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In less than one year a new seat was designed, prototyped, tested and certified for flight. The seat provided a performance increase over the outgoing seat as well as a weight reduction. As the majority of the manufacturing process was automated, process errors were eliminated resulting in a high quality part with very consistent performance.

Computer aided engineering was used to simulate the structural tests that the aircraft seat will undergo in order to gain certification.  The composite structure was designed to be strong enough to survive impact loads, and durable enough to withstand constant and vigorous use, typical of the airline industry.  Stiffness and strength predictions were made using the software to guide the design process, and explicit simulations were made to determine impact performance.  The seat was to be able to absorb energy from passengers in an impact scenario, whilst ensuring that the passenger is not injured when contact is made.  This problem was further complicated by the desire of the airlines to vary the distance between the seats to suit their individual needs, increasing the design variables.

Aircraft cabins are constructed from materials which are resistant to fire and heat, and they must not emit smoke or toxins under those conditions.  Composite materials are useful in reducing weight but their processing time can be long when using traditional materials in order to fulfil these requirements.  In order to meet production volumes only materials which can be processed quickly could be used, which meant a great deal of research was required to determine the correct combination of carbon fibres, resin reinforcements, thermoplastic inserts and adhesives.  Potential materials were evaluated initially through simulation to ensure structural performance was maintained, then subsequently through prototype manufacture to ensure manufacturing targets can be achieved.  Finally each combination is subject to physical testing to validate the physical performance of the structure as well as its resistance to fire, smoke and toxicity emission.

Penso have deep composite structural design experience in the automotive, rail, marine and aerospace industries.  Using a combination of commercially available software and Penso’s own software developed in house, Penso was able to perform these structural evaluations quickly and accurately.

Since 2010 Penso have been producing composite parts using rapid processing methods and have a variety of industrial equipment to make a wide range of parts.  In addition to that, Penso design and manufacture their own tools in-house which aids rapid turnaround of these complex projects

Key Deliverables

Project delivered the project in just 9 months

Weight saving of 1kg per seat

Generating cost savings appprox. £600,000 per kg over the lifetime of the aircraft

Increased legroom by 2 inches with no increase in seat density

High volume (15kpa)

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