Leading the way in the development of shy-tech for the automotive industry



The automotive industry is increasingly focusing on integrating smart technology into cars. At the same time, improving safety and keeping the attention of the driver on the road should be prioritized. A solution that addresses both aspects is the integration of smart surfaces into the interior of vehicles. Traditional screens and buttons are partly replaced by shy-tech, discreet technology integrated into the car’s interior, such as the arm rest or center console. This reduces potential distractions from digital tools on screens, while the driver is still supported by unobtrusive, fully integrated technology that displays its functions only when needed.

The challenge in developing shy-tech lies in the integration of functional electronics in soft flexible and stretchable substrates. While electronic functionalities on rigid surfaces like screens are well standardized, there are currently no established industrial processes to integrate electronics in soft and stretchable materials like synthetic leather or polyurethane. To address this, imec and Vlaio funded an imec.icon research project called SASS (Smart Automotive Soft Skin).
The goal of this project was to assemble and print electronics on soft surfaces, including flexible ones, while maintaining the high standards of the automotive industry, particularly in terms of reliability and interconnections.

Quad was one of three industrial partners that, together with the involved research institutes, successfully developed an innovative technology platform for automotive interior parts. This technology includes:

  • Electronics that are completely hidden below the surface.
  • Translucent surface materials with intuitive designs.
  • Integrated LED-lights for signaling.
  • Printed electronics foils made of flexible, stretchable materials to fit with 3D-shaped polyurethane parts.
  • Printed electronics foils with added components, such as capacitive buttons and sliders, and proximity sensors combined with discrete components such as LEDs and tactile feedback actuators.


The project included significant breakthroughs in multiple areas of innovation:

  • New methods were developed to apply foils between layers of synthetic leather, also known as PUR-skin.
  • Therefore, new combinations of substrates and conductive inks were developed, in which Quad played a fundamental part.
  • The combination of connecting soft foils and electronics in a way it met with the standards of the automotive industry.
  • The integration of light and keeping a balance between emitted light and its integration into soft surfaces
  • The integration of electronics during polyurethane spraying, keeping in mind the specifications for aesthetics, functionality and reliability.

The result was the development of a technological platform that allows car manufacturers to seamlessly integrate more and more advanced technical features into the interior of cars, without distracting the driver with obsolete buttons or screen-functionalities.
As an industrial partner of this project, Quad Industries has gained considerable expertise in developing the printed electronics for this platform. This expertise is now available for players in the automotive sector, as well as other industries where this platform can spark new developments.

We are proud to have played an instrumental role in the SASS project, and we look forward to continuing our commitment to driving innovation in the field of printed electronics.