Customer spotlight: 10 domande con ZKW Group

Bright Minds, Bright Lights: questo è il motto del Gruppo ZKW, un’azienda specializzata nella produzione di sistemi di illuminazione ed elettronica innovativi di alta qualità per produttori automobilistici internazionali, con un totale di dodici sedi in tutto il mondo.

Il portafoglio comprende fari e fendinebbia, luci posteriori, lampeggianti, luci interne e illuminazione di targhe, nonché moduli elettronici. I loro clienti sono: BMW (BMW, Rolls Royce), DAIMLER (MERCEDES-BENZ), FORD (Lincoln, Ford), GEELY (Volvo, Polestar, Lynk & Co, Geely), GENERAL MOTORS (Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac), Hyundai/Kia, JLR (Jaguar, Land Rover), Stellantis (Opel, Citroen), RENAULT/NISSAN (Infiniti, Alpine), VGTT (Volvo Trucks, MACK) e VW (Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Skoda, Seat/Cupra, VW, VW Veicoli Commerciali, MAN, Scania).

Con sistemi di illuminazione intelligenti e uno stile innovativo, ZKW sta plasmando l’aspetto e il carattere dei veicoli in tutto il mondo. Lo sa bene l’Ing. Sattler, ingegnere di processo della sede austriaca di ZKW, che ci ha concesso la seguente intervista.

What type of machines did you purchase from Arzuffi?

We are using Arzuffi machines since 2007 starting with AM/KW type evaporation machines and switched to sputtering technology FAST MET SPR II machine type in recent years. We also developed a special PVD system together with Arzuffi.

Which specific applications or components do you primarily use Arzuffi PVD equipment for in your manufacturing processes?

The vast majority is aluminum metallization for bezel and reflector parts in automotive headlamps. In recent years we started to apply more specialized decorative and functional PVD coatings on our products

What advantages or benefits do you see in using PVD metallizing compared to other coating methods for automotive lighting systems?

There a lot of different coating technologies available so making a decisive comparison would fill a small book. In my opinion one of the biggest advantages (compared to non PVD coatings) is that you can apply coatings in a nanometer range making an exact copy of the surface below. So high gloss surfaces stay high gloss, grained areas show the same structure as the raw part – and all of this on one part. PVD Techniques (especially sputtering) are extremely versatile enabling you to do a lot of different coatings with one machine type. Another important advantage is nowadays that PVD metallization is considered a rather efficient method in terms of material and energy usage so you can provide a “green” technology.

How do you envision the future of PVD metallizing technology evolving within the automotive industry, particularly in the context of lighting systems?

Well Metallization in general saw a decrease during the last years due to the fact that the “modern” headlamps are rather dark in appearance compared to 10 or 15 years ago and there is a shift to reflector-less systems for higher tier headlamps. What we see now is a shift to a more specialized kind of decorative coating which allows for more individualization in terms of color or visual effects.

From your perspective, what are the most significant thin film coating trends currently shaping the automotive lighting industry?

What can be clearly seen since a few years is a shift to sputtering technology because of its versatility. For decorative coatings the trend to “dark chrome” surface finishes is still growing although there seem to be an increase in more colored coatings. Another trend which we currently see is the increase in functional (mainly optical) coatings to increase reflectivity of reflector systems or transmittance of optical parts for specific wavelengths.

Have there been any changes in consumer preferences or expectations regarding automotive lighting aesthetics, functionality, or customization options?

As stated before – most customers are asking for a “dark appearance” or special designs which gives different effects for “cold” and “warm” design. Unfortunately, such designs often come at increased costs. Customization requests are two-fold, it depends on whom you ask. Design and Sales want to have these features, but Production and Logistics are not so enthusiastic due to the steep increase in logistic complexity.

Are there any emerging lighting technologies or concepts that you find particularly promising or exciting for the future of automotive lighting?

There are a lot of new ideas for future lighting systems and concepts which are currently under development and evaluation. The influence of these new systems on coating technology is quite challenging as these ask much more for functional coatings than “simple” decorative coatings. This is mainly driven by the idea to use the headlamp not only for lighting purposes but as a sensor array for other driving security functions or autonomous driving.

Are there any specific regulations or safety standards that have had a significant impact on the design and development of automotive lighting systems?

In terms of coating technology – not really except the continuously increased requirements concerning the durability (temperature, chemical resistance,.)

What sets ZKW apart from other companies in the automotive lighting industry in terms of innovation?

Into the future with innovation: Research fascinates. It also drives development in the right direction. The result is innovation based on decades of experience – innovation that sets trends, instead of just following them. Our employees in the R&D department ensure that the key technologies of tomorrow match the needs of our customers today. Because research and development is always a process that has to keep moving, we move forward on both customer orders and on our own developments. And we do it all against the background of a corporate strategy that focuses on making complex products and processes even more safe and efficient. To do so, the ZKW Group’s R&D department has one of the largest lighting channels in the world, and works with highly modern measurement technologies that assess prototypes and series production headlamps alike for their light output, light color, and homogeneity. We use it to continue working on innovative solutions that are the key to continually expanding our technological advantage – and our customers’ advantage as well.

Can you share some examples of recent innovative solutions or technologies that ZKW has introduced to the market?

For an overlook on our solutions and technologies please refer to Most recent innovations you will see in upcoming cars soon.