How does one heat, sense, and control a gel-filled, carbon fiber backed heated seat for a high-end luxury automobile? Well, the simple answer is to call the Chromalox technical staff. That was the challenge from a high end luxury car manufacturer who wanted to introduce a new type of heated car seat. Given that the gel would give true anatomical fit to the driver and would move in 3D, it was essential the design incorporated a different temperature sensing and control methodology to mitigate past experiences resulting in malfunctions and sometimes burns. At surface temperatures that can reach 120°F; the result can be 2nd and 3rd degree burns within minutes (even before the driver fully realizes it), not to mention the risk to children and those with medical concerns.
The Chromalox team partnered with the customer’s automobile interior design, ergonomics, and safety teams to better understand car seat construction, materials, and human anatomical issues with past and current designs. Given the fluid nature of the gel, the Chromalox team introduced a Kapton® heater design with area specific thermal zoning, integrated linear response sensors, redundant temperature sensing and over-temp protection. Other approaches used were FEA (Finite Elemental Analysis) for thermal modeling, customer testing/feedback, and software programming.
All expectations were met for safety, comfort, functionality, and control. In addition, the customer reported another Chromalox Kapton® heater related benefit, their heated seats actually made longer distances easier for their test drivers due to better comfort and heat induced therapy. And lastly, this Kapton® heater design worked so well, we are able to introduce it to child car seat manufacturers. This is a typical example of how Chromalox listens to the voice of the customer towards world class cost saving solutions, processes, and technology … always with an eye to the future.