The conference and its sister event, the Cabin Repair and Refurbishment Conference, are now solidly established as niche products that are proving invaluable to the industry. This was reflected in the diversity of the audience, including representatives from 14 airlines, and sponsorship from well-known companies like SR Technics and Diehl Aerosystems.
Howard Guy, joint CEO at Design Q, outlined the typical process of developing a new cabin interior.
The first part is the industrial design and styling process, which involves detailed discussions with the customer to determine where the focus should be and what design strategy should be followed. With a concept established, initial sketches and illustrations can be worked up into an industrial design package, which is more detailed and can be used to generate 3D computer graphics and digital visualisation, including cabin walkthroughs. The next stage is to define surface finishes and then master CAD models can be developed and used for the release of production drawings.
Often, there is a need for several full-scale prototypes to be built as it is easier to judge the design concept this way. As well as establishing the shape of furniture and, by using foam, the potential shape of seats, the ergonomics encountered in day-to-day operations can be investigated – ease of access or room to manoeuvre trolleys, for example.
At this point, final selection has to be made on colour and surface material specifications. While design agencies have access to an extensive library of certified materials and surface finishes, it is sometimes necessary to achieve certification for new materials.
When everything has been selected, the full scale prototype can be used for the final design review and perhaps as a promotional device for the new cabin.
Design Q originated in the automotive industry and still works extensively with high-end car manufacturers. A few years ago, the company decided to combine two skill sets; using aviation and automotive design and automotive mass production techniques, introducing a lightweight economy seat. It established a subsidiary, Pitch Aircraft Seating Systems, and launched the PF2000 at the 2012 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. It also appeared on the cover of the first issue of Aircraft Cabin Management, which made its debut at that event.
Gary Doy, joint CEO at Design Q and Director at Pitch, said the plan was to subcontract specialist aviation engineering services for certification and team with Intier, part of Magna, an automotive global Tier 1 supplier and well known to the company, for production.
The involvement of Intier brought about fundamental changes in the way the seat was produced. The automotive industry invests heavily into sophisticated production tooling to ensure consistency of quality and finish throughout large production runs. It also uses a lot of moulding and goes for more complex components. For the PF2000, this meant a reduced part count and maintenance requirements.
The process worked well initially and the seat was successfully certified and sold to Monarch Airlines in the UK and Pegasus Airlines in Turkey, enjoying favourable feedback from the airlines and their passengers. The production was set up in an enclosed area at Intier alongside the automotive lines and 2,000 seats were built. Unfortunately, Pitch was very much the smaller partner, even if it was the design lead, and increasing demand from car manufacturers put pressure on Intier and subsequently on the seat production. In the end, the project was suspended.
Having learnt its lesson about working with a giant, and with the different cultures (Magna had 50 chief engineers and 10 design managers, while certification issues were outside their normal way of working), Pitch has now bounced back with a new seat, the PF3000. Also designed as a lightweight economy seat, it is now in the process of being certified and should be in production by 2Q17. >>
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