Rockwood Composites and HAECO Cabin Solutions have announced a partnership that will revolutionise aircraft seating for the business market. HAECO has commissioned Rockwood to do the tooling on its new “Eclipse” cabin platform for seat shells and console work.
Rockwood says that the business potential for the new seating is huge and there is already a commitment to refit a large fleet for an unnamed Middle-East-based airline.
This bespoke seat will feature compound, moulded surfaces and respective tooling design. Rockwood will also provide what HAECO terms “zero production parts,” which are first of a kind, and are used to validate that the design meets its intended function and can be manufactured in long run.
Eclipse is a new line of premium products which will redefine short haul business class and long-haul premium economy with a patented staggered seating arrangement. This arrangement provides a similarly luxurious experience to that found on long haul business class flights, while also improving the airline’s route economics.
There were many technical, composites engineering challenges. These included the ability to design a lightweight structure with enough modularity which would allow HAECO to contend with future permutations of the product. Also, the shapes used in this class are not new, but the scale and industrial design are a “first of a kind” for this cabin. These compounded surfaces have never been used in this class of service before.
The challenges were overcome mainly due the partnership between both companies. Rockwood’s innovative combinations of materials and tooling provide a lightweight product which at the same time has a degree of flexibility.
Jose Pevida, HAECO Cabin Solutions Senior Vice President of Engineering and Product Development explains further: “It comes down to ‘how smart’ the tools are designed, and how much thought has gone into making the right tools. These developments are key to HAECO because they support our initiatives with a totally new platform of premium products. Nothing like Eclipse has been done before.”
Commenting on working with Rockwood, Mr. Pevida added: “The big value Rockwood brings is their high degree of innovation and capability when it comes to composites. We were looking for a way to optimize these structures for weight, strength, and manufacturability. We were aware of their capabilities based on their past success with projects like this.”
“We are delighted to be cooperating with Rockwood. They have shown the aptitude to carefully evaluate our product needs and give us various alternatives in order to arrive at the best choice. They are very detail oriented and don’t try to sell us the first thing that comes to mind – they don’t stop until we have mutually arrived at the best solution.”
Rockwood’s role is facilitating the design for manufacture of the surround seating system and undertaking tool design and manufacture. The UK-based composites specialist is producing the seat surround.
The surround attaches to the back of the seat, as opposed to being attached to the floor plinth. This new configuration has many economic advantages, takes up less space, making qualification less costly and provides the feel of a first-class seat, though at a much lower cost.
HAECO devised a seat surround system that bridges a portion of the market, with more value for money than first class. The component is a fully matched metal compression moulded design, made in a modular design that is bonded together then finished and coated. The engineering challenges related to achieving a structure that has the right level of rigidity to provide a quality user experience and having the strength and flexibility to withstand 16G in a crash test environment.
This design perfectly suits Rockwood’s manufacturing process of compression moulding design.
Mark Crouchen, Managing Director of Rockwood Composites, said: “To secure the right rigidity, strength and flexibility of the set surround was a real challenge, and one we met head on. Working closely with HAECO Cabin Solutions, we have deployed our expertise in composites to deliver a seat which is fully compliant and could easily be mistaken for a first-class environment.
“We are looking forward to building this partnership as more and more airlines see the advantage in this innovative manufacturing process.”