I only fly on an airplane once, maybe twice a year, and while I appreciate how much faster this mode of travel is (if everything is running according to schedule, that is), I don’t particularly enjoy the experience. Airports themselves are usually insanely busy, and if I don’t take a decongestant an hour before boarding, I have extremely painful ear issues upon descent. I hate the cramped airplane bathrooms, and I really don’t like the cramped seating space, as I don’t generally fly business or first class. But these days, 3D printing is often used to make the experience more comfortable, with innovations like 3D printed cocktail trays (business class only, unfortunately) and ClampHero, a 3D printed device that clamps to the seat back in front of you and securely holds your mobile devices. 3D printing is even being used to manufacture spare airplane parts, so passengers don’t have to be stuck on the runway quite as long if there’s a malfunction.
Letchworth prototyping company Ogle Models & Prototypes, well-known for using its 3D printing prowess in projects involving custom race cars and components for the Mars Rover prototype, is helping to make your flight even more comfortable, with cutting-edge business class seats that were partially manufactured using 3D printing.
Zodiac Aerospace, a leading aerospace equipment and systems company for business, commercial, and regional aircraft, asked Ogle to develop a next generation business class seat. Zodiac approached Ogle and asked the company to make some improvements and modifications to Zodiac’s existing Aura seat design, in time for exhibition at the April 2017 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany.
Zodiac owns a large portfolio of business class seats already through its Zodiac Seats division, which designs, certifies, and assembles custom, innovative products. Zodiac Seats is broken up into three smaller divisions:
Aura HD, front and back
The original Aura seat model was already augmented for the 2016 expo: the Aura HD, which was the latest High Density business class seat, gives passengers a full flat bed at 60″ pitch. Its forward-facing “V” configuration offered more privacy and comfort, as well as a 15% improvement in bed surface, which was especially noticeable in the wider foot well and shoulder area of the seat.
At this year’s expo, Zodiac Seats UK will unveil, with Ogle’s help, a full-scale functioning exhibit model of the new Aura Enhanced seat. It features a flat screen TV, storage for electrical parts, air conditioning, and LED mood lighting. The exhibition model needed to have a functioning privacy screen, as well as two working production tray table units. In order to create the complete model, Ogle had to build it between two side-by-side business class seats, and then add it to the stage floor of Zodiac’s stand at the expo, to make it appear that the Aura Enhanced was floating.
“With ever increasing demands of airline customers to improve product functionality, quality and customer service, Zodiac Seats UK relies on partners such as Ogle Models & Prototypes to showcase product innovation in the best possible light,” said the senior design engineer at Zodiac Aerospace. “Partnering with Ogle Models & Prototypes has meant Zodiac Seats UK can commission superb quality prototypes, essential in securing the confidence of major airlines, that Zodiac Seats UK will deliver a top-quality product. Ogle was selected by Zodiac Seats UK based on their reputation for applying extensive knowledge of developing prototypes from initial design conception to final product execution.”
Ogle, which uses FDM, SLA, and SLS 3D printing techniques, chose the highly accurate SLA 3D printing process for this project, to create the quality of detail necessary for the Aura Enhanced seat model; SLA is able to meet measurements as small as ±0.1 mm per 100 mm. Strong, rigid fiberglass was used in the production of the seat model, because it reduced the overall weight of the model, while adding strength at the same time, and left a cavity where passengers could store electrical cabling for the seat’s TV unit and air conditioning. Looking at the images of the full Aura Enhanced bed, I’m starting to feel jealous of the people who will eventually enjoy the obvious comforts of this seat; look at all that leg room!
[Image: Ogle Models via Instagram]
It makes sense that Zodiac would choose Ogle for this important project, as the prototyping company’s website states that it uses a wide range of processes for its industrial prototyping clients, including additive manufacturing as well as CNC machining and vacuum casting. In addition, Ogle applies a superior finish to all its prototype applications, which is very important for not only the appearance of the model, but also for its functionality.
“Most importantly for this premium product was the surface finish to ensure the model was as visually accurate to the production seat as possible,” said Dave Bennion, Marketing and Sales Director at Ogle. “The variety of technologies available at Ogle, industrial 3D print, CNC and skilled model makers, allowed the team to tailor each element of the model to its best suited production method. This ensured there was no compromise on durability and overall quality. Precision model making combined with the fabrics and leathers that were supplied by the client, created a visually-accurate model for the exhibition.”
If you’re interested in using Ogle’s prototyping services, the company invites you to #ChallengeOgle on social media sites Instagram and Twitter.