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 Tech of the Week

Synthetic leather material with a touch-feel superior to high-quality natural leather and durability better than synthetics

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

SOFILEZ is a synthetic leather material developed by Nissan that delivers a touch-feel (or hand) superior to the high-quality natural leather used in apparel and furniture applications, but that is also more durable than existing synthetic leathers. Nissan engineers based their design on the way the human fingertip interacts with surfaces along four different axes of material properties. The fingertip determines whether a surface is soft or hard, smooth or coarse, wet or dry, and warm or cold. By discovering the relationship between the fingertip and the sensations produced by feeling high-quality hide-based material, Nissan engineers set the appropriate physical properties for the SOFILEZ material. People sense the greatest comfort, and the feel is most similar to high-quality leather, when the interval of salient materials is closest to that of the fingerprint. Nissan uses the material in its high-end FUGA automobile (sold as the Infiniti M in North America) for high-touch areas such as the armrest and door panels, where the touch of the product is important but durability is critical. The material is available from Nissan in quantity and in any color.

Nissan engineers developed a material that feels better than leather and is much more durable.

Genuine leather has an excellent appearance and feel, but especially in applications where abrasion may occur, genuine leather does not stand up well over time. As a natural product, genuine leather can dry out, for example, in applications such as an automotive interior where sustained high temperatures can persist.

Synthetic leather is highly durable to abrasion, and its appearance is good, but its touch-feel cannot duplicate that of genuine leather.

Automobile interiors challenge durability and appearance of materials.

Nissan engineers discovered the relationship between the human fingertip and the way it interprets the surface of a natural product such as leather, and used this knowledge to produce a synthetic material that looks like genuine leather, but has a touch-feel even better than leather as well as durability better than the current generation of synthetic leathers. It emulates the feel of fine leather used in apparel and furniture applications. Color fastness and abrasion resistance makes it suitable for use even in the harsh environment of an automobile interior.

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