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Renault Develops Innovative 3D Printing Materials To Create Seats That Are 30% Lighter And 30% Thinner


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In April 2024, the 120-year-old car brand Renault (RNO) teamed up with the French Alternative Energy and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) to develop a new type of 3D printing material. The goal of the collaboration is to create components with adaptive mechanical behavior and enhanced performance, which Renault plans to apply to components such as seats, backrests, armrests and center consoles, which traditionally require a mix of materials


After two years of research and testing, Renault and CEA were eventually awarded more than a dozen patents and successfully developed a new material consisting of a complex mesh structure. Powerful, lightweight and customizable, the unnamed new material is made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and is recyclable.

In the mesh structure they created, each individual wire can be designed and adjusted in three dimensions, enabling the creation of complex multi-layered networks within the material, where each layer can have its own specific functions and properties. In essence, the structure can be customized at a high precision level to achieve different properties and behaviors in different parts of the material.


Although the design process is more complex, the final 3D printed part is monolithic and made from a single material, making it easier to produce. These components can be created in a single 3D printing operation without assembly, thus minimizing the carbon footprint and generating no waste. This efficiency not only simplifies the manufacturing process, but also contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing waste.

For example, this innovative material can be applied to car seats, which can be about 30% lighter and thinner without compromising comfort, cushioning or support. Unlike traditional materials such as fabrics, foams and reinforcement materials, this single material is carefully designed to provide superior comfort. Further customization, the seats can be tailored to the driver's body type, different areas can be adjusted to the individual's pressure needs, improving comfort and support, and making each car's interior unique and personalized according to the owner's taste and style.

This innovative material may initially be more suitable for its premium models, especially where customisation and premium features are more common, such as the Alpine brand sports cars known for producing high performance, or its electric vehicles (EVs), The Megane E-Tech Electric and Renault 5 Electric are planned for release, which may include high-end variants or features. This technology can produce seats that are 30 percent lighter and 30 percent thinner, while providing greater comfort and customization. As a result, Renault is likely to introduce the material first in its luxury or premium car range, where buyers expect advanced technology and are willing to pay for more comfort and customization. Over time, however, as manufacturing processes become more streamlined and costs fall, the technology could succeed and be integrated into more economical models, one of the brand's biggest profit drivers.


Francois Legalland, CEO of CEA's New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterials Innovation Lab, said: "Almost total design freedom, material and weight savings, integration of functions, and reduced manufacturing time all mean that additive manufacturing is an area that CEA strongly supports. This project in collaboration with Groupe Renault confirms the strength of this discipline, which focuses on the development of new materials through design, characterization and their integration into applications.


Renault is no stranger to additive manufacturing. For years, the company has been using the technology to manufacture tools, prototype parts and spare parts, and interior 3D-printed accessories for its recently released 2025 Renault 5 E-Tech Electric. The Ayrton Senna Industrial Park in Brazil has a 3D printing center that produces more than 10,000 parts per year. These parts are not only used in the manufacturing process, but also for a series of tests before production begins. Now, thanks to lattice structures developed in collaboration with CEA, additive manufacturing at Renault's plant can be done much faster than before, helping the company transform every aspect of a car's interior to make it more interactive and personalized. 

While the application prospects of this technology are still being explored, Renault's efforts show that the automotive industry is actively seeking innovation to improve performance, reduce environmental impact and meet consumer needs, and as this new 3D printed material develops further, we can expect to see more exciting car designs and features that will surprise future mobility experiences.

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