Designing Products that Feel Right

Create new materials with desirable sensations

Overview

Imagine trying to get the right color of paint, but not having words to describe ‘red, blue and green’. To get the right color would be time-consuming with many iterated attempts, physical samples shipped for discussion and frustration over an unguided process. Fortunately, in the world of colors, there are standardized dimensions and objective measurements that describe them quite well.

Our old material design process was essentially unguided. Now we have information to produce exactly what they’ll buy.

Project

When working in the world of touch, material suppliers who wanted to develop a product that feels right did not have an objective way to communicate with their suppliers. One Tier-2 supplier wanted to modify their manmade leather to fit the needs of an automotive OEM. Our measurements allowed this process to be straightforward and for the Tier-2 to deliver a product that was exactly what the OEM wanted.

An automotive OEM working with SynTouch to source materials (See Faux Leather… that Feel Real) had identified the faux leather that a Tier-2 automotive material supplier makes as being quite close to their desired feeling. Using information from the testing of the OEM’s ‘ideal’ feeling leather and their current materials the Tier-2 altered their production process to make something feel more like the OEM wanted.

Process

SynTouch tested both the natural leather from the OEM and the standard materials provided from the Tier-2 supplier. The results indicated that they were close to generating the right sensations to match the natural leather, but their closest samples were slightly too coarse and too fine. The Tier-2 made several batches of materials with modified grain texturing and polymers to create several candidates for the OEM to pick from. The results of our test allowed the Tier-2 to demonstrate objectively how close their samples had come to the OEM’s ideal sample.

The OEM’s premium leather was compared to the off-the-shelf leather alternatives from The Tier-2 supplier. These samples off the shelf were slightly coarser (hover/link mCO: Macrotexture Coarseness), and slightly finer that desired. New materials were produced with grain pattern in between their standard patterns. The Tier-2 also realized that a slightly different polymer-length could be used to adjust the warmth of the material (hover/link tCO: Thermal Cooling), creating a faux leather that had a warmer feeling when initially touched.

Outcome

The Tier-2 material supplier was given standardized dimensions and objective measures that described their materials, and the material that their customer wanted to emulate. Given their depth of knowledge about their production process, they were able to identify exactly what needed to be changed and delivered several viable candidates to their customer on the first try. Even better – they were able to objectively demonstrate how well their materials matched what the OEM was requesting. The frustrating and expensive iterative development and sales cycles for new materials were eliminated because they understood what the customer wanted.

The SynTouch Standard.pdf

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