Friday, August 15, 2014

Ergonomic Design - How to Design the Ultimate Car Seat

The average American spends approximately 11.75 hours in their car each week. That's more than 611 hours per year! Considering how much time your customers and prospects spend sitting in their cars, it is vital to their long term health and your customer satisfaction ratings that your car seats are created with ergonomic design elements that provide maximum support and protection. In this article, I'm going to share with you the top 6 "ergonomic essentials" for creating the safest, most comfortable car seat possible.

Essential #1 - Effective support of the legs. The seat pan's leading edge must be soft so as not to stop blood flow to the lower legs, which can lead to Thrombosis (blood clots). There should be some lateral support to the upper legs to prevent side rollout of the feet and to prevent fatigue during long trips. This shaping of the seat pan can be referred to as a semi "bucket" seat. Bucket seats where originally designed for racing cars to keep the driver firmly in the seat in case of a crash.
Essential #2 - Proper support of the "sit bones". Within the hip area there are the sit bones (otherwise known as the Ischial tuberosities.) The sit bones are the abutments for the bridge that is formed by the two halves of the pelvis and the coxsis. This structure will tend to sag slightly if it is not properly padded. The cushion underneath this part should be able to handle up to 400 lbs. As the vehicle travels over bumps, occupant bodies come down with twice the force of gravity.

Essential #3 - Solid lumbar support. The lumbar support should be a full 10" curve extending 2" out from the surface of the lower seat back at 8" above the seat reference plane. The seat reference plane is the level where the seat pad is completely compressed. If the seat is built with little or no "hump" there must be some means of adjustment in and out.

Essential #4 - Full support of the concave areas of the spine. The thoracic spine has a backward curve or "convex" shape. The spinal processes or "fins" spread apart naturally, so the upper back needs less support. The concave areas of the spinal column however need a great deal more support than the convex areas. To accomplish this, the seat should have supports consisting of medium durometer "closed cell" foam rubber.

Essential #5 - Sufficient protection of the cervical spine. The cervical spine is the upper part of the spinal column which is fairly fragile but is often disregarded in automotive seat design. The head weighs on the order of 10-15 lbs. The erector muscles in the neck work very hard to balance the cranium. In an accident the incidence of whiplash is very likely because the head is bounced against the headrest and there is nothing to protect the neck. There are over 120,000 reported whiplash cases in the US alone each year, and unreported cases are perhaps 3 times that. Accordingly, cervical support should be integral with the headrest.

Essential #6 - Proper placement of the headrest. The occipital bone is typically what touches the headrest. This is the major attachment to the neck. Many headrests are mounted too far back for the typical occupant to rest on during long trips. This disparity leads to slouching, which leads to other discomforts in the body.

One of the greatest selling features of a car is driver comfort, and the key to giving your customers the greatest comfort and safety possible is a truly ergonomically designed car seat. Not only will your customers enjoy a healthier, more pleasant driving experience throughout the life of the car, they will also have a better test drive experience that may very well make the difference between a sale that is lost or gained. Incorporating authentic ergonomic design into your next car seat is not only good for your customer's safety, wellbeing and happiness; it's also great for your company's bottom line.

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