Cutting-edge Research and Design in Integrating Real Materials

Zimbabwe black granite, ebony wood, Carrara marble, Limoges porcelain, mother-of-pearl…The tones, hues and haptic qualities of some materials have made them cornerstones of design and synonyms for comfort, elegance and warmth. Traditionally, these exclusive materials were reserved for the world of interior design, but have now made the leap to other industrial areas.
The growing commitment to sustainability and design in demanding sectors such as the automotive industry has led some manufacturers to innovate, in a bid to integrate these real materials into the dashboards and trims of vehicles to provide them with specific features and create a differential environment. All this is done with the aim of turning the vehicles of the present and the future into flagships of the so-called Third Living Space.
Walter Pack works to make innovation, design and sustainability three of its hallmarks.

Design and materials

Sonia Lopez, head of the Color&Trim department, and Gorka Litago, from the R&D team, explain what prompted the Basque manufacturer to experiment with real materials in the automotive field and take it to the leading position it occupies today.
“Our technological monitoring of the sector allowed us to discover a demand, a growing need, for vehicles to become extensions of the home. That meant introducing into the cockpit materials that could be found inside a living room, such as wood, concrete, stone… materials that are usually used in luxury rooms,”
explains Gorka Litago.
From then on, the R&D department began to probe the market for suppliers of these types of real materials and to investigate how they could adapt to their technology to achieve a real integration inside a car.

The question was, how to go about it? How can stone be malleated and made into a front panel with a specific shape? How can a feature or backlight system be integrated that contributes to creating a specific environment inside a vehicle?

“Some of the stones used to make these coatings are stratified. One of the techniques used by suppliers to obtain these sheets is to cut the blocks at the quarry, apply a resin which is left to cure and then peel it off, which gets part of the stone to stick to the resin. The result is a natural stone film that is less than 1 mm thick,” ,

explains the R&D manager. After that, Walter Pack comes into play to give these materials three-dimensionality.

Sheets of stone, wood, fabrics, cork and a range of other materials take on the corresponding shapes through the thermoforming process.

Finishes and coatings

The R&D department researches and tests coatings that protect these natural materials while complying with the technical requirements of the automotive industry. “We look for coatings that are fully compatible with these materials and provide all the technical characteristics that an automotive part needs; in other words, dirt protection, chemical and oil resistance, scratch-resistance and protection from sun damage. This is a crucial task in the case of real materials because each one requires a particular coating that fits their nature,” adds Gorka.

Price and quality

Obtaining varnishes capable of passing all resistance and compatibility tests is one of the main challenges faced by the R&D department, along with manufacturing affordable options from an economic point of view.

“We work to reduce the economic cost of parts made with these real materials so that they can be used in a wider sector than the luxury automotive sector,”

explains Gorka

This is precisely one of Walter Pack’s value propositions, along with the simplification of processes:

“The developments we carry out with films are more competitive than those of other companies. Yet we are not only more competitive in terms of cost; we also offer services ranging from design guidance to guarantee the feasibility of the project, advising on decorative alternatives with different design proposals, supplying raw materials and treatments, to manufacturing the final part injected in our facilities,”

adds Sonia López


One of the main tasks Walter Pack performs is feasibility studies, which are essential to verify the viability of the project from all points of view: geometric, functional, economic, etc.

“Keep in mind that real materials are not like a plastic film that has stretch properties of around 180% and can cover more aggressive angles and parts. At Walter Pack, we understand the limitations of these materials and we can advise our customers when carrying out a specific design with specific functions. Our technological expertise in plastronics gives us a huge competitive edge when it comes to making these integrations with real materials. This represents a high added value because very few thermoforming companies have a line of real materials and have the necessary flexibility to adapt their production processes,”

explains Gorka Litago


The result is spectacular by any standard.

“We are able to produce parts with a stone film and a specific shape to which backlighting can also be applied. Lighting tones can be modified to the consumer’s liking to create the desired ambient lighting. We also focus on preserving the materials’ real haptic, with an adequate degree of roughness and temperature, so that the experience of touching it is authentic. We can even give each part a custom finish, for example, granite and rough, or a polished marble surface,”

says Sonia López

These characteristics are what make Walter Pack a leading partner in the research, design and production of automotive parts using real materials, placing it at the technological forefront for supporting the sector’s evolution and development.