A Comparative Study on the Comfort and
Safety of the Seat Cover Fabrics
Barbu Ionel1, Fogorasi Simona Magdalena1, Dochia Mihaela1, Pustianu Monica1,
Bucevschi Adina1 and Farima Daniela2
1 Aurel Vlaicu University, Arad, Romania
2 Gh. Asachi Technical University, Iasi, Romania
Abstract. This paper deals with a comparative study of technical textiles
designed for car seat covers (upholstery) in terms of comfort and safety. The
work envisages a comparison traced between various materials, but not a
comparison of the analysed properties to a specific, defined value. Aim of the
research was to establish a correlation between automobile seat cover fabrics
with different structure and some parameters responsible for comfort and safety.
Another aspect of the study includes the comparison of different materials to
Seat fabrics samples analysed in this work are in form of woven, knitted fabric,
and synthetic leather (PVC), actually target fabrics that tend to fulfil all the
awaited prerequisite for seat covers. Thus, the test methods included
measurements for air permeability, water vapour permeability abrasion
resistance and flame retardancy.
The present study tries to underline the physiologically comfort and safety
characteristics offered by the seat covers made of various materials in
comparison to synthetic leather. Further, it tends to establish the correlation
between structure and features for a set of seat cover fabrics currently used by
the automotive industry.
The results highlight the importance of material’s type, fibrous composition and
fabric structure of the seat covers upon their comfort and safety properties.
Keywords: Car Seat Covers, Comfort, Safety.
For our society automobile is considered lifeline since several industrial sectors are
depending on it. Nowadays, the automotive industry faces several challenges. It is
continuously under pressure to accomplish safety, performance, comfort,
environmental and aesthetic demands with regard to higher fuel efficiency at
competitive costs . For these purposes technical textiles are widely used in
automotive industry .
Automotive textiles can be usually divided into two groups comprising visible and
concealed items. The visible components encompasses seat upholstery, carpets, head
liners, seat belts, while the concealed constituents include noise and vibration
components, tyre cords, hoses, liners, airbags, air and fuel filters , .
Because people spend more time in cars for professional and personal activities,
comfort has gained considerable importance and represents a major quality standard
for cars. To the customer, the car seat cover is maybe the most recognizable
automotive textile without considering the technical requirements. Nevertheless, the
seat must be comfortable in terms of psychologically, physiologically and thermally
aspects. Besides, comfort helps prevent stress and fatigue and therefore contributes to
road safety . Thus textiles have an important contribution in this regard. Safety of
the seat covers have to be also connected to the flame retardancy of the textile
materials. The final properties of the seat covers fabrics are related to the fibres
nature, fibres properties and fabric structure. Fibres usually used for seat covers are
polyester, acrylic, nylon, polypropylene and wool  and synthetic and natural leather
This paper deals with a comparative study of technical textiles designed for car seat
covers (upholstery) in terms of comfort and safety. The work envisages a comparison
traced between various materials, but not a comparison of the analysed properties to a
specific, defined value. Aim of the research was to establish a correlation between
automobile seat cover fabrics with different structure and some parameters
responsible for comfort and safety. Another aspect of the study includes the
comparison of different materials to synthetic leather.
2 Experimental part
The experimental part started with a description of the samples. First, the performed
analyses were: fabric thickness, sample structure (woven, knitted fabric) and fibrous
composition identification. The information was completed with structure images of
the samples. Further, the samples were analysed and compared in terms of their
comfort and safety behaviour. Thus, the test methods included measurements for air
permeability, water vapour permeability, abrasion resistance and flame retardancy.
A set of seven car seat fabrics samples with different combination of top layers Tl,
middle layers, Ml, and back layers, Bl were tested. Their structure, fibrous
composition and properties are presented in Table 1 and Table 2 ( we used notations -
SL- synthetic leather; PVC – polyvinylchloride; PES – polyester; Co – cotton; S1 -
Woven fabric/ Plain weave and combination weave rep with figures; S2 - Woven
fabric/ diagonal weave; S3 - Woven fabric/ fancy weave; S4 - Knitted fabric/ jersey
structure; S5 - Knitted fabric/ jersey structure; S6 - Knitted fabric/ jersey structure; S7
- Knitted fabric/warp derivative knit structure; S8 - Knitted fabric/ Interlock structure
Raised on side; S9 - Sponge; S10 - Knitted fabric/ Interlock structure Raised on side
Table 1. The top and back images of the analysed samples.
Samples 1 234567
Table 2. The structure, material composition and thickness of the samples.
Samples 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Structure SL SL SL SL S1 S2 S3
Warp - - - - 140 180 150
Weft - - - - 120 180 130
composition PVC PVC PVC PVC PES PES PES
- - S9 - S9 - - -
Structure S4 S5 S6 S7 S8 S9 S10
Wale 16.5 11.50 17.00 17.5 10.5 - 10.5
Course 19.00 11.75 18.75 17.5 10.5 - 10.5
PES 30% Co,
70% PES PES PES PES PES
- 1.29 3.02 1.31 3.28 2.05 2.70 2.33
For solubility test 98% sulphuric acid (H2SO4) and glacial acetic acid (CH3COOH)
purchased from Sigma Aldrich were used.
Samples structure identification
The structure identification was done using USB digital microscope camera, model
DigiMicro Profi 5 megapixeli. The focal length was 100 mm and the captured images
processed using the Microcapture Pro software.
Microscopy - The microscopic test was performed for longitudinal section of the
fibres by using the optic Zeiss Scope A.11 microscope with a 10X magnifier.
Solubility tests - The solubility test was accomplished by means of specific reagents
(sulphuric acid and acetic acid) in order to complete the microscopy results.
Since only the top layer of the materials is in contact with the driver, the sample’s
features like abrasion resistance, air and water vapour permeability were determined
only for this part.
Air permeability - Air permeability of tested materials was performed in accordance
with the GB/T5453 standard using a Digital Air Permeability Tester, model YG 461E
Water vapour permeability - The upright cup method (Water Vapour Permeability -
ASTM E 96- Method B) was used. Each fabric sample was positioned and sealed
above a cup filled with distilled water at a depth of ¾ from the height of the cup. The
prepared samples were then placed in a standard atmosphere (23 ± 1 0C and RH 50 ±
2 %) with ventilation in Caloris Group equipment. The test was carried out for 8
hours. The gravimetric method was used to evaluate change in mass. At every two
hours the samples were weighed on a sensitive Kern balance, model ABT220-4M.
Abrasion resistance - To appreciate the abrasion resistance the Martindale Abrasion
and Pilling Tester, model YG 401 B was used according to ASTM D4966. For this
purpose circular samples were abraded under 12 kPa pressure. Prior to examine the
abrasion, for each specimen the mass and thickness were measured. After 85,000
cycles, the difference in weight and thickness of the abraded samples were evaluated
Flame retardancy - The flammability of the samples was done using ISO 3795. The
testing was accomplished on specimens of 100 x 356 mm sizes on the YG 815B
horizontal flammability tester. The parameters evaluated were: weight loss, burning
time, length the flame travels along the tested samples and burning rate.
3. Results and discussion
The fabrics structure and fibrous composition are summarized in Table 1.
Air permeability is an important factor in the performance of textile materials and
gives information about breathability. Yarn properties (diameter, twist, etc.), fabric’s
construction (knitted, woven, nonwoven) and properties (thickness, density, porosity),
along with finishing techniques have significant influence upon air permeability .
The results obtained for the investigated samples are presented in Fig. 1.
The samples 5, 6, 7 present the best results for air permeability. These results can be
ascribing to the construction of the top layer which is a woven fabric. The back layer
exerts also an influence. For sample 6 where back layer is a sponge a slightly
decreasing value is observed compared to samples 5 and 7 with interlock knitted
fabric raised on side. For the samples 1 to 4 with PVC as top layer the air
permeability was lower due to the type of material used.
Fig. 1. Air permeability of the investigated samples
Water vapour permeability - All the samples were tested for water vapour
permeability with the upright cup method (ASTM E 96- Method B). The test was
performed for 8 hours with measurements at every 2 hours. Water vapour
transmission was calculated using the following equation:
The obtained values are presented in Fig. 2.
Fig. 2. Water vapour permeability of the investigated samples
For samples 5, 6, 7, similar behaviour to air permeability was observed with the
highest water vapour permeability values. In the case of samples with synthetic
leather as top layer, the water vapour permeability was very low. This behaviour is
due to the chemical composition and structure of the material.
Abrasion resistance - The abrasion resistance has been done for all samples only for
the top layer. The samples were exposed to 85,000 rubs of abrasion. A visual analysis
was performed by means of photographic standard. None of the samples, both PVC
and woven materials showed no changes on the surface, which demonstrates a good
resistance of the material due to the composition and finishing treatments applied.
Flame retardancy - By measuring the burning time and length the flame travels,
burning rate was calculated with the equation:
where: B – burning rate [mm/min.]
D - length the flame travels [mm]
T – time for the flame to travel D millimetres (s)
The weight loss of the samples was calculated after burning by using the following
where: Gi – initial mass [grams];
Gf - final mass [grams].
Table 3 presents the values for burning parameters of the analysed samples.
Table 3. The burning parameters of the analysed samples
1 31.9519 31.7746 0.55 28 15 32.14
2 38.1956 38.1192 0.20 27 15 33.33
3 32.1287 31.9257 0.63 31 17 32.90
4 41.4196 41.2791 0.34 54 15 16.66
5 18.7805 18.5444 1.25 13 27 124.61
6 15.4466 14.3402 7.16 65 91 84.00
7 26.1390 25.4792 2.52 56 45 48.21
Various factors like fibre content, weight, finishing procedures play a significant role
in fabric flammability behaviour. From the comparative analysis of the data
comprised in table 3 it is obvious that the sample 5 presents the lowest value for
burning time and maxim value for burning rate, exceeding the established value for
safety, namely 100 mm/min, according to references . The smallest burning rate
was observed for sample 4. The differences in flammability behaviour can be
attributed to the efficiency of the fireproofing treatment, the number and fibrous
composition of the sample’s layers.
The results highlight the importance of material’s type, fibrous composition and fabric
structure of the seat covers upon their comfort and safety properties. Polyester woven
fabrics samples showed the best results for all types of analyses performed. The use of
polyester as raw material for car seat covers proofed to be convenient from safety and
comfort point of view. Besides, the presence of polyester in the top and back layer is
low cost and beneficial for disassembly and recycling . The samples with woven
fabric as top layer had the best values for air and water vapour permeability compared
to synthetic leather. A higher permeability means better and superior psychological
comfort and more satisfaction. A low level of air and water vapour permeability (e.g.
PVC samples) leads to a reduced thermal comfort by accumulation of water vapour
responsible for the sticky and wet feeling when body is in contact with fabric surface
for a long time. These results confirmed better comfort properties of polyester woven
fabrics compared to synthetic leather, being in agreement with literature .
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