DETROIT â Without well-managed integration and due diligence, the benefits of lighting programs can disappear in a flash, automotive suppliers warn.
Light-emitting diodes enable auto makers to introduce an endless array of shades and hues to vehicle interiors. But when multiple suppliers are involved in a program, and their respective components feature LED, there is increased potential for error.
âIf your radio doesnât match your HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system, and your HVAC system doesnât match your cluster, youâve got a problem,â says Lenzy Petty Jr, product marketing manager for Osram GmbH, the industryâs leading supplier of LED technology.
Fortunately, the light bulb went on atMotor Co., Petty tells a panel discussion at the 2008 Wardâs Auto Interiors Show here. The auto maker has appointed LED managers to work with suppliers and ensure seamless integration.
âItâs critical to get that right,â Peter Horbury, executive director-design forâs Americas operations, tells Wardâs before his keynote address. âItâs like when you buy a stereo. You buy a bit from Denon (Co.), a bit from Pioneer (Electronics Inc.) â they all look mismatched.â
Petty and fellow panelist Robert Stewart ofCorp. credit the auto maker with advancing interior LED applications. The Ford Mustang has included a customizable instrument cluster since the car was redesigned for â05.
Horbury says this feature, which enables consumers to choose from 125 lighting colors, will remain with Mustang and proliferate, in various configurations, across model lines. The all-new â09 Ford Flex cross/utility vehicle offers customizable lighting in areas such as footwells and cupholders.
Execution also is key, Petty adds, so controls are a critical consideration. Some systems employ dials, others feature a âstep process,â he says. âYou press a button and each time you get a different color.â
Petty cites changeable LED lighting as a major interior trend, and panelist Royce Channey, senior industrial designer withCorp., notes its availability in vehicles ranging from high-end luxury cars to entry-level Scion-brand vehicles.
âIt is growing from both ends of the spectrum,â Channey says.
But adopting the technology is not as easy as throwing a light switch, saysâs Stewart, program management director-hybrid, power electronics, wireless and amplifiers. Auto makers and suppliers are well-advised to check first with their legal departments.
âFor tri-color LEDs that vary in color, anything thatâs programmable, anything thatâs selectable, Color Kinetics has a very strong patent in place,â Stewart warns.
Color Kinetics is a division of Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions.
Meanwhile, the next bright idea on the horizon involves electro-luminescence, Stewart says. Because the light is transmitted through a film instead of a tube or bulb, auto makers will realize greater design flexibility.
âYou can cut contours, you can mold it over things,â Stewart says. âStructures glow with it.â
Durability testing is under way, he adds, but applications for production vehicles are at least five years away.
âItâs being looked at very closely by the OEMS,â Stewart adds.