Category Archive: Uncategorized

American EVs: Soft-Touch Interiors & Mold Making

The pressure is on for automakers to move to EV, and to move a significant portion of manufacturing lines onshore. Will customers be willing to pay the premium? While many early EVs focused on smooth, modernistic interiors, the latest models hope to build customer acceptance with a familiar soft-touch interiors. For these new designs, auto manufacturers and their tier 2 suppliers are looking close to home to mitigate risk and minimize downtime with a regional supply chain strategy. US-based tooling for vacuum form molding will be necessary to keep pace with demand.

Soft-Touch Interior Market

The global automotive soft-trim interior market is expected to be worth up to $917 million USD by 2032. Electric and hybrid vehicles are quickly taking a larger percentage of the overall mobility market. By 2028, EVs are expected to make up 16% of the mobility market with hybrids at 24%. With EVs, and automobiles in general, trending towards smoother, more elegant interior surfaces, what does this mean for American manufacturers?

Lucid EV Interior Buick Electra EV

American Electric Vehicle Manufacturing

The Build Back Better act offers several tax incentives to bring electric vehicle manufacturing onshore. The EV version of the Chevy Corvette, for example, will offer a soft-touch interior and is poised to be produced in Bowling Green, Kentucky. General Motors as a whole plans to be fully electric by 2035.

Other automotive companies are making investments toward an electric future as well. Volkswagen announced  $200 billion towards electric vehicle research and development in late 2020. While Mercedez-Benz announced last year that it will invest around $80 billion between 2022 and 2030.

Other major players include well-known manufacturers like BMW, Ford, Hyundai, and Toyota.

The Mold Market

Soft-trim refers to the wide variety of materials, including fabrics, plastic composites, leather, and other natural or synthetic materials that contribute to the overall comfort and appearance of automotive interiors. Soft-trim products can range from seat covers that provide cushioning to the synthetic leather textures on dashboard and door panels, and they play a critical role in enhancing the aesthetic and comfort of the car’s interior.

To produce these soft trim components, molds are created to shape and form the materials into the desired shape and size. The mold making industry is responsible for creating the molds needed to manufacture these soft trim components.

One such technique is vacuum forming. Vacuum forming is a process where a sheet of plastic material is heated until it becomes pliable and then stretched over a mold using a vacuum. This technique is commonly used for producing soft-trim components such as interior panels and covers.

The mold making industry also plays a crucial role in the design and development of soft trim components. Working closely with automotive designers and engineers, mold makers ensure that the molds are designed to produce components that meet the desired specifications for fit, finish, and performance.

FET is a provider of high-quality mold tooling services like vacuum forming and electroform nickel tooling. We’re proud to service one of the most popular models on the road right now, and offer tooling services for a variety of other industries.

In addition to providing mold tooling services, FET also offers extensive repair and maintenance services for all our products – ensuring that customers can continue to rely on our tools for high-quality production even after extended use.

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Vacuum vs Slush Molding: The Right Tooling for Your Application

Working on process design for an upcoming program? FET Engineering provides electroform nickel tooling for slush molding, vacuum molding, roto molding, and other processes important to the form and finish of many end products in automotive, marine, recreational vehicle, and heavy-duty industries. As most major market leaders work with multiple molding vendors, it’s important to specify the best-fit requirements from the start.

Which molding process is the best fit for your end product?

Vacuum Forming

Vacuum molds are an excellent fit for high-volume parts, for instance, automotive, marine or recreational vehicle interiors. Vinyl and foam padding can be molded together in a single shot, repeatably over 1000s and 1000s of parts from a single mold. Many interior components are made using vacuum forming like this full interior door panel electroformed nickel in-mold grain lamination (IMGL) tool by FET Engineering.

From a design perspective, vacuum mold shapes are also easily customized which makes designing the mold a quicker process that lends itself to a better final design.

Vacuum forming is best fit for: High volume, large panels with deep groove lines

Slush Molding

Slush molding is the process of heating the mold up to a very high temperature and dumping dry powder into the hot mold creating a melted “slushy” product that is rolled around until cooled.  As it cools, it solidifies and all the textures and details are then transferred.  The result is a skin that is hand pulled from the mold. (Think of dipping your hand in wax and pulling the wax off to reveal your fingerprint and texture) This skin is then taken to the next step to be bonded with the substrate by a foam injection machine that FET also provides.

Slush molding can produce the finest textures, such as leather grain, and tooling for slush molding typically requires a shorter lead time than vacuum tooling, though because of the high heat required, will require more maintenance and repair over the lifetime of a high volume, long-running program. FET Engineering supports your Tier 2 molding vendors with US-based service, cleaning, and mold repair.

Slush molding is best fit for: Lower initial cost, faster lead time, lower volume parts with highly precise detail


Vacuum ToolingSlush Molding
  • Low cost at high volume
  • Extreme detail transfer with complex shapes
  • Efficient, low heat
  • Lower cycle times
  • No robotics needed
  • Shorter lead times for additional molds
  • Consistent and repeatable

FET is proud to provide vacuum and slush tooling services across the globe. We provide extensive repair and maintenance services and warranty all our products. Contact us to learn more about how FET can be of service for any of your mold tooling applications.