ALT Technologies

Airbag & Battery Protection with Lightweight Adhesive Components

Safeguarding Components in the Automotive Industry

Adhesive and material knowledge

ALT Technlogies focuses on self-adhesive, die-cut and printed components for the automotive and home appliances industries. Area of expertise: Adhesive and material knowledge. Known for: (RFID) labels and occupant safety components, EV battery materials, and printed electronics.

Jan van Honk, Global Sales Director, ALT Technologies, explains which products are indispensable for the automotive industry in the age of electromobility, as they ensure the safety of vehicle occupants.

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Cutting-Edge Converting Solutions

Cutting-Edge Converting Solutions


Fundamental Transformation of the Car Industry

Jan van Honk explains what this transformation means for the further development of materials and innovative research into more sustainable solutions such as 'printed electronics'.

Jan van Honk is Global Sales Director at ALT Technlogies.

Almost 400 employees work at sites in the Netherlands, Romania, China, USA and Mexico. More than 25 employees work in R&D. In 2022, we shipped nearly 680 million items. Just-in-time delivery of products and proximity to the customer are important in our market. Therefore we are present on different continents.

ALT Technologies has been producing special covers to protect the function of airbags for decades. As a result, we grew along with the number of airbags used in cars. When the first airbags were introduced in the 1970s, there were only one or two installed in cars. Today, there are up to seven airbags in every vehicle. As a result, all major Tier 1 manufacturers in the automotive industry now use our products. Despite modern driver assistance systems and car-to-x communication, the airbag remains the means of choice to protect vehicle occupants.

In this day and age, there is one major goal: to reduce CO2 emissions. High-performance electric vehicles will replace combustion vehicles very quickly. Electromobility and autonomous driving are therefore young growth markets. These types of vehicles have a high demand for electronics and sensor technology.

As a result, the market for electronic components is changing. In 1980, electronic components accounted for only 10 percent of the manufacturing costs of a car. The forecast for 2030 is 50 percent. This means that even today, and even more so in the future, an increasing number of electronic components will have to be safeguarded.

The market therefore primarily needs products for the safety of electronics. This applies not only to components such as batteries, but also to all other electronic parts in vehicles. Demand is increasing rapidly in the direction of electronics protection and shielding, RFID tags and sensor technology.

The market for e-cars or vehicles with hybrid drives will develop rapidly. After 2035, only passenger cars that do not run on diesel or gasoline may be newly registered in the European Union. We have thus made a commitment within the EU. In addition, there will be a certain percentage of hydrogen- powered vehicles, especially for the 'heavy commercial vehicles' sector.

The European automotive industry must now quickly bring affordable and performance-oriented electric vehicles to the market in order to retain market share.

We have been supplying the automotive industry with innovative safety products for decades. Today, ALT Technologies is already in the midst of further developing and manufacturing products specifically for electric vehicles. This includes printed electronics for standard battery management systems and die-cut lightweight electronics for high-voltage applications which we customize with highly conductive materials, to be affixed with highly conductive glues.

Absolutely! We have adhesives for different substrate materials. It is important that the labels or covers are durable, hold up well on rough surfaces, can be removed without leaving residue, cover a high temperature range and are also as emission-free as possible, for example. Even though a label looks simple, there is a lot of technology behind it.

And in terms of sustainability, many OEM's want recyclable materials to be used in the label so that there is a lower carbon footprint. And, as already mentioned, we have enormous expertise with adhesives in EV battery cells. Conductivity is very important there and we offer a large range of conductive glues.

In some cases, our labels have to be integrated into the early production process of the component. This depends on the specific functionality. It is efficient if we not only supply the label or the cover, but also place it on the component right away. In the end, we deliver the finished component. Other products are not applied until after production. The end customers then implement this process in their own factory.

In many cases, the OEM suppliers involve us in development and planning at an early stage so that we can pool our expertise. The end result is a product developed specifically for the customer's requirements.

We are currently developing products that can be printed and therefore require less material and cost. These printed electronics could be used to replace conventional heaters and battery management system wire harnesses for example.To save weight and volume, we also see a trend to move more to flexible and thin (film or textile) products. This to replace rigid, hard plastic components (housings) used today. By replacing a molded plastic component towards a sustianable foil will be a double win. This is a big plus, because in the future the CO2 footprint will become an increasingly decisive factor.

First and foremost, it's about traditional wiring, which can be replaced to a certain extent by flexible printed electronics.

Instead of buttons, printed slide bars could also be used on touchscreens. In some cars, it is already possible to control the volume, the roof or even the temperature via a sliding bar. Behind the sliding bar is a capacitive touch foil. This functionality can be printed. For example, weight measurement sensors in the passenger seat can also be printed.

Protective Airbag Covers

Before a collision, impact sensors register strong decelerations that are typical for accidents. In 10–50 milliseconds, they cause a propellant charge to be ignited, and a mixture of gases flash to inflate a textile cover – the airbag. This is possible because there are chemicals inside the airbag that cause this small explosion.

The explosion causes a combustion that produces a gas. This gas then inflates the airbag at lightning speed. Specifically, the airbag inflator (inflation device) causes the explosion, activating the airbag. ALT Technologies develops airbag covers in line with these safety standards.

The airbag can be triggered at an impact speed of just 25 kilometres per hour. After the accident, the gas flows out of the bag immediately. The safety of vehicle occupants can only be guaranteed, however, if the airbag is functional. ALT Technologies is a pioneer in airbag cover manufacturing, designed to ensure this functionality.

Airbag covers prevent foreign objects from contaminating the airbag modules and thus protect the airbag during its service life. ALT Technologies manufactures the covers from a variety of materials.

Among them are nonwovens such as polypropylene, polyester and transparent polyethylene film. The protective covers are designed to withstand all driving situations, up to and including a sudden impact, and ensure rapid gas deployment when needed. In the inflator there is a kind of metal valve in the shape of a disc that breaks just before the impact, clearing the way for the gas.

Some airbag covers have to be designed specifically per vehicle model, as they have to adapt to the shape of the vehicle. Therefore, each airbag cover has its own design matched to the vehicle model.

ALT Technologies has been developing the airbag covers together with the automotive industry for years. Today, the company is also one of the main suppliers of airbag safety valves, also known as inflator seals. Inflator seals are basically precision die-cut metal foils with an adhesive.

ALT Technologies selects suitable adhesives and materials according to the type of inflator. A metal, such as copper, aluminium or stainless steel, is attached with a unique adhesive. The final product looks like a label. This label is cut into the right shape and produced on a roll. The final result: a barrier foil that seals the inflator cup, saving lives.

"The first airbags came to market parallel to the start of ALT Technologies. They did not become ready for serial production until years later. Today, their use is a safety standard."

Protective Airbag Covers

Electronics Protection for Cars

1. Electronics Protection

ALT Technologies offers films, tapes and seals that provide shielding for electronic components.

Electronics Protection

2. Cell Connection System

The task of monitoring aging, charging status and depth of discharge of EV-batteries is accomplished by using one thin strip of PET foil with printed electronics on it.

Cell Connection System

3. Materials for Thermal Interfaces and Thermal Insulation

Thermal Interface Materials (TIMs) are used to improve the heat flow between a source and the heat sink, air or component enclosure. These materials are designed to control heat by replacing the air pockets around the components.

Materials for Thermal Interfaces and Thermal Insulation

"Without these products, the automotive industry would not be able to guarantee passenger safety today."

Electric vehicles in particular use more electronic components than vehicles with combustion engines. A key challenge is therefore to ensure the electromagnetic and thermal compatibility of all components.

Increasingly powerful but also more sensitive electronic components and the rapid development of inductive charging processes for batteries are presenting electric vehicle manufacturing with completely new challenges.

Other major challenges are associated with autonomous driving and ADAS systems. An increasing number of electronic devices, sensors and cameras that support the driver are intended to enable autonomous driving in the future must function in close proximity to one another in a vehicle.

The topic of reliable electronics protection and efficient shielding is becoming increasingly important.

ALT Technologies works with the automotive industry to develop solutions to ensure electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in vehicles. Ultimately, effective electronics protection is the key to safe driving in the age of electromobility.

The same applies to thermal management: the right material, the right adhesive and the right shape. 50+ years of material converting experience is the foundation in the development of these new applications. ALT Technologies offers different solutions, from EV battery materials to printed electronics battery management systems.

Battery Technology and Printed Electronics

"Excess weight is a disadvantage in e-mobility."

Protective Airbag Covers

A group of electric cars with packs of battery cell modules on a platform.

If the lithium-ion cells in the battery pack heat up, one cell can reach a temperature of several hundred degrees Celsius and trigger a thermal reaction that causes the battery to burn. As a result of a chain reaction, the battery can explode.

To reduce the risk of this occurring, special materials are used to improve the thermal management in and around the battery cells. ALT's material sourcing experience offers solutions to solve any technical challenge within this area.

Another less dramatic yet critical issue is the transport of batteries. ALT Technologies offers manufacturers the RFID transport label Shock Watch from the company SpotSee, which is equipped with a shock indicator.

Via a sensor that records shock, the entire transport route can be documented without loopholes and it is possible to ensure that the battery has been transported safely.

ALT Technologies is already working on shielding products for future battery developments. In the coming years, batteries should become lighter and more efficient. One significant step toward this goal is to replace wires and cables for battery management systems with printed electronics.

The cell connection systems are printed on 0.3 mm thin strips of PET foil. Custom- made for the battery cells at hand, they feature opposite connecting lobes for each cell. They are affixed to the cell connectors using conductive adhesive. It is pressure-sensitive and can meet different conductivity requirements depending on the customers’ specifications.

"Automotive interiors and electric vehicles are upgrading with the latest advancements in flexible printed electronics, including sensors, HMI, and heating and lighting displays."

Up to eight kilometers of cable and more than 100 control units can be found in an average mid-size car today. These are materials that generate costs and add weight. In electric vehicle construction in particular, an increasing amount of weight can be saved in the future to increase the range.

Compared to conventional electronics, printed electronics can enable the flexible and cost-effective production of different microelectronics. Plus points which, in the long term, mean that printed electronic applications are becoming more widespread and penetrated. This process is additionally fueled by the fact that the market for electric vehicles is flourishing.

Another key benefit is the reduction of valuable raw material usage in manufacturing. Fewer materials lead to more sustainability and thus reduce the CO2 footprint.

Although printed electronics have been around for some time, these automotive applications are relatively new. Not only wires, but also heaters, lighting and a wide range of control panels including complex human-machine-interfaces can be produced in printed form.

Conductive particles in ink ensure that electrical circuits, wires, sensors or RFID transponders can be printed directly onto thin polymer films using conventional printing processes. The result: flexible and lightweight conductors.

The combination of different inks creates specific functions such as sensors, light, batteries or transistors. Just as with conventional printed circuit boards, microchips can also be added.

Printed Electronics
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