Automotive interior: Lights off, spot on!

SCHOTT MultiLight combines contour and spot lighting, aiming for application in the automotive interior. The solution also reduces complexity by requiring only one light source per fiber strand. We spoke with Stephan Schabacker, Director Sales Automotive at SCHOTT Lighting and Imaging, about product development, a possible route into the volume segment of Golf and Astra and the future of automotive interiors.

Where did the idea to develop SCHOTT SideLights into MultiLight come from?

Multi-branch light guides have been an established technology for many years and in many areas, such as microscopy and in civil aviation as starry-sky lighting in the aircraft interior. Since the automotive industry is very cost-sensitive, however, we had difficulties placing the concept. Assembling multi-branch light guides for automotive interior takes more manual work, but now we’ve managed to minimize that. SideLight packaging’s principle advancement is its adhesive technology.

What problems does MultiLight solve?

The advantage of multi-branch light guides is that several functionalities can be realized with only one light source. This allows for a reduction of electronic components, particularly in the case of colored illumination. Electronic circuitry is simplified, making it more cost-effective and less susceptible to defects. Generally speaking, high-quality lighting is what differentiates our fiber optics.

What were the problems during the development of MultiLight? How were they solved?

Assembling automotive interior light guides is based on a relatively new bonding technology that was used in large-scale serial production for the first time in 2010. Over the years, plant engineering has been continuously optimized and capacities expanded. This year, we’ve now developed a modified prototype system for multi-branch light guides that incorporates previous experiences and new ideas. The biggest challenge – as is often the case – is minimizing cycle time while ensuring product quality. We’re on the right track and have already reduced the manufacturing costs of multi-branch fiber optics by half compared to older concepts.

Is it realistic to imagine that this lighting solution will soon be available in high-volume models like the VW Golf or Opel/Vauxhall Astra or does it target primarily upscale middle-class and premium models?

Our fiber optic light guides are typically in series of up to 100,000 vehicles per year. This is due, on the one hand, to lighting requirements, which increase as vehicle design becomes more important – and this is usually accompanied by a rise in value. On the other hand, how rapidly the new lighting concepts can be implemented sets the series apart. Our customers appreciate this durable and proven technology.

New concepts are generally first introduced and offered as an option in high-quality vehicles. If the end customer likes the lighting, we benefit from high selection rates: that usually means the component is purchased as part of the individual configuration, which significantly increases the number in circulation. This is exactly the effect we’re experiencing, especially for a leading German car manufacturer’s automotive interior panorama roofs, which have integrated our light guides in some models– their selection rate is twice as high as originally planned, which we love to hear of course.

Where is automotive interior lighting’s journey headed?

A typical premium vehicle in 2010 had fewer than 50 LEDs for indoor lighting, while in 2021 that number will be about 300. So interior lighting is carrying more and more weight. Trends like “autonomous driving,” “electromobility” and “connectivity” alongside demands for more general interior comfort are driving the industry. These trends are being regionally strengthened, especially in China, where most vehicles are now sold. These trends will lead to higher indoor lighting requirements; therefore we have very interesting times ahead.

Stephan Schabacker is a physicist with many years of experience in semiconductor and lighting technology for automotive applications. He has worked at SCHOTT since 2008, most recently as Director Sales Automotive for the Lighting and Imaging division.

The SCHOTT Exterior Running Board creates outstanding light effects for contour or accentual illumination.

December 4th, 2017


Michael Matthias Müller
Marketing & Communication

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