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Design driven development of touch sensitive luminous flexible plastics for applications in care & well-being

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Smart products with a sense of touch

EU funding gave designers the opportunity to radically change the look and feel of products, unlocking completely new modes of product-user interaction. Wearable sports devices, rehabilitation aids and even car interiors are just some of the markets that stand to benefit.

Industrial Technologies

Scientists and product designers in the EU-funded LIGHT.TOUCH.MATTERS (Design driven development of touch sensitive luminous flexible plastics for applications in care & well-being) project jointly developed a new generation of smart materials that combine touch sensitivity with luminosity. These revolutionary materials promise to change product design such that the product literally becomes the user interface. The innovative core is composed of piezo-electric materials – smart materials that turn pressure (e.g. touch input) into voltage. The 'piezo plastics' developed consist of piezo-active compounds in a polymeric matrix – a new composite that combines the best of both worlds. These innovative piezo plastics have enabled the development of affordable and intuitive-to-use user interfaces. For response, the consortium added a layer of flexible organic light-emitting diode materials (OLEDs). The top layer modulates the colours the materials give off. Extra unplanned deliverables include lead-free piezo plastics, transparent printed flexible OLEDs as well as attractive colour effects. LIGHT.TOUCH.MATTERS has developed nine product designs, three more than originally planned. All these are suitable for prototyping and demonstration and target a very wide market well beyond the original focus of wellbeing and care products. Dissemination of LIGHT.TOUCH.MATTERS research results includes a cross-media white book for design-driven RTD that incorporates video pills for extra appeal. The project also contributed to the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Netherlands, produced a film as well as online teaching resources and a well-attended closing symposium.

Keywords

Smart products, LIGHT.TOUCH.MATTERS, touch sensitivity, luminosity, piezo-electric, OLED

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