China's First All-Plastic Backrest and Seat Pan

A recent Automotive Seating Study from Johnson Controls found that a majority of consumers said driver comfort had the most impact on their latest vehicle purchase when compared with other vehicle interior attributes. Is it possible then for automakers to meet this demand for comfort while achieving even tighter and lighter weight automotive seating solutions?

BASF, SAIC Motor Corporation Limited, the largest automaker in China, and Shanghai Yanfeng Johnson Controls Seat Co. Ltd say yes. These three companies teamed up to put this theory to the test with their next generation lightweight concept front car seat. The backrest frame and seat pan are entirely made of plastic - a first for the Chinese market. And while the seat can be up to 20 percent lighter and 2.5 centimeters thinner than traditional models, it has been designed ergonomically to support driver comfort with the added benefit of providing more knee room for rear passengers.

Pictured above is China's first all-plastic backrest and seat pan. Pictured above is China's first all-plastic backrest and seat pan.

"In order to respond to customer's demand for energy-efficient, safe, comfortable cars, original equipment manufacturers are going lightweight," said Mr. Raimar Jahn, President of Performance Materials, BASF. "Leveraging BASF's strong innovation capability, plastics expertise and the strength of its partners in China, and globally, we jointly make innovative lightweight solutions for automotive parts possible."

Launched at Chinaplas 2015, the concept front car seat uses BASF's Ultracom™, thermoplastic composite system featuring continuous fiber reinforced plastics, to replace the metal in the automotive seat. Part of the Ultracom system is the overmolding component, Ultramid®. This particular component helps grant the automaker design freedoms that traditional metal seats just can't.

"In order to respond to customer's demand for energy-efficient, safe, comfortable cars, original equipment manufacturers are going lightweight."

The Ultramid technology contributes to a highly scratch resistant, remarkable surface quality. As a result, an automaker can play with the inclusion of this seat structure as a visible component within their design. The injection molding of the all-plastic backrest frame adds another layer of design flexibility. It can be used to enhance the comfort of the seat through ergonomic shaping, which allows for more personalized seating and customized interiors as the trend evolves. Plus, Ultramid is low in volatile organic compound emissions, aiding in achieving emissions standards.

The project demonstrates what is possible when pairing great technology with great expertise and partnerships. Cooperation and collaboration will not only help boost innovative design elements but also drive the sustainable development of China's automotive industry.