The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] CrucialTec taps EV market with eco-friendly painting tech

By Song Su-hyun

Published : Nov. 16, 2021 - 16:46

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Chairman Charles Ahn (CrucialTec) Chairman Charles Ahn (CrucialTec)

CrucialTec, once famed for its optical trackpad for BlackBerry, is venturing into the sizzling electric vehicle market, with a no-contact painting technology.

Called the “Vacuum Steam Solution (VSS)” transfer technology, the Pangyo-based firm’s new expertise is about painting the surface of electric devices like smartphone cases, home appliances, as well as the interior and exterior materials of automobiles. By applying heat and pressure to ink-coated films in a manner that doesn’t require human contact, the firm can easily add a variety of colors or patterns onto plastics, glass and metals.

“Coloring or adding designs to electronic products like smartphones was an unknown headache for many smartphone manufacturers as the job requires large-scale facilities such as a big water tank to float ink on the water, and human labor to evenly apply the ink to objects manually,” Charles Ahn, chairman of CrucialTec, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“It inevitably generated large amounts of waste water, which is harmful to the environment,” he added.

A CrucialTec research and development team first started looking into the matter in order to help paint the buttons for biometric solution modules in devices, as the firm is a leading fingerprint recognition module provider for smartphone vendors, the executive explained.

Then last year, amid growing calls for corporations to align their management with ESG values, meaning environmental, social and corporate governance, the firm decided to shift its business focus from biometric solutions to the eco-friendly painting solution.

It has built the VSS equipment together with Japan’s Yoshida Group that supplies cases to luxury cosmetics companies in Japan, Europe and the United States.

With the commercialization of the VSS technology, CrucialTec, which supplies its biometric solutions to more than 10 smartphone vendors around the world and recorded annual sales of 47 billion won ($39.86 million) last year, now looks to expand its foothold in the smartphone market and further into the electric vehicle market, Ahn said.

“CrucialTec’s VSS equipment enables electronics manufacturers as well as carmakers to simplify the manual painting task for their products through attachment of colored or patterned films to the surfaces of devices by using steam and air pressure,” the chairman explained.

“I believe VSS could be a game-changing technology in the era of ESG management, and as we see growing demand for EVs,” Ahn said. 
VSS equipment (CrucialTec) VSS equipment (CrucialTec)

Due to the large-scale painting required for automobiles, the company is hoping to target the auto market with the VSS technology and to widen the use of such eco-friendly technology.

The company is currently in talks with a major supplier for an automaker here to start applying the technology for interior materials for vehicles.