A new leather wrapping solution developed by French supplier Faurecia will enable automakers to create more unique designs in their car interiors and more localize their production processes.
Traditionally, wrapping leather and other materials for interior components such as door panels and center consoles has been a costly and time-consuming process. This usually has to be done by hand, and the material is sewn in place, often resulting in slightly different seams from vehicle to vehicle.
“There is a trade-off between getting the seams right and trying to pull the corners,” says Shefic Khoury, vice president of interior engineering for Faurecia North America, a Forvia Group company. “It’s easy to misplace things just a little bit. It’s very manual and requires a lot of effort.”
Faurecia’s new PREPO 3.0 solution is designed to change that. The leather, or artificial leather, that is wrapped around the interior parts is preconditioned and the seams are essentially attached to plastic inserts. That insert can then be placed on the component and the material wrapped around the part.
The result, Khoury says, is greater consistency from vehicle to vehicle.
In a traditional leather wrapping operation, complex 3D-shaped parts can have slight variations of about 2 millimeters from vehicle to vehicle, “which is questionable in terms of quality,” he said.
According to Khoury, PREPO 3 reduces that variation to just 0.5 mm.
“You don’t have to sacrifice design quality anymore,” he said. “We offer the freedom to allow the same expectations and the same quality in any kind of geometry. We have a lot of design freedom.”
Faurecia will be validating the technology in 2021, and its first customer was electric truck startup Rivian. Khoury didn’t name other customers, but said “more applications” are in the works.
With PREPO, he said, automakers will have less to rely on simple straight lines when it comes to interior design.
“For example, if you look at most cars on the market, you don’t see many seams that cover or follow the shape of the instrument cluster because they sacrifice quality for vehicle-to-vehicle differences. I don’t want to,” he said. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
The new leather wrapping process also helps companies reduce labor costs and reduce the cycles involved in wrapping parts.