A research project at Johnson Controls could bring automotive seats built from plastics that are 40 percent lighter than conventionally manufactured metal-intensive seat structures to market within four years. While the seats are much lighter, they are reportedly equally as safe.

The Johnson Controls project, dubbed the CAMISMA (carbon-amide-metal-based interior structure using a multi-material system approach) research project, targets reduction in the use of metals in vehicle seat structures by replacing them with a multi-material system. Specifically, future generation seats will employ carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide (PA) compounds, for which Johnson Controls received this year’s CLEPA (European Association of Automotive Suppliers) Innovation Award in the “Green” category.

“Although carbon-fiber products generally offer outstanding characteristics, such as great strength and design flexibility, they are too expensive for use in the large-scale series production of vehicles,” said Andreas Eppinger, group vice president technology management for Johnson Controls Automotive Experience. “With CAMISMA, our goal was to create cost-efficient, sustainable access to carbon-fiber-based materials systems.”

Johnson Controls achieved this goal through an innovative industrial manufacturing process for volume production with about 200,000 units per production line, allowing highly concentrated, efficient use of carbon fiber, which also substantially reduced through the number of attachment parts needed.

The seats meet all safety requirements; the results of an initial rear-impact crash test demonstrated that the CAMISMA seat prototype satisfied all of the strength requirements of current seats built with a metal structure in large-scale series production.