Harita Fehrer provides seating solutions with new technologies
Harita Fehrer Limited, a 51:49 joint venture between Harita Seating Systems Limited, and F S Fehrer Automotive GmbH, Germany, provides complete seating solutions for automotive applications. It is banking on new technologies like Foam in Place (FIP) and spray skin to make the seats more comfortable and to meet growing demand from the vehicle manufactures. Fehrer is a tier-2 manufacturer and supplier of passenger car seats in Europe.
Harita Fehrer manufactures two-wheeler seats, microcellular urethanes, polyurethane composites, and foaming for passenger car seats. Currently, the JV company has 4 facilities each in Hosur, Chennai, Mysore and Pune. Now, to meet the growing demand from the northern region, the seat manufacturer is setting up a new manufacturing facility at Bhiwadi, Rajasthan.
A G Giridharan, President, Harita Fehrer Limited, told Auto
ComponentsIndia that, “The customer expectations have increased over the years and Harita Fehrer has established itself as a complete solution provider in meeting this demand. Vehicle manufacturers are looking for new technology seats, to provide better comfort, aesthetics and safety. Therefore, we at Harita Fehrer worked on various technologies and came up with FIP and spray skin technologies to manufacture two-wheeler seats.”
Foam in place
As the vehicles are becoming
slimmer and thinner, the seat manufacturers are also working on thin seats. Therefore, Harita Fehrer has started using high resilience foam. To add more comfort during long rides, relative movements will be happening with the human body, vinyl upholstery and the foam. When the 3 layers interact, the amount of friction generated is more and dissipates more heat. This gives discomfort to the riders. So to address this pain points, Harita has come up with 2 technologies. The company is trying to eliminate 1 layer to reduce friction and enhance rider comfort. In the FIP technology, the seats will have only 2 layers, the foam and the vinyl upholstery. This is done by bonding the foam and the upholstery skin together by a vacuum foam process. It also increases the vehicle aesthetics by 4X and offers greater level of design freedom to the OEMs.
Giridharan said, in FIP technology, the system improves the overall product quality of the moulded assembly by keeping all components in the mould during foaming. FIP also helps in making a thinner profile and create more space for the rest of the vehicle. The technology offers good contour, prevents oxidation and water seepage in foam pads. When used on a scooter, there will be larger space below the seat. If the seat is thick, the space for storage comes down. Thin seat provides the same comfort and flexibility and increases the space. For the bikes, the thin silhouette gives a sleeker look. FIP also allows to have more contour or a more complicated part geometry, he said.
There are a lot of new technologies arriving at the Indian market. Another technology is the spray skin seats, which are now being used by KTM. It creates the polyurethane skin, by spraying it inside the mould, instead of making the vinyl skin. “Now, we have that technology in India and we offer it to various OEMs,” he said. In the spray skin technology, the PU is sprayed into the mould to form a skin and the regular foam is made after that. Therefore in a single operation the complete seat is made and the post operation is eliminated.
Speaking about the developments made in the recently launched TVS Radeon, Giridharan said that the process is more based on the chemical development. He also stated that new commuter seat is much better than its competitors in the market. The firm has invested separately for polyurethane skin at its Hosur facility.
Scooter & motorcycle seats
Pointing out the major differences between the scooter and motorcycle seats, the President said, “It is a combination of different factors. The front seat of a scooter is expected to be like a sofa. Whereas, a front seat in a racing bike, for example, TVS Apache, should be more fitting and providing more support to the body for cornering. The seat should be firmer so that the rider does not sink in, but is comfortable as the pressure is distributed more uniformly. On the other hand, the softer seat in the scooter allows the body to sink in a bit more and takes off the load. The 2 requirements are different. It is the foam that we use differently and we play with the properties of it.”
For the aerodynamics of a vehicle, the top layer of the seat is very important. For this, the seating company uses Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) skin which is popularly referred to as rexin. They come up with different blocking cloth layer, different thickness of vinyl and different colours and texture. This adds up to the aesthetics of the vehicle. “We work with OEMs and give them options, like 2 different colours stitched with a third colour and a
lot more. It is decided by the OEMs to decide on what suits better for their customers. The shape is something that OEMs determine, we can just add value by adding aesthetics,” Giridharan said.
In the premium segment vinyl will be replaced with polyurethane skin. Harita Fehrer is working with all the OEMs for OE fixed accessories. Nowadays, companies decide on their accessories during the product planning stage itself. Here, the seating firm can add embroidery, different colours, logo and provide it to the OEMs. If the end customer adds a seat cover over the OE fitted seat, the customers will be losing the advantages provided by the seat maker. Pointing out an example, Giridharan said, “We make a seat that reduces the ambient temperature. If the ambient is at 37 degree, the seats will be at 32 degree. If the end customer uses an extra cover, the actual advantage provided by us is lost and heat is retained. I do not witness such changes in the premium segments and the extra cover is not used by those customers,” he added.
Paper honeycomb composite
The R&D team of Harita Fehrer is working on polyurethane-based composites for light weighting in passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The firm recently introduced paper honeycomb composite (PHC) where the PHC is sandwiched between glass fibre and PU, on which structural polyurethane is sprayed. It is compressed in a mould to bring it to the desired shape. This gives good structural strength. This has the application in regular passenger car roof, bonnet parcel shelf and some interior parts. The firm has invested for the paper honeycomb facility at its Chennai plant.
“Fehrer has also made a smart car roof of this material. By reducing weight on top of the vehicle, it brings down the entire vehicle’s centre of gravity by a few cm and increases vehicle stability. The benefit is that we have the fundamental material to process the polyurethane and we have strong steels that help us,” Giridharan said.
Adding more about the new product’s application as a car roof, the President said, “It is not welded, but glued. That is how it reduces the weight. The steel from the roof is removed as it is equally strong. Only the top panel of steel is reduced, still there is a weight reduction of more than 60%.” He said, many OEMs use it even in SUVs. Globally, it is also used in hatchback and it has not yet entered the Indian market.
“The weight reduction is going to reduce the cost in other ways. With the BSVI coming in, the entire vehicle weight has to come down and everybody will be looking at this option. If you look into the EVs, we can reduce the vehicle weight with this and increase the equivalent weight of the battery that increases the range. With the emerging scenario, we should not be looking at a part for weight reduction but should look at the overall scenario,” he explained.
He said cost would come down with lots of localisation. Harita Fehrer has localised 100% for the twowheeler and passenger car seats it manufactures.
New facility in Bhiwadi
Speaking about the new plant, Giridharan said, “We are setting up the facility with an investment of Rs 12 crore in the plant and machinery. The initial capacity will be around 5 lakh seats per annum, and we can increase the capacity when required. As of now, it is for the two-wheeler seats and we also have the capability to make seats for the passenger cars also.” It is understood that the company has bagged some new orders from the NCR region and it is one of the reasons to set up the plant there.
With TVS Group being its biggest customer, Harita Fehrer also supplies seats for Royal Enfield, Yamaha, BMW Motorrad, United Motors and EV manufacturers like Ather Energy and Okinawa. Being a leading manufacturer of seating systems in India, Harita specialises in manufacturing and supplying of seats for commercial vehicles, two-wheelers and passenger cars.
Harita Fehrer’s Hosur facility
Two-wheeler seat made out of FIP technology
A G Giridharan, President, Harita Fehrer Limited
PHC reduces the weight by more than 60% without compromising on the strenght