A "concept study" of Porsche’s 3D-printed bodyform full-bucket seat features a modular structure with individual components that include the 3D-printed comfort layer. (Porsche)

Porsche is enacting a pilot program that employs 3D printing to create a customized “comfort layer” in a bucket seat that allows the user to select from several levels of support based on personal preference. The company said the “innovative alternative to conventional bucket seat upholstery” was inspired by the custom seat-fitting for drivers that is common in motorsports.

Coloring the visible components of the new 3D-printed comfort layer. (Porsche)

The seat’s central comfort layer is “partly produced” by a 3D-printer, Porsche said. The design is based on a sandwich-type construction with a base structure made from expanded polypropylene (EPP). This is bonded to the breathable comfort layer that consists of a mixture of polyurethane-based materials made via additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.

The outer layer – of what the company is calling a "concept seat" for now – is made from “Racetex” material with a unique perforation pattern for climate control. Open panels in the outer layer provide a view of exposed, brightly-colored portion of the 3D-printed lattice structure.

The 3D-printed comfort layer imparts a distinctive appearance thanks to its visible lattice structure. (Porsche)

The special bucket seat will be available initially from Porsche Tequipment as a driver’s seat for the 911 and 718 ranges from as early as May 2020, the company said. The first run will be limited to 40 seat prototypes for use on racetracks in Europe, in combination with a six-point seat belt. A version of the seat for street-legal cars – offering three distinct firmness levels and colors – will be available to non-racing customers from the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, which handles vehicle personalization orders, from mid-2021.

Porsche added that the technology can enable fully personalized seats “if sufficient customers express an interest.” The personalization could extend beyond the current comfort layer choices to seats adapted “to the individual customer’s specific body contour.” In addition to an ergonomic fit similar to professional racing seats, the company said the 3D-printed seat design also offers lower weight, improved comfort and passive climate control.