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Soft Touch for Compact Class

Pads made of Sekisui Alveo polyolefin foam provide costefficient comfort in vehicle interiors.

Greater comfort in the compact class – this trend reflects the significant increase in expectations when it comes to vehicle interiors. However, the trend towards soft-touch surfaces and high-quality impression represents a balancing act for high-volume manufacturers and interior specialists in the automotive industry, as it is imperative that instrument panels and door trim panels remain economically efficient and suitable for mass production.

Padding the armrest with Sekisui Alveo polyolefin foam proves that comfort and cost efficiency need not be mutually exclusive. Used in the high-load area of the door armrest, the six millimetres thick PE foam makes the upholstery particularly soft to the touch. Comfort is significantly increased by this specific use of materials. The innovative armrest concept was developed jointly by Volkswagen, Röchling Automotive Peine KG and Julius Heywinkel GmbH. The interior components are already used in the Volkswagen Golf VI.

The component split between the armrest and door panel facilitates a cost-efficient design that incorporates the specific demands placed on the armrest. In view of the fact that the armrest is subjected to heavy load during the service life of a vehicle, Julius Heywinkel GmbH uses six millimetres thick Sekisui Alveo polyethylene foam (PE) laminated with textile specifically for this application. Hidden between the carrier material and top layer, the foam provides pleasant touch and feel as well as a tangible increase in comfort in all areas of the component, including the radii. The laminated foam decor is bonded to the lightweight carrier material in a press-laminating process.

- Previously, carrier components were often completely backed with PUR foam. A cost- and time-consuming process, in which components that are subsequently scarcely subjected to load were clad with an unnecessary amount of material - explains Thomas Ross, Market Manager Automotive at Sekisui Alveo. The desired soft-touch haptics are achieved by the use of this polyolefin foam padding. In addition, material costs are considerably lower.

- The thick PE foam from Sekisui Alveo offers outstanding touch and feel qualities that are far beyond those achieved by cut foam or thin PE foam. The production costs are only slightly more than those of non-padded components - explains Rainer Schönfeldt, Divisional Manager for Sales and Development at Julius Heywinkel GmbH.

Lightweight Carrier Material Made from Natural Fibre and Polypropylene The lightweight construction concept is based on the materials used for the armrest carrier – a mixture of natural fibre and polypropylene (PP). A carrier with this material composition offers mechanical properties comparable with those of a pure plastic injection moulded carrier yet is approximately 25 % lighter. Added to this, components made from natural fibre moulding material exhibit distinctly more favourable crash characteristics.