Sometimes we receive an email here at EFTM HQ that causes a bit of a double take. This particular email said: “Pimp my ride? Invite to interview Kurz MD about innovative smart surface decoration.” It took a solid half an hour before my mind actually comprehended what this was actually all about.

Lighting or in particular interactive lighting is becoming a huge thing. A company called Kurz specialsies in this area. So I thought why not pose some questions to Stephen Pratt, he’s the Managing Director Australia & New Zealand at Leonhard Kurz. It turned out to be quite an education.

Q: While I fully comprehend what Kurz does, I think in general 99 per cent of people would look at me with glazed eyes if I tried to explain it to them. So can you give an explanation in layman terms as to what Kurz actually does?

KURZ is the worldwide leader in thin-film technology, designed to be transferred to a wide range of substrates and surfaces by means of various application processes including hot and cold stamping. Some of our applications include protective (identity theft/anti-counterfeiting, but also mechanical/chemical), decorative and functional. Operating in the B2B space, there are literally no limits to the range of applications for our products; we add value through individualisation and customisation, and still after 120 years of history, there’s always something new – so we continue to innovate!

Q: Lighting is really becoming an interesting area in the automotive space. Many high-end European cars offer various ambient lighting packages. But Kurz is taking this to new levels via its Human-Machine Interface solutions. How does this separate Kurz from the rest?

KURZ has established itself in the supply chain of the automotive Industry through well-rounded integration of design and functionality to provide finished products. Our high level of continuous innovation, design, engineering, process competence and reliability (made in Germany) have made KURZ a supplier of choice in this market. KURZ is also the only company offering such a wide range of products, along with cutting edge and often completely new application processes, machinery and tooling. In some cases we sell semi-finished parts, while in others we supply ready-to-integrate finished parts highlighting the flexibility of KURZ as a supplier.

Q: The Mini Clubman offers  atmospheric colour changes all at the touch of a button. How did you come to work with a brand that of course is owned by BMW?

KURZ has been working with the majority of major automotive brands, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the associated supply chain, in some cases for decades already. Most of the time, our offerings are customised to the OEM interior and exterior colour and the trim designer’s needs. These foil enhanced parts are often specifically shaped to allow foil application with one of our various application processes, and for those reasons KURZ had to establish direct contacts to OEM colour and trim design – engineering to be involved in the specifying, as well as to deal with the procurement teams. Aside from semi-finished goods, a number of KURZ Group subsidiaries such as BURG Design and Schöfer, can also supply finished parts to Tier 1 or OEM assembly lines.

Q: Outside of the automotive space there’s a whole world of opportunities. You’ve made massive inroads into touch and gesture control for example?

Yes, that is correct. KURZ now provide touch and/or gesture controls for household appliances, white goods, lighting and light switches, consumer electronics, etc. There is a “whole world of opportunities” for the KURZ Poly IC and Poly TC technology, with limits still yet to be defined.

Q; There seems to be a trend to remove the humble button, not just in cars but home appliances and other areas. Why do you think that is? 

Yes, and there are various reasons for this. In some cases it is purely for product optics, where finishes like dead-front are preferred, and allow for more decoration, multi-touch, provide a value-add area, or even reduce weight. The technology also requires less space when compared to traditional methods requiring a sensor and printed circuit boards (PCB) or mechanical buttons, and requires less assembly components (e.g. IML sensors), resistances (use of on glass possible, which is the most scratch, chemical etc. resistant material), and sometimes it is simply just to save cost.

Q: New generation Audi interiors offer a really elaborate digital display. But it’s prone to fingerprint marks and that’s literally the first complaint my wife would hone in on. Is it possible to make a smudge-free screen!

This is nearly impossible, as every surface has a surface tension which makes it receptive to some substance or another. However, KURZ have a few projects where our foil is selected over paint or other decoration materials due to less fingerprint affinity.

Q: Tell us a tad more about Kurz Australia, how many people are employed? When was it established, who owns it etc…

KURZ was founded in the 1890’s in Fuerth, Germany. KURZ is family owned with a global footprint that now supports more than 5,000 employees worldwide. Here in Australia KURZ is coming up to its 50th anniversary during 2020; we employ more than 30 people across our four sites located in Sydney (our Head Office), Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland, New Zealand.  We supply much of the decorative foil used on wine and food labels and packaging and are proud to see our KINEGRAM product in the clear window of all of the new Australian Banknotes.