Steering Wheel Systems
As the centerpiece to the look and feel of a car´s interior, the steering wheel must have a sophisticated design. At the same time, as a key element in vehicle drivability, the frame must not crack, break, deform or impair handling in any way. In the uncommon event the driver´s head or chest strikes the rim of the steering wheel, the frame portion is specifically designed to absorb the force of the collision.
Takata uses Polyurethan in the production of its steering wheels to offer optimal feel and comfort. Polyurethan is a material that is scratch resistant even after being in use for a long period of time. It features superior ease of processing, for a variety of types of texturing giving the surface desirable patterns. It also can be colorized to provide various options to the automakers. For these reasons, many cars are equipped with Polyurethan steering wheels.
Genuine leather is used in making the leather-covered portion of steering wheels. At Takata, skilled leather crafters perform each of the tasks necessary for wrapping the leather material around the wheel.
A related task requiring even greater skill is the making of the paper templates for designing the cut of the leather wrap. It is necessary to use a single sheet of leather to wrap around the rim of the steering wheel and the spokes of the wheel. To manufacture steering wheels with good handling properties, it is also necessary to perform the stitching from the inside of the steering wheel, in part because leather is a natural fabric where different sections may have different stretching properties which, must be taken into account, when making the paper templates.
In view of these requirements, the sophisticated skills of seasoned craftspeople are needed to successfully prepare the paper templates to incorporate, the stitching method, the fit of the leather and the even alignment of the creases.
The principal methods of stitching are the Baseball stitch, the Z stitch and Zigzag stitch.
The wooden decoration used in making steering wheels is either molded plastic with a wood pattern or natural wood.
Plastic printed with wood patterns has the advantage of being uniform in quality and more cost effective. Using a water pressure transfer printing process, it is possible to make surfaces that have an authentic natural, warm texture and look amazingly close to genuine wood.
On the other hand, steering wheels made of genuine wood are handcrafted by skilled craftspeople that stain them the desired color, apply a clear coat, and grind and polish them. Since genuine wood is used, every one of the finished products has a unique appearance. Not only do they have an extremely luxurious look, like no other steering wheel elsewhere in the world, but they also feature beautiful color and quality. Accordingly, their production requires tremendous skill.
Some of the types of wood used in making natural wood steering wheels include maple, cherry, and walnut.
Decorative Parts and Switches
Steering wheels can be outfitted with an automaker´s emblem as well as switches for controlling audio and navigation systems. To provide various design accents, decorative parts can be attached in various colors and materials.
In general, decorative parts are made from extruded plastic, but in some luxury cars the materials used may be carbon fiber or aluminum. Even when using these more exotic materials, Takata has the sophisticated design skills and production capabilities to make appearance seamless to the rest of the wheel.
Some steering wheels incorporate hand-warming attributes. These devices warm the driver´s hands by transmitting heat from a wire installed in the grip of the steering wheel. Steering wheels with warmers are usually only available on some luxury cars. Takata can supply this feature on both its leather and wood steering wheels.