Faurecia and Rhodia are partnering on plastic seat cushion structural components they believe will be 20% lighter than conventional steel parts, without compromising safety. The automotive supplier and specialty chemicals/plastics manufacture have worked together since November 2009 on next-generation lightweight, structural seat components using polyamide, officially signing a joint-development agreement (JDA) in February 2011.
Seat cushion structural components jointly designed by Faurecia and Rhodia are currently in what the companies call "advanced development," with series production expected in 2014. Beyond this milestone, both companies intend to extend their cooperation to "further explore new innovative solutions to help meet automotive OEM's needs for lightweight solutions," according to release.
Rhodia produces polyamide 6, and 6.6 engineering plastics under the Technyl brand, with existing automotive applications in cooling/heating, air systems, transmission, fuel circuits, oils pans, seating, and structural, interior, and exterior parts. Within seating it supplies material for handles and mechanisms, with what it calls a "real opportunity for frames" in the transportation market, including fire and fume resistant grades for public transportation. On its website, the company said that the key success factor for reducing weight in seat frame is "a clever use on material mix: metal, composite, and compounds for injection."
In 2005, advanced thermoplastic composite technology supplier, Fiberforge, announced the completion of concept seat project for Tier One automotive supplier Johnson Controls that used plastics to create a lighter seat with the composites partially exposed in a cantilevered hinge design that maximizes leg room.
BASF's Innovative Technology Group has also targeted automotive seating systems, in one instance replacing metal with a BASF plastic seating system that resulted in 15 fewer parts, 10 fewer assembly steps, and a 6.5-lb weight reduction. The company says its Ultramid nylon, Petra PET, and Nypel recycled nylon materials can be found in several automotive seating systems, including seat cushion and back frames, seat track adjusters and transmissions, lumbar handles and supports, and recliner handles.
The company said its Ultramid TG resins were used in the first North American metal-replacement application for an automotive seat cushion pan frame, passing GM's impact test for the H-Car Seat Pan Frame. The OEM utilized a glass-reinforced, heat-stabilized, impact-modified nylon.