Johnson Controls is now using new Reaction Injection Moulding (RIM) technology to manufacture the instrument panel of an unnamed medium-segment vehicle.

This new process is claimed to enable production of a high-quality and cost-effective moulded skin that allows even very complex designs to be applied over large surfaces.

This new technology enables the parts maker to manufacture all process steps in-house for the first time. In contrast to the conventional RIM technique, which involves the use of two material components, this new process requires only one material, aliphatic polyurethane. RIM alpha, as the technology is called, has numerous benefits due to shorter process times and a variety of combinations.

Since only one polyurethane is used, process times can be significantly reduced. In addition, the new process provides a high-quality, soft touch surface. One of the other benefits of this technology is that the skin can be combined with any substrate material. A high-quality surface can therefore be applied to plastics, glass fibre reinforced materials, and thermoplastically or duroplastically bound natural fibre materials. Since the process takes place in closed moulds, surface thickness can also be controlled, which is a benefit in the production of hidden airbag doors.

The current instrument panel is single colour. A two-colour version is now in concept development and will be ready for series production from around 2007. Before that, the company also expects possible initial use in series production in Europe.