Accurate and relevant assessments of foam performance in automotive seating applications have been achieved with a newly developed computerized laboratory test. In the new test a hydraulically powered indentor foot provides seat cushion foam loading in a dynamic mode, comparable to actual conditions of cushioning applications. In a relatively short period of time (∼ 8 hrs) it is possible to record several Real Time foam property changes related to seating performance. These properties are believed to be critical to in-use seating comfort and durability qualities. Moreover, the data obtained with the new test should be sufficiently reliable in assessing seating performance to reduce the need for extensive and rather costly in-car test track evaluations. The test device is equipped with a temperature and humidity chamber and is capable of evaluating fully fabricated seat cushion assemblies, as well as separate foam cushioning materials.
Much effort has been made by the Automobile Industry to reduce car weight to provide improved fuel economy and overall performance. This very important emphasis has been instrumental in promoting the development of low weight/high performance foams for seating applications and the new Real Time Foam Performance Test has been quite useful in guiding foam development efforts. Firstly, an assessment of Real Time foam properties has been made, using a sampling of current commercial automotive seating foams. This has provided a base-line of data for comparison testing. Secondly, new urethane foam intermediates have been developed to provide significant improvements in Real Time Properties, even at 15-20% lower weights, as compared with the average commercial foam. While these findings are subject to test track evaluation confirmation, the new Real Time Laboratory Test appears to be very useful for rapid and low cost screening of newly developed foam products.