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Interior Upholstery Prototyping

April 22nd, 2008

I did a little prototyping of interior work a few days ago. I picked up some 2mm Sintra at Laird Plastics in Seattle. Laird is a great place with friendly helpful people. Sintra is cool stuff. It’s an expanded PVC board, often used in the sign industry. It’s also really good for the backing for automotive upholstery panels. It’s fairly rigid, super easy to cut with a boxcutter or bandsaw, or file with a file. And it thermoforms with a heat gun.

I first took some cardboard and made a template. Then cut out 2 copies of it in Sintra. I use two layers because the clips that hold the door to the frame will show thru otherwise. You know the clips, those annoying plastic ones that look like xmas trees that hold the panels and upholstery in your car. They are good for maybe two uses before being destroyed.

Luckily they are cheap and readily available.

The first layer of Sintra, closest to the door has a hole drilled a little larger than the head diameter, with a slot with width just bigger than the clip’s stem diameter cut off of it. On the second layer, I make sure that there’s no glue in the region so the clip can slide between the layers. I need to take a picture of this to make this more clear.

Some upholstery guys like to use old (60s era and before) metal clips. The Au Ve Co 10780 or 2385 clips are popular. These clips last a lot longer, but are a bit fiddlier. Then again, they are more tolerant of misaligned holes.

The first layer is placed on the door and holes are drilled for the clips.

The next layer is 1/4″ of some open cell headliner foam I got at Pacific Fabrics. I have some 1/4″ Volara closed cell foam on order, which I’ll use when I do this for real. Finally I used a layer of Passion Suede, also from Pacific Fabrics. I’m not 100% on using the fake suede…not sure what else I’d use though.

All layers were glued together using 3M Super 77. There’s better PVC cement available from Laird, but Super 77 seems to work good enough. The Sintra was scuffed with 120 grit sandpaper for better adhesion.

The embossed “feature” in the lower panel is me messing around with multiple layers of foam to break up the monotony of the surface. It’s still a bit awkward looking. I bet I could achieve similar effects by slumping the panel over a male mold with a heat gun. I didn’t glue down the grey fabric either — if i did the wrinkles wouldn’t be there.

I also messed up on the lower convex corner — should be rounded.

Looks like I’ll go with the grey and red color scheme in the font cabin. The rear cabin will probably be something more homey.

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