The latest design collection from Miko, manufacturer of Dinamica® microfibre suede, focuses on the future of electric vehicles. “We were inspired by electricity, wire connections, solar panels and everything related to energy,” says Benedetta Terraneo, Marketing and Design Manager at Miko.
The company creates a fresh collection every 18 months or so, to showcase the versatility of its Dinamica® fabric – a sustainable polyester suede made largely from recycled plastic bottles. “We can use a range of different technologies with our material, including electro-welding, embossing, perforation, digital printing and laser effects,” she explains. “Our aim is to offer a collection that inspires designers to use Dinamica® in different ways.”
The company’s 2019 collection, called Electric Dream, was created in collaboration with Italian designer Matteo Cibic, who typically works outside the automotive industry. Cibic’s portfolio includes furniture, clothing, interior design, and a host of anthropomorphic, multi-functional household objects.
Terraneo says every new Dinamica® collection aims to present a fresh perspective, and that Cibic’s “out of the box” thinking perfectly suited this goal.
Working together, Cibic and Miko’s own designers looked forward to a future where autonomous electric vehicles have become commonplace; where a vehicle cabin has become a place for friends and family to rest, play, socialise or have fun. “People will have much more free time to enjoy themselves in the cars of the future,” Terraneo predicts.
The team developed a vibrant palette for its new collection, linked to the themes of electric energy and playful interaction. “We used base colours from white to black, three accent colours: an active red, moonlight yellow, and a dark-night purple,” says Terraneo.
The designers explored the notion of automotive cabins as creative spaces. One result was a range of novel musical instruments for making electronic sounds on the move. “We created three different instruments that people can interact with in different ways,” Terraneo explains.
“They are covered in Dinamica®, which we’ve printed with electrical ink.” The resulting smart surfaces allow natural touch gestures to modulate harmonious sounds and create melodies, with the option to record the resulting music.
Electronic sounds can be piped through a vehicle’s infotainment system, or heard via a bespoke Dinamica® T-shirt featuring an embedded speaker module.
Another strand of the work looked at embedded sensors for measuring occupant wellbeing. “We created a lunch box of the future,” Terraneo says. “By placing your finger on one specific point, it can measure your heart rate and assess what nourishment you need. It then lights up a box containing the right food.”
Many of the ideas in the Electric Dream collection remain fanciful, but they highlight techniques that could soon become practical reality. For example, conductive inks could be used to create seat adjustment controls directly embedded in Dinamica® upholstery, Terraneo suggests. “Ink can be applied to a door panel or other components, and you can touch the connection with a finger to interact with the car,” she adds.
While Electric Dream foresees a future where autonomous electric vehicles are widespread, Dinamica® is already well matched to the demands of today’s electric cars, Terraneo says. “Our carbon footprint trend is lower than similar products in automotive, which fits perfectly with the mission of EVs to reduce CO2,” she observes.
In December, Miko published the third revision of its certified Environmental Product Declaration detailing the wide range of steps it has taken to reduce the impact of its processes over the past four years, building on previous long-term improvements.
In July 2018, Miko and its parent company Sage Automotive Interiors were acquired by Asahi Kasei, the Japanese company that provides the raw materials for Dinamica®. “Asahi Kasei is now investing in the future, to grow the potential for our product in automotive,” Terraneo explains.
The 2019 collection showcases some striking new possibilities, the latest of which is digital printing. “This is a very precise way to translate an image or colours onto suede,” Terraneo says, adding that Miko has worked closely with its dye supplier to ensure it can print with the quality and durability required by automotive customers.
“This is absolutely new,” she says. “It gives designers the freedom to print images onto the seats or other parts of the car, adding colours and patterns directly to the suede.” A pattern of geometric yellow lines printed onto black Dinamica® fabric is one of the finishes included in the 2019 collection.
Other showcased techniques include electro-welding to produce a zig-zag, pleated surface without stitching, laser-cut square perforations, stitching, embossing, and laser-etched surface textures. “We came up with around 60 different samples with different colours and geometry,” Terraneo explains.
“Our purpose is to show designers how it’s possible to play with the material, beyond the use of plain Dinamica®. There are so many ways to reinvent the material.”