From artificial intelligence to DTM victory: soft trim’s 2023 From artificial intelligence to DTM victory: soft trim’s 2023
2023 is over already?! It felt like it went by a bit faster than previous years. It’s high time for soft trim seating sts GmbH to take a look back before we head into the quiet Christmas season and into the coming year with renewed vigour.
“What we are taking away from this year is that interdisciplinary collaboration between the automotive industry, the supplier industry, industry experts, teams and ultimately every single team member is more important than ever before. This is the only way to develop successful products and services in times of mobility transition and increasingly complex requirements for car seats", says Kai Rudolph, commercial manager at soft trim. “We would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all of our customers, colleagues, employees and service providers for their excellent cooperation."
Artificial intelligence supports the development of vehicles
ChatGPT has brought artificial intelligence into the mainstream and has quickly become an integral part of everyday working life for many – a topic on which the Institute for Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University is also conducting intensive research together with various partners. We also contribute our expertise to the ‘AI-based assistant for interior development’ (KAI) project – even face to face. The consortium of project partners met in Dresden on 6 December to discuss the progress of the project and important milestones towards the completion of the project. KAI bundles the strengths of leading, internationally active German companies and research institutions in the areas of vehicle interiors, ergonomics and artificial intelligence such as Brose, Humanetics, Saint Gobain and, last but not least, soft trim.
Goal of the project is to provide vehicle developers with a supporting tool for the interiors of tomorrow, which is necessary because more and more highly automated driving functions are permanently changing driving and thus also the car itself. This results in new requirements for the already highly complex product development process, in which artificial intelligence is intended to support and thus shorten development times.
The participants of the fourth consortium meeting at soft trim were: Brose Fahrzeugteile, CanControls, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), Humanetics, Institute for Automotive Engineering (IKA), Saint-Gobain Bearings and Saint-Gobain Sekurit
Cinematic job advertisement
No, we are not exaggerating with this subheading. At the start of the year, soft trim had to overcome a challenge. We were urgently looking for reinforcements for our team in various areas. Since we are not the only ones looking for skilled workers. So, we had to come up with something to stand out from the crowd. What could be more fitting than filming a commercial in true cinematic style? The premiere of the sequel to ‘Manta, Manta’ was the perfect opportunity to draw attention to us. The main stars: a Porsche 911 GT3 R, professional racing driver Robert Renauer and our SPACER seat insert. We still think that the result is impressive:
To make it even easier for new applicants and interested parties to get to know us, we also refreshed our website and simplified the application process. All of these measures helped us fill important positions. We are proud of our new team members and are pleased that they have chosen us.
A look at the future of the industry
In the second half of the year, we focused even more on the future of seat development in the automotive industry. We visited the IAA MOBILITY 2023 in Munich under the motto ‘Experience Connected Mobility’. This year the trade fair demanded our special attention. We weren’t just there to inspect concept seats in which we personally had a hand, but also to take a closer look at new competitors, especially from the Far East. During a tour of the trade fair, we tried to find out whether the absence of established manufacturers should be seen as an opportunity or a risk for the supplier industry: IAA – How the role of the trade fair is changing
A little after the industry presented itself in Munich and the results of the latest developments could be admired, exciting insights into the future of seating comfort were on display at the Haus der Technik in Essen. More than 50 experts from the automotive industry, the supplier industry and research met there to address the question of what seats of the future will look like and what materials they will be made of at the 16th Vehicle Seats Conference. Of course, we couldn’t miss it. Why? Among other reasons, because soft trim was either significantly involved in or even a manufacturer of half of the 20 innovative projects and products presented.
What exactly we are talking about can be read here: Conference on seating comfort of the future
From motorsport to series production
With the advanced 3D-printed bodyform full bucket seat, Porsche innovatively transferred the idea of seats individually tailored to the driver – as is common in motorsport – into series production around two years ago. In addition to the unique look of the bucket seat, its cushion and backrest in the middle section middle section are partially 3D printed and can be selected in three different hardnesses. This means that the seat can be individually adapted to the needs of the customer. Which production partner – with motorsport and series production know-how – is better suited for this job than soft trim?
We have now successfully completed the second year of series delivery of 3D inlays for 3D-printed bodyform full bucket seats. And we are proud that things will not only continue in 2024, but that production can even be increased. We benefit from the fact that the manufacturing process is very well-established. These successes in 3D body shape inlay production show that, in addition to seat development, soft trim is also further expanding its position as a series production supplier for exclusive seats.
SPACER’s success story continues
Just in time for the 6-hour race in Spa-Franchorchamps, we were able to celebrate another Hypercar debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) for SPACER with the Hertz Team JOTA. A perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the long-standing and close collaboration between Porsche and us. A collaboration that extends not only to motorsport, but to other areas as well.
And as if it could not get any better, the motorsport season ended with the icing on the cake from SPACER’s perspective. With our friends from Team Manthey EMA, Porsche won the most important championship in international GT motorsport for the first time in 30 years: the DTM title! In an incredibly exciting battle for the title, the Austrian Thomas Preining prevailed in the finale at the Hockenheimring and lifted the 20-kilogram-heavy championship trophy above his head. In the cockpit, his SPACER was a strong support for the championship ambitions throughout the season. A huge success to which we were able to contribute our small part and for which we worked hard together with teams like Manthey Racing and Herberth Motorsport to take racing seat shells to another level.