Hydroforming and laser welding may give rise to lighter car seats. That seems to be what’s indicated by a project that Johnson Controls Automotive Seating is pursuing in Germany along with the Institute for Integrated Production and the Hanover Laser Center.
They are developing tailored tubes that are a combination of steel and aluminum that can then be used in applications like seat backs.
According to Andreas Eppinger, group vice president, technology management, at Johnson Controls Automotive Seating, “The primary challenge is first connecting the steel and aluminum tube sections. The hollow components are given their final geometry by means of hydroforming.”
Conventional welding hasn’t been able to provide a sufficient bond to withstand the pressures that are involved in hydroforming, which is why laser brazing is being used.
Explaining the rationale for the 24-month project, which is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Research Association for Automotive Technology, Eppinger said, “We could realize an enormous reduction in weight with seat backs made of hybrid tailored tubes, not only from the lighter material mix of steel and aluminum, but also from using few components. We are also researching the option of a direct, high-strength integration of the seat back recliner. This way we could finally do away with the additional required adjustment parts and create global production processes that are both faster and more efficient.”