Glimpse the future of vehicle interiors from a supplier focused on getting skinny and going green within a stowage-savvy environment.
A thin-flex integrated center panel concept from Visteon minimizes its electronics footprint while increasing the available storage space. The all-in-one module represents a departure from conventional interior packaging practices.
"Integrating and eliminating components, including the CD mechanism and individual boxes for each module, allows a vehicle manufacturer to package a module with combined functions more efficiently," said Jim Kornacki, Visteon's Global Innovation and Platform Manager for Center Stack Electronics.
Audio, HVAC, and display control electronics are packaged in the top portion of the center control panel. A hidden stow space located below the electronics shelf is accessible by lifting a thumb tab to move the control panel's friction hinge.
The panel's brow is the source point of indirect lighting from four LEDs. "By redefining the way the LEDs are used, we can reduce the number of LEDs. This design will allow for reductions of 50 to 70 LEDs, depending on the intended illumination requirement of the specific application," said Kornacki, adding, "We have eliminated the backlighting components, reduced the depth of button travel, and centralized the controlling function for each of the head units that otherwise would have been packaged individually."
Although the thin-flex integrated center panel is essentially production-ready, Visteon does not expect production application for its advanced Integrated Center Panel (ICP) until MY2012. Smart storage and an 8-in touch display with a haptic-actuated integrated control panel, which provides an unseen-until-lit appearance, are main features of this ICP. "The movable 'smart-storage' bin translates up and down a track that is driven by a small bidirectional motor," said Ian Foslien, Project Manager for Visteon's Global Design and Innovation, who adds that friction hinges permit "infinite position control of the bin, should the user decide to articulate the bin manually."
Visteon's integrated audio, climate control, and driver information (ACDI) unit illustrates another version of thinness. "The 'thin' design was accomplished by utilizing a single circuit board to integrate the cockpit electronics. This allowed for the elimination of connectors, redundant power supplies, network connections, and other items. Silicon chips sets were chosen that could support multiple features, in this case, cluster functions as well as audio and climate functions," explained Upton Bowden, Electronics Marketing Manager at Visteon.
Audio systems with eco-friendly attributes production launch in 2010 on two separate programs. "One will be a media-less, meaning no CD mechanism radio that features a plastic chassis/housing and a greatly reduced weight and packaging depth. The other product will include Class D amplifier integration for lower current draw, package savings, and weight savings," said Mark Fosmoen, Visteon's North American Infotainment Technical Sales Manager.
Visteon's concept eco-orientated audio system incorporates the amplifier directly into the head unit using class D amplifier rather than Class A/B. According to Fosmoen, "Visteon is able to package amplification circuitry capable of driving four speaker channels and two subwoofers within the head unit housing. The weight savings is directly related to a reduction in the physical size of the heat sink required to dissipate a comparable amount of heat. Physical heat sink size requirements are reduced by roughly two-thirds."
A conventional radio with a CD mechanism and external two-channel subwoofer amplifier weighs approximately 2.6 kg (5.7 lb). But by removing the traditional CD mechanism, changing from metal to plastics for the housing, and integrating the subwoofer (including the heat sink optimization), the eco-audio system's weight drops to about 1.9 kg (4.2 lb).
"Radios are typically one of the heaviest and highest part-count electronic modules in the center stack of a vehicle. A typical radio has quite a high current draw—five to 10 A—and the typical Class A/B subwoofer amplifiers are heavy and can pull another 10 to 15 A. Because of this, the audio system is a natural target for reducing weight, current consumption, and combined packaging volume," explained Fosmoen.
Visteon is edging closer to adding a nonwoven, polyurethane-based skin covering to the portfolio. "The end of 2009 is the target for having automotive-grade samples of A-Surface material from 3M for testing. The material will be available in various basis weights and colors," said Richard Vaughan, leader of Visteon's customer design studio. The nonwoven would be a replacement option to thermal plastic olefin (TPO), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and other skin coverings. "Lower density provides an opportunity for skin weight savings of 40 to 70% compared to typical skin materials," said Vaughan.
The A-Surface material from 3M is "a highly versatile microfibrous matrix that is durable, breathable, conformable, and moldable, while also providing a unique tactile experience. Through controlled porosity, this multifunctional material provides the additional benefit of acoustic attenuation properties. Since the material has its own sound-absorbing qualities, it enables the potential reduction of secondary sound insulation materials," explained Vaughan.