At first, Ford used human subjects to learn more about how people get in and out of a vehicle. Using data from pressure maps, engineers then designed a car seat that’s not only comfortable, but also one that’s hopefully able to last for years. The focus on longevity is where Ford’s latest robot comes in.
Nicknamed “Robutt,” Ford’s specially designed machine, built by German automation firm Kuka, is based on the dimensions of “an average large man” and spends its days getting in and out of a car seat. Ford says a regular driver would jump in and out of their car around 25,000 times over 10 years, but Robutt can reach the same figure in about three weeks.
Ask a human worker to perform the same task day in, day out and they’d probably put their back out within about four hours. Robutt, however, keeps on going, allowing the seat’s designers to analyze its material and structure for wear and tear after “years” of use.
“From the first moment we sit in a car, the seat creates an impression of comfort and quality,” Ford durability engineer Svenja Froehlich explains in a video (above), adding that the seat for the automaker’s new Fiesta is “one of the most tested elements in the car.”
Ford even has a “metallic butt” working alongside Robutt to test a seat’s comfort levels. It does this by using specially calibrated software to measure the deflection and softness of the seat. The same video shows the metallic butt at work in a high-tech laboratory, supplying engineers with valuable data so they can continue to work on improving the design.
Froehlich says that Ford once used pneumatic cylinders “that simply moved up and down” to test its seats, but thanks to the more sophisticated Robutt, the car maker is now able to “replicate very accurately how people really behave” when it comes to body movements.
The seat-testing robots are being used in Ford factories across Europe in the company’s ongoing quest to build the perfect car seat.
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