User experience and sustainability focus for research on functional surfaces

Martin Bergman, PhD student working at Halmstad University, focuses on material design and smart surfaces, for instance in a research project in cooperation with Volvo interior design, aimed at developing alternative methods of creating chromed plastic surfaces in car interiors.

”My research is aimed at finding an alternative way to achieve the same value, but without the negative side-effects.”

Martin Bergman

A large part of research on material design and smart surfaces is about challenging processes in order to find new, improved ways to reach equal, or higher, quality results. Often, the processes need to develop towards becoming more sustainable – in regard to economic, environmental and social issues.

“If the manufacturing process is not up to sustainability demands, it needs to change. In the project with Volvo interior design, we are developing new approaches to chrome plating”, says Martin Bergman.

Man with a beard wearing an orange jacket and a grey cap is sitting in a chair looking at something to his left. Photo.

In a car’s interior, there are many surfaces that look like metal, but that are actually made out of chromed plastic. Chromed surfaces look and feel like metal but are lighter. They are also more cost efficient. However, there is a problem with the chrome plating process.

“The process contains a step which is not long-term sustainable, and thus, needs changing. My research is aimed at finding an alternative way to achieve the same value, but without the negative side-effects”, says Martin Bergman, and continues:

“A large part of my expertise consists of translating the emotional, soft values that designers talk about, such as the feel of a surface, into the hands-on values that the manufacturing industry needs. In transitioning the chrome plating-process, many of the challenges are related to such value translation. One possible solution could be to use alternative methods, such as blasting or laser engraving.”

Martin Bergman also thinks that we – as consumers – might have to lower our expectations and make compromises.

“It might not be possible to keep the high level of detail that we are used to. Instead, we need to find alternatives that do not harm the environment”, Martin Bergman concludes.

Text: Christa Amnell
Photo: Anders Sällström