information aesthetic.
Paul Platte, senior marketing manager for automotive and transportation at Covestro, said with polycarbonate, the B-pillar could be a trim level differenator with it going from something very simple, like a slick piano black look to something extremely high-end like having the automaker's logo, car information and a camera installed.
"The camera is able to sense around the vehicle," he said. "So, it could be used as facial recognition to potentially unlock the vehicle or as we've heard from other people this week, the camera could activate when someone is walking around the vehicle and actually record them. Something similar to what we've seen with home security."
Covestro is exploring the use of texture and illuminated texture, he said, pointing to another display that showed how a surface could look completely different depending on if and how it was illuminated.
"When the lamp is off, what you see is no texture," Platte said. "And when the lamp is lit and it's sideloading LEDs, the texture really pops."