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Delcam’s PowerSHAPE used for customised manufacturing of motorbike seats


The Custom-Fit motorcycle seat designed in PowerSHAPE includes an internal spring structure to give maximum comfort

Delcam’s PowerSHAPE CAD software has been used for the customised manufacture of motorbike seats as part of the Custom-Fit project, the largest research project into rapid manufacturing in Europe.  The seats are now being evaluated by Ducati to assess the increased comfort that is obtained from the customised seats and the financial viability of their manufacture.

Custom-Fit is an industry-led, research project supported by the European Community and coordinated by Delcam.  With a total of budget of 16 million Euros, including a funding of more than 9 million Euros from the Commission, both the project members and the Commission believe that the project outcomes will benefit both society and industry in Europe.

The members of the consortium are made up from a broad base of organisations across Europe, in the fields of manufacturing, design, scanning, materials and consultancy.  The aim of the project is to develop systems for the production and supply of personalised custom products or components.

To access the potential market for customised motorcycle seats, a three-month survey was carried out by Loughborough University in the UK and Ducati in Italy as part of their work within Custom-Fit.  81% of the 3,200 responses said they would be happy to pay extra for a more comfortable, customised seat.

The process developed to manufacture the seats used five steps:

  1. A pressure map is derived by using a pressure-blanket on the standard seat while the rider is seated on the motorbike.
  2. Digitally, the comfort map is laid onto a CAD model of the seat to define regions in which the internal stiffness of the seat’s structure needs to be altered.
  3. The upper side of external shape of the seat is morphed in PowerSHAPE to fit the measurements of the rider’s size and shape.
  4. The software automatically builds the CAD model of seat’s internal spring-structure for each comfort region.
  5. An STL file of the seat is used to manufacture of the Custom-Fit cushion.

The customisation process based on the comfort map looks promising, even though this approach has not been used before.  The integration of the springs is an innovative approach, which enables a customised product to be created without dramatically changing its shape.

However, several improvements were thought to be needed, including design improvements for the springs to increase their fatigue properties.  In addition, more investigation of the correlation between comfort and compression was required to give a more advanced distribution of weight using finer variations in the internal structure’s shape.  

Most importantly, testing of the current result by riders needs to be undertaken, followed by a process and product cost re-evaluation to see whether the cost for the improved comfort is within the limits that the riders set in the Internet survey.

For further information on the Custom-Fit project, please go to www.custom-fit.org