Ford Motor Company is experimenting with 3D knitting technology that will allow the automaker to construct any seat cover in only an hour.
The technology, which effectively kills the craft of auto upholstery, is meant to speed up the process of trimming a car’s interior and offer consumers unlimited customization options.
The process is similar to 3D printing. Instead of hiring trimmers to pattern seat covers, cut materials and sew, Ford can quickly design a bespoke cover on a computer and have a knitting machine create it.
“As well as offering greater design flexibility, 3D knitting reduces production steps and creates less waste by removing the requirement to cut and sew together various fabrics and pieces,” Ford said in a statement. “The 3D knitting machines create covers without any stitching and can use different yarns, such as polyester, wool, silk, carbon fibre, and even recycled materials.”
“The technology results in higher precision and quality than a traditional cover, enabling 3D knitted covers to be engineered for the best fit to the seat shape and reducing imperfections such as wrinkles.”
Design engineers can even weave seat covers with built-in connectivity for seat heaters, coolers, sensors and other vehicle controls.
For customers, it also means greater customization options — in regards to color, design, patterns and even the the ability to add elements, like pockets.
What’s more, the technology isn’t limited to seat covers. “Any part of the interior made from material has the potential to be 3D-knitted,” said Ford.
The manufacturing and cost-reduction benefits of 3D knitting are obvious. But if the technology becomes ubiquitous, skilled jobs will take a massive hit.
Isn’t that what always happens when companies outsource skilled labor to robots?
Edward Munday says
Retired Trimmer… SAD to see this come about. But a lot of our older seat covers were outsourced to China and other countries. So I suppose a ROBOT is no different .
Donald Stratemeyer says
I look forward to more color options besides Black & Grey !
FE Wolford says
I would be more worried about eBay and the Houston tx seller who has 10 accounts ( different names) Mexican made low price . A leathe Chevy truck seat cover 68 dollars , they are destroying the entire industry
The way I see it, there are many automotive (and non- automotive) production techniques employed by factories that a repair person cannot duplicate, (look at dashboards) but auto trimmers are a resourceful lot and since no one has the ability to do it the factory way, the car-owning public will have to either accept what the trim shops are offering, or pay Ford’s prices for a factory replacement.
Wow that’s pretty cool! I hope they come up with better designs than the seats they show in the video. I don’t think this would kill our industry at all.
Like Rich said ” auto trimmers are a resourceful lot” we will adjust and grow with the industry. Some will be left behind for sure, but that’s how things go. I personally don’t touch anything newer than 1990 unless its just a simple armrest or headliner. There is far too mush SRS and electronic stuff to worry about. I’m happy working on cars from the 1930’s – 1970’s.
If this 3d knit thing works well companies will pop up making aftermarket 3d knitted covers. Trimmers will make $ installing those covers. Some may take the leap and start an aftermarket 3d cover business. The free market is a wonderful thing. where ever there is need for goods or service someone will be there to provide that good or service, as long as there is a profit to be made.