Technology transfer results in prototype car seat with aeronautical properties

Can new materials and production technologies be transferable between the aeronautical and automotive sectors? The prototypes developed under the European project AEROCAR show that they can be.

One of these prototypes was developed by INEGI, with the collaboration of INAPAL Plásticos. It is a new car seat structure, which has been reinforced with high-performance composite materials, in particular with a pre-impregnated carbon fiber material commonly used in aeronautical structures. "The incorporation of this material resulted in an improvement in the mechanical properties of the product, reducing its total weight by 25% and improving the aesthetics of the visible structural parts", explains Luís Pina, responsible for the project at INEGI.

It is important to point out that if today we are talking about a bank as an example, "the technology can be quickly transferred to other fundamental parts of a car structure, such as chassis or a large part of the body, and the car industry may thus have gains in performance and comfort, with the mass use of composite materials already used in aviation. This can be an incredible boost, particularly to the segment of electric cars that continues to struggle with the challenge of autonomy, because the lighter the cars are, the greater the range of the batteries", highlights Luís Pina.

The AEROCAR project manager in Portugal reinforces that the seat model developed is still a prototype, but that "within a year or two, it will be able to move to large-scale production". "In order to realize this innovation, collaboration between INAPAL Plastics, specialized in the production of plastic components for the automotive industry, with great experience in the process used (SMC - Sheet Molding Compound), and INEGI, which has great experience in the development of new technologies and manufacturing processes for composite materials".

Promoted in collaboration with two Spanish research technology centres, CTAG and Leartiker, and the French R&D centre Rescoll, AEROCAR has contributed, over the last three years, to the creation of an international technology transfer network between the aeronautical and automotive sectors aiming to maximize the impact of technological developments in these two sectors.

According to Luís Pina, the project demonstrated that "there are fully developed technologies used today in products already in market that, with little investment in adaptation, can be transferred in a very short time to another sector, leveraging all the investment to the achievement of profits in new sectors and markets".

Universidade do Porto
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