Light Touch Matters: Fjord goes back to school

Andy Goodman

Way back in 2011 Fjord participated in an EU contest along with a consortium of other organisations to win a project around Smart Materials related to healthcare, we entitled the project Light Touch Matters. Smart materials are substances which when you apply pressure create a small electrical current. By combining this with OLED display technology we are able create an almost limitless range of new applications for information display, learning, safety, healthcare, entertainment and advertising.

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Celebrations were held across 8 different European countries when in May 2012 our consortium’s submission won through from the 32 competing entries. We then began the long process of setting up the logistics of the programme and ideating the initial concepts that would provide the EU grant panel with the confidence to award the full funding for the three and a half year endeavour. Again this was achieved and finally on 19th Feb 2013 all the parties gathered at the Industrial Engineering school of the University of Delft in Holland to mingle and share ideas about what our objectives were and how we would achieve our monumental task.

The inaugural session brought together the Light Touch Matters consortium of 20 organisations ranging from design to material sciences to research and development and academic institutions. It was a thoroughly invigorating day where we each shared our own personal objectives and what we will each bring to the mission.

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What is remarkable about this project is that it is the first time that the EU has ever called for designers and engineers to collaborate right at the beginning of the process. The thinking is that this will accelerate the development process and put research and user context at the heart of the project, whilst bringing physics and other sciences into the dialogue to validate the ideas generated.

Personally we felt honoured and excited to be amongst so many smart people doing incredibly clever things with healthcare products, the technology of materials, electronic engineering and screenless touch interfaces. Some of the remarkable things we heard about from our new partners was the Gina concept car for BMW which uses hi-tech fabric as a shell rather than metal, Fuelfor’s project which is trying to design the experience of dying in Singapore hospices, and from a TU Delft lecturers who teaches her students to rethink how you sense the world around you through sound, smell and touch.

We hope to keep you updated regularly with progress on this ground-breaking project but for now we’ll leave you with the 11 science and Tech objectives that frame our mission.

  1. Achieve continuous and intensive dialogue between product designers and material researchers
  2. Implement and validate an effective design-driven materials R&D methodology
  3. Develop fully-flexible Piezo plastics for low-cost, high-volume touch sensing applications
  4. Develop fully-flexible OLEDs with improved aesthetic properties for signage applications
  5. Develop fully-novel thin, flexible, integrated touch-sensitive luminous materials
  6. Develop a range of tactile qualities
  7. Develop manufacturing methods to integrate ‘light touch materials’ into parts and products
  8. Design novel product interfaces that exploit the unique touch and luminosity properties
  9. Assure best-in-class environmental impact of the materials and products developed
  10. Assure broad application of the novel smart materials developed in the creative and general industry
  11. Foster design-driven materials innovation in the EU

More information about the project and the members of the consortium can be found here: Light Touch Matters

Andy Goodman

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