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General cabin news from AIX 2015

 

For Sekisui, design is more than skin deep
We were lucky enough to spend a little time 'Upstairs' at Sekisui SPI’s stand, a meeting room on the upper level that wasn’t used for sales pitches, but rather as a place where design consultants and airlines could meet, surrounded by proposals for the next generation of materials and finishes. These concepts, of course, included some from the company’s Kydex and Allen thermoplastic sheet products, but also those of fellow aircraft cabin materials producers and even Japanese paper stock.

The environment certainly put you in a creative and positive mood, but it did have a subliminal effect. Indeed, our eye was drawn to Sekisui's latest project: Infused Imaging, demonstrated with floral thermoplastic shapes. To achieve such bespoke patterns and designs on thermoplastic surfaces would usually require the application of a cap layer to a polymer sheet, either during production or after thermoforming. However, Sekisui has, for the first time in the thermoplastics industry, achieved a pattern-in-product process that integrates designs into a polymer. The process is ready, and it can be applied across the company’s product lines to achieve exciting new aircraft interior design possibilities.




Ronn Cort, COO and president of Sekisui SPI explained that Infused Imaging could relegate film caps on thermoformed parts to the history books. He explained what the process could mean for the aviation interiors industry: “The industry is increasingly dedicating more resources to attracting and retaining customers through enhanced brand experience. In recent years, we’ve been listening to the challenges our customers have encountered when faced with sourcing materials for finish and effect that are compliant to aviation interior regulations. Decades-old technology like press lamination, application of decorative film caps, and bonded build-ups all create challenges for the seating and interiors manufacturers.

“Now, customized, integral patterns and bespoke artwork created by the client can be used throughout the cabin as part of a design concept, which becomes part of the company’s brand, far beyond a name or color. It’s the ultimate in customization and part of Sekisui SPI’s commitment to continuous improvements in customer collaboration, quality, innovation, design and color. No more last-minute design compromises due to deformed designs, cap delamination, or burn test failure because of multi-layer construction. This new technology means the design IS the polymer.”

We can’t wait to see the first application of Infused Imaging – and indeed some of the other amazing finishes we saw Upstairs (especially the textured sidewalls).


Boeing bags Space Bin customers
Visitors to Boeing’s stand could try out a finalist in this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards: the new Space Bin overhead stowages for the B737 family, which the company claims can hold 50% more bags (six versus four) than the Boeing Sky Interior pivot bins on the B737 NGs.

According to Boeing, the greater capacity allows for 194 bags in Space Bins on a B737-900ER or B737 MAX 9, compared to 132 in the current Sky Interior bin configuration; 174 compared to 118 on a B737-800 or B737 MAX 8; and 130 compared to 90 on a B737-700 or B737 MAX 7. 

Below: The Sky Interior bins (left) vs the Space Bins (right)

It’s not all about squeezing more bags in though, it’s also about how you squeeze those bags in. The lip height of the Space Bins is lower than that of the Sky Interior bins, which makes stowing easier and also gives increased visibility into the back of the bins so small items are less likely to be left behind. Even fully loaded, the Space Bins are as easy to close as the current pivot bins, yet some clever engineering means that this is achieved without requiring a bin assist mechanism. 

The Space Bins have already been ordered by two airlines, with the launch customer being Alaska Airlines, and Delta Air Lines following suit. If any other airlines want to order the bins, which are manufactured by Boeing, they are available as a line-fit option, and also available for retrofit on in-service B737 NGs. 

Boeing interior engineers recently asked a group of frequent fliers to test out the Space Bins at the 737 Configuration Studio in Seattle, USA. One participant, Daniel Jones, a frequent B737 flyer said, "They're enormous compared to the other bins. I won't have to gate check my bags anymore. Boarding will be a lot quicker plus I won't have to help my girlfriend load her bags because she can reach these bins a lot easier." 

Steve Pickard, an interiors engineer at Boeing said after the trial, "Space Bins were created to add value for our airline customers. But being able to see the ultimate customer, our Boeing airplane passengers, get excited about something my team helped build is truly gratifying." 

A video of the Space Bin customer trial is available HERE


digEcor enters lighting market
Best known for its IFE systems, digEcor was demonstrating a new part of its portfolio: an LED cabin lighting system with four billion color and light intensity levels. The system is designed to be easy to install and to be integrated with the company’s Glide seat-centric IFE technology, and is available as a direct replacement for most aircraft common light fixtures in sidewalls and ceilings. The system is fully programmable and can be easily controlled by cabin crew. 


Multiple deals for STG Aerospace
STG Aerospace announced three major new contracts for its photoluminescent emergency floorpath lighting products. The first was for Embraer’s forthcoming E2 regional jet (another Crystal Cabin Award winner), launching in 2017. STG was particularly pleased as this builds on its current Tier 2 status with Embraer, adding Embraer to its Tier 1 list of customers, which also include Boeing, Bombardier, SuperJet and AgustaWestland. 

STG will supply Embraer with both safTglo SuperSeal Lite (SSL) and its latest system, SuperSeal UltraLite (SSUL), which was certified by EASA and FAA in December 2014, is 70% lighter than SSL, and has a 17% higher luminosity rating. The choice between the two will depend on the profile of carpets selected. Both the systems are available in more than 300 different color options. 

In addition to fitting all new-build Embraer aircraft with safTglo, STG Aerospace is also offering a discounted retrofit program to operators of existing Embraer aircraft to enable them to install the latest production standard systems and help them develop a unified brand image across their fleets. 

STG also announced that it has been awarded the contract to retrofit both of La Compagnie’s transatlantic all-business class B757-200s with the SSUL system, as well as its liTeMood LED cabin lighting system. The installations will take place later this month, and La Compagnie will be the first airline to install the SSUL OverCarpet system, which has a hinged-wing design that removes the need to bind the carpet edges. 


Above: La Compagnie’s all-business class B757-200s are being fitted with STG's SSUL system, as well as its liTeMood LED cabin lighting system

The final announcement was that Shanghai Airlines has chosen safTglo as a replacement for the combination of electrical and photoluminescent lighting systems previously installed in its fleet of B767s. Four of the airline’s fleet of seven B767s fleet have now been retrofitted with safTglo. 


Airline Services announces dedicated interiors business

Airline Services was at the Expo with new management and a streamlined structure, including three new divisions: components, handling and interiors. 

The Airline Services Interiors business is headed by Martin Barnes, who joined Airline Services from Virgin Atlantic and Threesixty Aerospace (we previously met Barnes on Virgin Atlantic’s A330 launch – see HERE for the story). 

His division combines the company’s existing workshops and soft furnishings business and focuses on three product streams, namely managed solutions, through life services and engineered products. 

Managed solutions brings together its in-house EASA Part 21J and part 21G design and production capabilities to deliver customized solutions for airlines that want to redesign, refurbish or upgrade their cabin interiors, passenger seating and IFE.  

Through life services, delivered from facilities near London Stansted and Manchester Airports, delivers repair and maintenance services for aircraft seats and galley equipment. Recent additions to this expertise include its work in PSUs and IFE monitors, together with the refurbishment and repair of a full range of interiors components.

Engineered products specializes in the supply of engineered parts, with expertise also including the use of reverse engineering using laser scanning, and 3D printing. 


EAM deploys first RFID system for safety equipment tracking
EAM RFID Solutions has deployed the first radio frequency-enabled (RFID) aircraft, with Australia-based LCC Jetstar Airways becoming an early adopter of the technology – beginning with an A350 and A320 – in order to streamline onboard safety equipment management and auditing. 

Jetstar Australia and New Zealand’s head of engineering, David Lau, explained the benefits of RFID to its existing onboard safety equipment management program: “We have a range of onboard safety equipment that must be regularly checked and tested by our engineers, and our previous manual inspections could take up to 10 man-hours.

With RFID technology the inspections can now take fewer than five minutes to complete, significantly improving maintenance efficiencies for us.” 

According to the airline, it is now using RFID to track and trace life vests as well as other safety equipment items that need to be replaced periodically, such as life rafts, oxygen generators, portable breathing equipment, fire extinguishers and oxygen bottles. 

“The use of RFID for the inspection of cabin equipment expiry dates significantly reduces regulatory non-compliance risk and will also reduce the on-aircraft maintenance activity required,” added Lau. 

Director of operations and engineering at EAM Worldwide, Eloy Leal, said, “Using RFID to track hydrostatic and functional maintenance brings the technology usage to a whole new level. It represents a paradigm shift in the way we think about compliance control and efficiencies inside airline scheduled maintenance programs.” 

During 2015, Jetstar Australia and New Zealand will equip all aircraft in its fleet with RFID and undertake RFID inspections in Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. 


Look, no hands! Dimmable window controller works without touching
Vision Systems revealed Nuance Touchless, an enhancement to its SPD-Smart Electronically Dimmable Window (EDW) systems which allows passengers to use gestures to control the tint of their aircraft windows without having to touch the window or any other component. 


Much like the movements used to operate a smartphone, a simple move of your hand from side-to-side or up-and-down in front of the window accesses various control options including adjusting the level of tint, or controlling the amount of light coming through different zones of the window, from top to bottom. 

Click here to see a demonstration of the SPD-Smart EDW controller

To learn more about aircraft window innovation, see our feature HERE.


Shrink the trash
Another Crystal Cabin Awards winner was on show at the Airbus stand – the mobile vacuum trash compactor, which provides up to 75% weight reduction and more than 50% capacity increase compared to competitive compactors. 

Jointly developed with Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, the project won the Crystal Cabin – University award. 

The concept is designed to be lighter weight than a conventional compactor system, as well as being smaller and simpler. It is based on the principle of using the on-board vacuum toilet system or waste water system as a pressure source for the compaction mechanism. 

Electromechanical compactors can be heavy (80-113kg (175-250 lb)) and voluminous, as the compaction mechanism takes up almost two-thirds of the available space of a unit, leaving 35-70 liters free. 

The Airbus/Hamburg concept instead makes use of the aircraft’s on-board vacuum system, which is already present, as part of the water and waste system. The result is a 24kg (53 lb) device, which looks like a cabin service trolley and has the same dimensions, but with a trash capacity of up to 150 liters. The concept has been implemented into a physical demonstrator and has been successfully tested under real operational conditions. 


MSB and Sogeclair unveil CCF inserts for commercial aircraft


Those involved in business aviation may be familiar with MSB’s crystal, china and flatware (CCF) inserts that protect such fragile materials during business and VIP aviation flights. However, this year the company teamed up with aerospace engineering and contracting company Sogeclair to create similar insert products for commercial aircraft. 

Each CCF insert is made of lightweight and strong, precision-cut high-density foam that has been certified for aviation use. The foam is cut to match the contours, surface and shape of the fragile items, in addition to the exact dimensions of the cabinets, drawers and galley trolleys where such delicate objects can be stowed. 


Behold, the flying dishwasher!
With a focus on reducing aircraft weight, it makes sense to reduce the amount of plates and flatware brought on board long-haul flights. The way to achieve this is simple: wash such items onboard as required, so they can be re-used during a flight. 

Under the guidance of engineers from Lufthansa Technik, hs2 engineering has developed a dishwasher designed to be installed and connected in standard aircraft galleys – the Dishwashair. 

It has a wash cycle time of six minutes and uses three liters of water, with complex safety mechanisms in place to prevent flooding issues. Baskets that fit in any standard galley can be used for the placement of dishes and silverware in the Dishwashair, which can be attached to the available connections for fresh and waste water, or to vacuum systems, in an aircraft. A single fill-up of the two required cleaning agents is enough for up to 40 wash cycles. 

Oliver Thomaschewski, head of seating and structures, Lufthansa Technik, explained, "Long-haul aircraft in particular take along lots of dishware, amounts that can be reduced considerably with clever logistics. No normal household would keep a separate set of dishes for every meal. 

“Now our Dishwashair makes it possible, even in an aircraft, to bring along only the amounts actually needed to provide service." 

Some of Lufthansa Technik's VIP customers have already decided to have the Dishwashair installed, but greater benefits could be achieved in the commercial airline sector. 


Take a Chair
Lufthansa Technik also presented its Chair seating concept for airline customers for the first time.

Chair, which was a Crystal Cabin Awards finalist, is a range of chairs with a design that breaks new ground for the customization of aircraft cabins, allowing designers to adapt chair structure and functionality to the specific requirements of airline, business jet and VIP customers. 


The seating concept runs the gamut from basic office chairs to lounge and dining chairs and beds, and is claimed to offer savings in space and weight, as well as thousands of configuration options. 

All configurations are based on a primary seat structure adapted to the human body. Seatbacks in different heights and with custom-contoured ribs, customized upholstery in any desired thickness, ergonomic features in armrests and seatbacks, and a wide variety of other flexible add-on elements can offer versatility in cabin design. 

"On board an airplane, the seats are the central interface between the passengers and the cabin," explained Andrew Muirhead, head of the Original Equipment Innovation unit at Lufthansa Technik.

"For decades, seats have mostly changed only in shape and color. Today's passengers have much higher expectations at every level, from the most basic to top-of-the-line seats. They expect the comfort and convenience of an innovative cabin along with the home furnishings diversity they're accustomed to, and more freedom of movement in the cabin." 

The concept was developed in cooperation with the cabin interior designer Jacques Pierrejean, founder of Pierrejean Design Studios. He describes Chair with this analogy: "This chair is my friend. It dresses differently depending on the comfort I need, the situation I'm in and the culture I'm living in. The concept of Chair gives cabin interior designers an unequaled degree of freedom." 

The seats are made in Germany in cooperation with the premium automotive supplier Dräxlmaier, and are currently undergoing certification by the aviation authorities (certification as a 16g seat according to crash safety regulations). 


Testing the Solar Impulse 2 pilot seat
Lantal's Pneumatic Comfort System (PCS) has been widely adopted in premium seating, but at the Expo the textiles and services provider showed customers a rather special PCS-equipped seat – a replica of the pilot's seat in the zero fuel Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, which was developed by Lantal as an official supplier to the project. 

Currently, pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard are flying around the world with the sunlight-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft – with comfort and ergonomics aided by the PCS system. 


“With the lightest possible material, the highest attainable comfort, and sustainable new technologies, the Pneumatic Comfort System is a perfect match with the requirements and philosophy of the promising and forward-looking Solar Impulse project,” said Lantal CEO, Urs Rickenbacher.

 

21 April 2015

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