Wyandotte, Michigan - BASF has developed a weight-saving thermoplastic seat-back frame for car seats which could give manufacturers more design flexibility, including the possibility to reduce the amount of polyurethane-based foam cushioning.
The firm's specialists, working with others including experts with Faurecia Automotive Seating, have now produced the Susco 1.5 seat, which is on display at the K 2010 show, running 6 Oct - 3 Nov, in Düsseldorf, Germany. BASF and Faurecia are in the process of executing development contracts with key automakers to ready the technology for series production expected in 2014, according to a 26 Oct press release from the German firm.
The new seat back, made from continuous fibre reinforcements overmoulded with polyamid 6 resin, integrates the seat frame and back panel into one structure, BASF explains. It enables reduction in the amount of foam, and simplifies the trimming process. Further integration potential exists with other seating components, such as lumbar support, and heating and cooling modules, the release added.
Furtehrmore, the use of thermoplastics opens up innovative styling opportunities by allowing the use of textures, colours and surface appearance to complement the interior design of the rest of the vehicle. Easy and cost-efficient contouring, another benefit of designing with thermoplastics, also facilitated the providing of ergonomic support for the human form, while using thinner frames that contribute to the reduction of overall vehicle mass, the BASF statement concluded.
Continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastics represent the next step in the advance of thermoplastics' structural capabilities, says BASF. Although well established in aerospace and defence applications, by the time BASF began its own research on the materials, the materials had rarely been used in automotive applications.
To help in this major project, BASF partnered with Performance Materials Corp of Camarillo, California, a leader in the development and manufacture of products which it dubs CFRT. The continuous fibre materials were tested and retested and the results were compared to FEA (finite-element analysis) predictions, to provide data for subsequent computer modelling.
One considerable challenge was that the thinner, lighter back frame would have to be able to withstand the high crash energy demands required of automotive seats, BASF pointed out.
A key role in the development of the seat was played by CAE, computer-aided engineering software. This resulted in BASF's Ultrasim technology - referred to as an integrative simulation - which combines traditional tooling and process data with experimental data obtained from a special high-speed measuring device, itself developed by BASF. The technology thereby yields optimum part and process design, the German firm claims.
This allows us to efficiently design complex, CFRT reinforced structures to withstand the very demanding requirements of automotive seating," explained Peter Zorney, who works in the advanced development unit of BASF Corp.
"We took state-of-the art characterisation of our materials and added state-of-the-art characterisation of continuous fibre materials in order to accurately simulate dynamic crash events. We are now able to design automotive seat structures, and other structures, using our computer tools," he claimed.
This allows us to efficiently design complex, CFRT reinforced structures to withstand the very demanding requirements of automotive seating," Zorney concluded.