Automotive AMElectric VehiclesMass Customization

Renault Group and the CEA enhance driver comfort with 3D printing

Developing a complex mesh structure, using TPU, with adaptive mechanical behavior and enhanced performance

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After 2 years of research and testing, resulting in the filing of around ten patents, Renault Group and the CEA, a major research organization, have developed a complex mesh structure for driver comfort. Using a single material (TPU, for now), and in a single 3D printing stage, the structure produces components with adaptive mechanical behavior and enhanced performance.

More powerful, lighter, and customizable, the components created with this development could replace others that are usually made up of a combination of several materials, such as seat seats and backrests, armrests, the centre console, etc.

Unique lattice structure

The innovation lies in the use of digital methods and tools to design strategically organized structures. Each of the strands making up the mesh of this lattice structure can be parameterized three-dimensionally to form multi-layer networks of cells in which each stratum has a unique function and characteristics.

Although more complex in their design, the resulting monolithic and monomaterial parts are simpler to produce – in a single 3D printing operation and without any assembly – minimizing the carbon footprint.

The TPU structures are recyclable, and research is continuing to assess the compatibility of other materials – particularly bio-sourced materials.

Renault Group and the CEA enhance driver comfort with 3D printing - developing a complex mesh structure using TPU.

Customization

Applied to seats, for example, this innovation is expected to make it possible – while making them lighter (by around 30%) and thinner – to use a single material to achieve levels of comfort, cushioning, and support that cannot be achieved with the usual materials (fabrics, foams, reinforcements, etc.).

The seat could even be modeled on the morphology of its driver, and its different zones configured with specific properties to respond to individualized pressure efforts – thus offering unique levels of comfort and cushioning.

In terms of aesthetics, 3D printing also offers a wide choice of shapes, textures, and customisation options.

The promise of AM

The structure developed by Renault Group and the CEA opens the way to new applications including areas with which vehicle occupants come into contact, such as front seats, door armrests, the center console, the rear bench seat, the steering wheel, etc.

“This innovation is the result of combining the R&D expertise of two major players in innovation, the CEA and Renault Group. It could enable us to offer customers a truly differentiating driving experience. We are continuing to explore its full potential, with a view to achieving even greater personalization, but also to deriving new benefits for different areas of the vehicle,” said Jean-François Salessy, Senior Vice President of Vehicle Synthesis and Upstream Technology at Renault Group Engineering.

“The almost total freedom of design, the savings in materials and weight, the integration of functions, and the reduction in manufacturing times all mean that additive manufacturing is a sector strongly supported by the CEA. This project with Renault Group confirms the strength of this discipline, which focuses on the development of new materials architected through design, their characterization, and their integration into applications,” said François Legalland, CEO of CEA-Liten.

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