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Machine Design

Phosphors light the way toward slick dashboard

Mercedes wanted its new E-Class and CLK models to sport instrument panels with large LCDs in the middle of the speedometers.

The Mercedes E-Class and CLK models sport instrument clusters made from Durel 3 Electroluminescent Lighting. Other OEMs using Durel EL include Daimler/Chrysler, Ford, and Lancia.

To accomplish this, designers at Siemens VDO Automotive Corp., Auburn Hills, Mich. ( outfitted the instrument clusters with Durel 3 Electroluminescent Lighting (EL). EL consists of an ultrathin layer of phosphor particles that glow when excited by ac power and is reportedly one of the most flexible lighting systems available.

"EL was selected because it gives uniform lighting without using light guides. It is also thin and flexible which helps simplify designs and allows intricate shapes and multilevel, 3D designs," says John Dowdell, president of Durel Corp., Chandler Ariz. ( "Durel EL also uses less power and runs cooler, which boosts efficiency and reliability."

Durel worked with Siemens VDO and Serigraph Inc., West Bend, Wis. (, to develop two styles. For the E-Class, white graphics appear on the Avantgarde's dashboard. And black graphics serve in the Classic and Elegance models. CLK model/trim lines include Elegance and Avantgarde with black in the Elegance.

Durel, a joint venture between 3M, St. Paul (, and Rogers Corp., Rogers Conn. (, also manufactures coated phosphors, inks, custom electroluminescent lamps, and EL drivers.

-- Jean M. Hoffman

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