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 Tech of the Week
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 Tech of the Week

Soft-feel grain surface treatment for hard plastic mimics soft and moist sensation on fingertips

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

This technology gives hard-surface plastics a soft and moist feel at a much lower cost even than “soft-feel” paint by imposing a “grain” or texturing onto the surface. It has application in automotive interiors, household utensils, electronics, mobile phones, and other locations where a hard plastic surface would benefit from feeling softer. The science is based on the study of the fingerprint. The more surface area of the fingertip that touches a surface, the more the brain interprets that sensation as “soft” and “moist.” The soft-feel gain surface treatment consists of a precise series of tiny bumps and larger bumps designed to increase the area of the surface in contact with the finger tip. Because the plastic remains a hard surface despite its soft feel, it remains durable and easy to clean.

Soft-feel grain surface treatment mimics soft and moise sensation.

There are several ways of providing a surface that feels soft for a hand grip, tool, or mobile phone. One way is to provide a genuine leather surface, and another is to provide a padded plastic surface. Both methods can be extremely expensive and are not appropriate to all applications — for example, quality leather grips on a low-priced kitchen utensil would not be economical.

Another method is to use “soft-feel” paint that provides a measure of tactile feedback imitating “soft.” Paint introduces several additional production steps (prep, paint, dry), the environmental controls necessary to paint parts, and the possibility that the paint may scratch, crack, peel, or wear away.

Soft-feel grain surface treatment mimics soft and moise sensation.

In contrast, this soft-feel grain surface treatment for hard plastic material is formed into the surface, not painted on, thus reducing the number of production steps and eliminating the possibility of peeling or wearing away during the expected life of the product. As a result, cost reductions of about 30% can be realized by an organization currently using soft-feel paint to achieve a similar effect. The surface texturing technology avoids the entire painting-curing-drying process, and the non-painted soft-feel surface is not subject to the cracking, peeling, and wear of a painted surface.

Applications include automotive uses for interior trim, golf carts, motorcycle, and aircraft trim; consumer electronics such as mobile phones, ebook readers, and tablet computers; home consumer products that have handles; sports equipment; and office products such as telephone handsets.

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