Electrically opened centre console storage - a new level of luxury in cars

close up of an Aston Martin centre console armrest that uses an Accuride slide to adjust.
Jochen Bendel
ByJochen Bendel,Sales Manager Automotive Europe
Published by :Accuride International
Since 1999 Accuride has been supplying millions of sliding systems for automotive centre console armrests.

Because the interior designs of our automotive OEM customers evolve, Accuride has been continuously adding features to our slides. Examples include, integrated end stop damping solutions and the patented friction and detent element. We have been very successful in integrating many functional components into our sliding systems – components that often have to be designed and supplied as extras in competing systems.

One of Accuride's most recent customer projects, which went into series production, was the development of an electrically operated sliding armrest for a luxury vehicle. As well as the ergonomic functionality, the armrest also serves as a small storage compartment that is easy to reach by both the driver and passenger.

While manually adjusted armrests need detents or latching systems to keep them in the end positions, this electrically operated armrest automatically moves to the end position, or can be put in any intermediate position by the driver. In addition, the driver can select the cup holder position. This just gives access to the cup holder while keeping the compartment underneath closed.

Thanks to its compact design, the Accuride sliding system does not require any compromise regarding the shape or the trim of the armrest. And while the extra comfort comes with a small penalty on weight compared to traditional systems, the unit is surprisingly light thanks to the clever use of aluminum and plastic. The motor and the sensors connect to the car via a single automotive grade harness and connector.

Accuride developed the armrest slide in close cooperation with the customer’s engineers. Together they optimized both design and manufacturability to ensure a compact, yet cost-effective and compelling slide design.

Here’s what Mike Harvey, the lead engineer at Accuride, says about the development project:

‘As this was a completely new armrest concept, both the automotive customer and our design team were treading in new territory with this project. We developed a great working relationship with our customer, supporting each other throughout the project. With the communication flowing so well all challenges were handled quickly and efficiently, culminating in a fantastic product that we are all proud of.

Every engineer loves new challenges and this project certainly provided that for me. For this reason, and the great relationship we have with our customer, means that this project is one of the best projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on.

For me, as the project manager, the project was a very special challenge. Accuride acts as a Tier-1 supplier here so we dealt directly with the OEM. Since an electrical system comprises many more externally sourced parts than a traditional automotive slide, there was much more focus on supply chain development than in traditional projects. Thanks to the team, both at the customer and at Accuride, we succeeded in mastering this challenge and delivered the project on time with the expected quality level.’

Just like Accuride's mechanical armrest slides, this electric sliding system is assembled on a semi-automatic machine and is automatically 100% inspected by a dedicated system. The values recorded during inspection are 100% traceable via the label applied to the slide. The system fulfills the OEM's operating and abuse specifications and supports the console in passing the crash test by keeping the lid in place even in such conditions.

While the cost of electrical operation is obviously higher than traditional manually operated sliding systems, it is able to integrate several potentially costly latching and unlocking systems. In addition it allows Tier-1s and OEMs to offer their customers a totally new level of convenience - an excellent differentiator in the competitive market for luxury vehicles.

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