Armrests: innovation in automotive sliding systems

Paul Boughton
Modern automotive interior design is increasingly important for brand differentiation and recent studies have shown that, when it comes to choosing a car, interior comfort is second only to reliability and durability for the driver. Sliding armrests have become important for this search for improved user experience and OEMs understand the need to specify quiet, high quality movement and good stability for this component.

Certain factors need to be considered when designing sliding systems for armrests. The car interior designers call for system options to deliver different armrest layouts and features. Automotive industry specifications require tight movement criteria within large temperature ranges and the Tier 1 armrest manufacturers are looking to reduce overall assembly costs by simplifying installation.

Accuride has developed several solutions, including a pair of cambered slides and a single flat mounted slide, based on rolling ball technology, to fulfill these criteria. Benchmarking has shown that systems incorporating ball bearings can avoid many of the rigidity and tolerance issues introduced when using friction movement systems.

A pair of cambered ball bearing slides gives strength and stability under vertical and lateral loads. The slide orientation also gives the designer flexibility to add a deep storage area beneath the armrest and their inherent strength allows for increased overhang and travel.

The addition of an integrated friction and detent clip has also minimised the package space required in the customer system by moving functionality into the slide. Through the use of the Accuride friction damped system it is possible to control, independently, the movement and positional hold-in forces, consequently adding flexibility to the overall functionality and reducing the customers' overall handling and assembly costs. This system has been adopted by a major European manufacturer for their latest compact SUV.

Due to the influence of styling and marketing in the end product, the vertical package of armrests has gradually reduced, and consequently mounting a slide in the flat condition would have benefits.

However, in this orientation, standard slides suffer from a reduced strength when considering vertical cantilever forces, such as from an abuse load applied to the end of the bun, and to loads typically caused in crash situations.

To compensate, Accuride designed a new Wide Slide profile in which the moving components are prevented from separation by an overlapping flange, significantly increasing its overload and crash performance.

The wide slide's internal configuration allows space for additional features and the current production slides encompass a method of controlling efforts using either a rotary or a friction damper.l

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Peter Bayles is European Director of Engineering, Accuride International Limited, Brackmills, Northampton, UK.

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