Car seats: complexity where you don’t expect it

Materials and Products

Car seats are one of the main components of driver and passenger comfort. To ensure this feature, the seat is a very complex device. This complexity complicates the reuse of the material of which it is made. With the Digiprime project, we want to ensure a second life to these materials as well.

Generally, when we think of a car we always imagine it from the outside. We can easily reconstruct the image of its body, windows and wheels. But most of the time we spend with a car is inside it. That’s why driver and passenger comfort is one of the central factors in choosing a car. One of the central elements of the driving experience is the seat itself, a tireless companion on every car journey.

The seat is a complex device, it consists of metal supports connected to mechanisms (sometimes electromechanical) that adjust and ensure the most comfortable posture possible. The supports are covered with layers of padding, typically polyurethane. In the most recent models, the padding is different for different districts of the body (head, trunk, lumbar and legs) that will support to ensure maximum ergonomics of the seat. Finally, the whole is covered with a textile material that is not only an aesthetic component.

Seat upholstery is the “textile” component of an automobile that has the greatest variability, It can be leather, leatherette, fabric, knit or a combination of them. In the early history of the automobile, the most widely used material was leather, characterized by durability, strength, abrasion resistance and attractive appearance. The disadvantages of leather seats are the deformation that occurs over a short time of use on the seats and backrest as a result of long-term multidirectional stress. Additional drawbacks are difficult maintenance, inadequate breathability and poor UV resistance.

In common cars, in order to overcome these disadvantages and ensure a sustainable supply to the ever-increasing demand for cars in the world, there has been a switch to a triple-layer material consisting of a fabric on the outside, a polyurethane intermediate layer and a knitted layer on the bottom. This type of material is able to satisfy a large number of characteristics such as high strength, but also sufficient elasticity, breathability, reduction of flammability and electrostatic charge, and resistance to abrasion, UV rays, extreme temperatures, moisture and microorganisms. In addition, the attractive appearance, soft touch, ergonomic design, comfort and easy maintenance give the feeling of a comfortable stay in the vehicle.

With the H2020 Digiprime Project, in collaboration with over 30 European partners, Centrocot has accepted the challenge of building a digital platform able to support companies in opening up new avenues of circular economy starting from these very automobile components. For example, we want to develop new value chains starting from the recovery of the seat fabric and end of life, going to revalorize those features that make it an optimal product for comfort. All this to ensure a more sustainable supply chain and a greener future for the automotive sector.

For more info:

Omar Maschi Ph. D – Multisectoral Research and Innovation

Francesco Dellino – Multisectoral Research and Innovation

Author: Francesco Dellino
Multisectoral Research and Innovation Dept.