Customer Success Stories
Developing Tactile Wood Materials with Woodoo and Altium
“Altium 365 was a real necessity for us because I’m one of several engineers using the tool. Cloud functionality has been very helpful for us working together as a team. We collaborate on projects and conduct all of our design reviews using the platform.”
Find out how Woodoo, a French bio-materials company, sustainably transforms wood into a unique, next-generation building material with Altium technology.
Sustainability has become a commonplace driver in product development across multiple industries, including consumer products, materials, and construction. Woodoo, a materials company headquartered in Paris, France, is redefining sustainability with a revolutionary new approach that transforms responsibly-harvested hardwoods into a durable, translucent material.
Woodoo uses a proprietary nanotechnology process that removes lignin—an organic polymer found in the cell walls of plants that makes them rigid and woody—and replaces it with a bio-based polymer made from recycled materials.
Woodoo’s wood technology is just as versatile as plastic, but thinner, more translucent, stronger, lightweight, and perfectly translucent! It can be molded to fit just about any shape, making the material ideal for everything from touch-screen automotive consoles and high-end consumer goods to flooring, display screens, and even credit cards. The technology may also help to one day replace less sustainable materials such as plastic, glass, and metals.
The electronics design software that Woodoo uses to create this unique technology is by Altium.
“We work often with translucent and printed electronics; our process transforms natural wood into touch-sensitive surfaces by using bendable and transparent electrodes. Altium Designer has been particularly useful for drawing electrodes and all of the touch-sensitive surfaces on translucent boards. We design and route them in Altium Designer and then send them straight to manufacturing using Altium 365.”
The Woodoo Gurus
In 2016, the United Nations estimated that within 15 years, three billion people would be in need of affordable housing worldwide. Architect Timothée Boitouzet—honored as one of the world’s leading Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review—founded Woodoo the same year to address the impending global housing crisis.
In the first few years of operation, Woodoo relied on a free PCB design tool that helped get their initial designs moving forward, but by 2020, a more comprehensive solution was clearly needed to meet their founder’s ambitious goals.
Nicolas Furnemont, Mechatronics Engineer, was brought onboard in early 2020 and tasked with finding a new PCB software tool that would support the company’s progress and clients with ease. Furnemont chose Altium Designer.
“Altium Designer is a very unique PCB software system because everything you need is all in one place. The unified design environment is unlike any other tool I’ve seen,” Furnemont elaborates.
Woodoo’s main products are translucent wood and a special tool the company uses with prospective customers. The wood is used to create sophisticated lighting displays and the tactile, handheld device showcases the treated wood’s capabilities. Hierarchical design and Native 3D™ made Altium Designer a natural choice for Furnemont and his colleagues to create both.
“Because our product encompasses a thin surface plus multiple functional blocks like power, processing, user interfaces, and sensors, we need to make sure that all of the electronic components can fit neatly in a very small area. Altium Designer’s hierarchical design features allow us to manage connections between all functional blocks and ensure components are linked together correctly. And, by being able to visualize the boards in 3D, we always know that they’ll fit inside the finished product perfectly.”
Altium Designer is also ideal for the unique shapes Woodoo’s signature product conforms to because it empowers Rigid-Flex design.
“We work often with translucent and printed electronics; our process transforms natural wood into touch-sensitive surfaces by using bendable and transparent electrodes. Altium Designer has been particularly useful for drawing electrodes and all of the touch-sensitive surfaces on translucent boards. We design and route them in Altium Designer and then send them straight to manufacturing using Altium 365,” Furnemont explains.
"Altium Designer’s hierarchical design features allow us to manage connections between all functional blocks and ensure components are linked together correctly. And, by being able to visualize the boards in 3D, we always know that they’ll fit inside the finished product perfectly.”
Streamlining Everyday Workflow with Altium 365
For Furnemont and his colleagues, Altium 365 has become absolutely essential. Altium 365 offers a new design experience connecting engineering desktop tools (including Altium Designer) with all stakeholders involved, from design to manufacturing, via a cloud-based platform.
“Altium 365 was a real necessity for us because I’m one of several engineers using the tool. Cloud functionality has been very helpful for us working together as a team. We collaborate on projects and conduct all of our design reviews using the platform,” Furnemont elaborates.
Design review, in particular, is much easier for Furnemont. “Altium 365 has been very helpful for design review and validation. The online viewer tool makes it easy to see the boards in 3D from all sides, as well as all of the different components. We also really like the comments feature, where you can put a comment on a component or a specific area right inside the schematic and get issues resolved. The team members can also use the comments for easy version control. They don’t need to worry if components or designs are up to date or even ask for the last version—everything is all right there, online and easy to understand.”
Leaving a Lasting Impression Behind
To help Woodoo’s prospective customers get a better sense of the look and feel of their material’s distinctive properties, Furnemont and his team have also created a special handheld device that combines their finished product with a touchscreen interface.
The device—designed entirely with Altium software—helps customers not only understand Woodoo’s capabilities, but also how it can be used in their projects. “We don’t just sell the materials—we also want to help customers design their own interfaces. Using this little tool, customers can modify the interface and learn more about Woodoo using a black-panel screen. They can use it to display or hide features, change lighting effects and really explore all of the different ways Woodoo can be used.”
Woodoo have used the tool to help greenlight some of their most ambitious applications to date, including custom LED panels that can be used as backdrops by concert halls and credit cards, integrating complex RFID systems inside a realistic wood-grain build.
The team is hopeful that Woodoo will ultimately become a viable alternative to plastics. Moving forward, the company is planning on using recycled and reclaimed wood to make their material even more sustainable, as well as offering the lignin material they extract for making biofuels and carbon fiber.
And Altium technology will be there to support them with each successive milestone, from start to finish.