What is the use of Alcantara in automobile industry?
Alcantara is a synthetic composite which offers greater stain/abrasion resistance and durability compared to the organic material it emulates, suede.
Alcantara is a covering microfibre material manufactured and marketed by Alcantara S.p.A. It is primarily used in the design, fashion, accessories, consumer electronics, automotive and marine industries. First, a quick history lesson. In 1970, a Japanese scientist by the name of Miyoshi Okamoto developed a synthetic material for Toray Industries, the company he was working for. Around 1972, a joint venture between Italian chemical company ENI and Toray formed Alcantara SpA in order to manufacture and distribute the material. The company is now owned by Toray and Mitsui.
Alcantara is composed of about 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane, giving increased durability and stain resistance.
Like Kleenex, Alcantara is both the material’s brand name and a colloquial term. It shares the same technology as another synthetic microfiber material, Ultrasuede, developed by Okamoto for Toray around the same time. Ultrasuede is produced in Japan.
The appearance and tactile feel of the material is similar to that of suede, and it may be identified as such. Some versions are designated as flame retardant in order to meet certain fire standards for both furnishings and automobile applications.
Alcantara is a synthetic composite which offers greater stain/abrasion resistance and durability compared to the organic material it emulates, suede. Though the Italian brand is hush-hush about their secret sauce, a deep dive into their sustainability report reveals that the production process includes thermoplastic polymers in the raw ingredients, which eventually produce the microfiber and its subsequent plush, suede-like pile. Incidentally, development of Alcantara has been continually tweaked over the decades, and because the manufacturing procedure involves a solvent coagulation process, the company is quick to mention their plant’s strict environmental controls, and the carbon neutrality of its production process. Alcantara tends to be featured on high-end cars
What are the benefits of Alcantara?
Despite having a similar appearance to suede, Alcantara can endure much harsher environments without spoiling its soft and silky characteristics. This makes it an ideal material to use inside cars – it’ll brush off light scuffs and marks with ease, where other materials may be damaged. Another obvious plus-point are the looks – many performance and high end cars use this material for its grippy texture and premium appearance. While it is more durable and resistant, to keep it looking its best (and your resale values high) you’ll want to keep it clean.
Because of its color fastness to light and abrasion resistance, Alcantara is able to pass what some automakers refer to as the “Arizona test” for exposure to UV and heat. it is a proprietary, heavily textured blend of polyester and polyurethane, though Toray closely guards the specific formula and production process. Compared with sueded leather, Alcantara can be up to 50 percent lighter, is harder to scratch or rip, doesn’t get as cold or hot to the touch, and is highly resistant to sun fade. It’s also extremely grippy, which has made it popular for steering-wheel covers and shift knobs. And since it’s synthetic, it’s cruelty-free.