REHAU makes furniture a user interface

Smart Sense

SMART SENSE already conquered the international trade show imm in Cologne, Germany, in January, as the touch-sensitive polymer profile turns furniture into a user interface: the table height can be adjusted, the light regulated and the slatted bed frame controlled. It is not only among trade show visitors that the product innovation has been well received. Kitchen manufacturer Ballerina – established in the premium sector – has also recognized the potential. For example, SMART SENSE could be integrated into the kitchen and used as a control center. The business manager and other representatives from Ballerina kitchens discussed this and other ideas with the Furniture Solutions (FS) division last week as part of a visit to Rehau.

The SMART SENSE idea was born as part of a cooperation of the FS division and technology platform “Electronics into Polymers”, which had already been concentrating on the integration of touch-surfaces into polymer components since 2013, at that time still in the area of technology development in the “functional integration of electronics”. “Plastic and electronics go together well, as polymers do not insulate. If, for example, the case of a smartphone were completely made of metal, no signal would get through,” explains Dr. Ansgar Niehoff, Head of Technology Platform “Electronics into Polymers”. The staff of the advanced technologies area were looking in depth at the technology in 2015 and 2016 and approached the divisions with application examples and demonstrations. “We recognized the potential immediately for the area of furniture solutions,” says Thorsten Zwenzner, Head of Product Management Office Furniture Systems. Together with start-up plastic electronic and office furniture manufacturer König + Neurath, SMART SENSE was developed for conference tables. With the “endless touch”, for example, the height of the table can be adjusted from any position.

“For us, SMART SENSE is just the tip of the iceberg. We want to equip our polymers with additional functional uses and thus create real added value for our customers. We are also investigating new markets and alternative business models,” Thorsten emphasizes. The area of medical care is particularly interesting. Driven by the aging population, skills shortage and professionalization in the home care sector, we see great potential.

In the video below, Office Furniture Systems Product Manager Laura Stephuhn shows us SMART SENSE in action.

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