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Sustainable automotive production: Oerlikon Balzers’ coating solutions contribute to innovative plastics concept award for premium car manufacturer

Balzers, Liechtenstein, 16 December 2021 – Oerlikon Balzers, a leading provider of advanced surface solutions, supplied coating equipment and solutions for the metallisation of plastic parts to the BMW Group Plant Landshut. The ePD technology developed by Oerlikon Balzers enables innovative functions and designs, and complies with REACH environmental regulations. In September, the BMW Group won the Grand Award for its innovative plastics concept of its all new full-electric compact SUV, the BMW iX. Both the sustainable sensor-transparent coatings and the coatings for the moulding tools from Oerlikon Balzers for the production of the newly designed kidney grille contributed to the award.

The BMW Group won the Grand Award for the innovative plastics concept used in the BMW iX kidney. The eco-friendly coating allows various sensors to be integrated including radar sensors to measure the distance from the vehicle in front. (Image: BMW Group)

The BMW Group won the Grand Award for the innovative plastics concept used in the BMW iX kidney. The eco-friendly coating allows various sensors to be integrated including radar sensors to measure the distance from the vehicle in front. (Image: BMW Group)

Sustainability and environmental protection are key aspects of the Oerlikon Group strategy. As one of its competence brands, Oerlikon Balzers develops coating solutions and systems for its customers in order to implement this strategy and play an essential part in conserving resources and significantly reducing CO2 emissions. Innovative features and designs have a crucial role to play in the development of future generations of automotive vehicles, and the BMW Group uses the sustainable ePD technology from Oerlikon Balzers for its new full-electric BMW iX.

ePD – a clean, REACH-compliant process with low energy consumption
ePD™ (embedded PVD for Design parts) is a pioneering, eco-friendly coating process which can be used wherever high-quality metallic-looking surfaces are required on plastic components with smart functionality. The three-layered structure composed of UV lacquers and an embedded PVD coating is a ground-breaking approach for new designs of plastic components used in fully electric or hybrid vehicles. Designers and engineers can combine ePD with other technologies such as digital, screen and pad printing and laser marking to increase the range of possibilities even further.

The ePD™ process consumes very little energy and does not produce special waste, making it both an eco-friendly and cost-effective option – which is particularly valued by businesses focusing on sustainable production processes. It also complies with the REACH regulation introduced by the European Union, which aims first to restrict the use of harmful substances such as cobalt salts, boric acid and nickel, and finally to ban them entirely.

Innovative new features for the next generation of automotive vehicles
With the INUBIA coating system, which meets the requirements of the automotive industry and can optionally be seamlessly integrated into series production, the BMW Group offers its customers high-quality metallised plastic parts. Interactive communication between vehicles will have a much bigger role to play in autonomous driving, and the ePD technology is a solution which enables vehicles to “talk” to each other while offering attractive designs. One example of this is radar-transparent coatings for driver assistance systems, which make it easy to install radar sensors behind grilles coated with ePD in order to measure the distance from the vehicle in front. This special manufacturing technology can also be used to produce capacitive or translucent components with invisible functionality in order to complement the design of modern vehicles. The coatings are long-lasting and scratchproof and can be made transparent, allowing symbols to be added to backlit buttons.

Coated forming tool for the kidney ensures high process reliability
Oerlikon Balzers also coats the mould of the new BMW iX front kidney, which is manufactured by Summerer Technologies. In cooperation with the forming tool manufacturer, BALINIT FUTURA NANO has been selected as the preferred coating. Due to its high hardness and ductility, it offers very high scratch and wear resistance. In addition, the coating achieves a brilliant surface quality through improved mould filling and easy demoulding. Maintenance costs are thus reduced and, despite the high thermal exposure, the mould can even be cleaned much more abrasively without scratching the surface. As a result, the entire production process benefits from high productivity, economic efficiency and process reliability.

At the 20th “SPE Automotive Awards”, the BMW Group won the plastic exterior production Grand Award for the innovative concept used in the BMW iX kidney grille.

For more information about ePD technology, visit https://www.oerlikon.com/balzers/epd/

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