Molded Magnesium Structures
Lighter, stronger: those are the buzzwords that will lead seating system development in the near term. These goals will require the adoption of advanced materials to help reduce vehicle weight, while also complying with vehicle safety regulations. Magna Seating System's injection-molded magnesium seat structure system uses advanced materials and molding technology to help meet these goals: "The traditional problem with magnesium was that it was higher cost than steel, but molded magnesium technology can be cost competitive because there are no brackets to be welded and fastened: we can integrate the features onto a single frame, which lowers manufacturing costs," says Imtiyaz Syed, vice president of engineering at Magna Seating. The weight savings provided by using molded magnesium can help improve vehicle fuel economy and the materials itself complies with all crash regulations.
The race to develop electric vehicles is likely to result in some unexpected issues for OEMs when it comes to interior flexibility. Large battery packs will consume massive amounts of space under the vehicle, limiting the ability for in-floor seat stowage systems commonly found in today's minivans and crossovers. Magna's swing-up rear seating system mitigates that limitation by pivoting the seatback up into the headliner, allowing for continued flat-floor loading of longer items. "We're using what we commonly think of as 'dead space' and best of all, this solution doesn't hamper rear visibility," Syed says. Several OEMs have expressed an interest in the technology, but the system requires extensive collaboration during the body-in-white development stage.
U.S. Federal regulations outlining the increased size and shape of headrests designed to reduce whiplash injuries—FMVSS 202—took effect for front seat occupants in 2008, but expanded compliance to encompass rear occupants has to be completed by September 2010. Large head rows in the second and third rows could hamper the driver's rearward visibility, so Magna has developed a membrane head restraint systems that complies with regulatory requirements, while providing improved visibility through the use of a mesh material in the center of the headrest.