Lead Screws Transform Airline Seating from Cramped into Comfortable

Christopher Nook by Christopher Nook

Comfortable and cost-effective airline seating is in the cross hairs of major aircraft manufacturers around the globe.


Comfortable and cost-effective airline seating is in the cross hairs of major aircraft manufacturers around the globe. At the 4th International Conference Innovative Aircraft Seating 2013 in Hamburg, Germany, movers and shakers in the airline industry converged to advance the next generation of seat technologies, which promise to make economy seating rival that of first class luxury.

The airline industry has decided major reinvestment in aircraft renovation must be made in the industry to ensure continued prosperity in the future. Seating has been targeted by manufacturers as the main improvement opportunity where weight/space capacities can be significantly reduced. Reducing the overall weight, specifically the basic empty weight (BEW), of commercial aircraft will reduce fuel costs. Reduced fuel costs contribute to lower ticket prices, which in turn benefit the economy, environment, and the consumer. Spikes in fuel prices have forced the industry to increase the available space within the aircraft and the need for greater passenger comfort. Satisfied customers equal repeat business. Yet, designers are also being asked to fit more customers, more comfortably, into each aircraft while also reducing overall aircraft weight is a daunting task. Lead-screw actuators can help engineers redesign seating for weight reduction and comfort.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of modern seat design that could use lead-screw actuators. In FROM PRELIMINARY AIRCRAFT CABIN DESIGN TO CABIN OPTIMIZATION -- PART I –, U.P.B. Sci. Bull., Series D, Vol. 75, Iss. 3, 2013, ISSN 1454-2358, Mihaela NIŢĂ, PhD and Professor Dieter SCHOLZ provide designers with essential starting points to developing comfortable aircraft seating design, as shown in Figure 1.
Lead screws used in airline seating.
Another example, in Figure 2, illustrates a unique ergonomic aircraft seating design conceived by a Malaysian engineering student. The design, called AirGo, could eliminate passenger cramping and constriction during the flying experience and provides reading, watching, and sleeping modes.
Linear actuators using lead screws in airline seating.
In these examples, seating comfort is delivered to passengers through an integral network of electro-mechanical lead screw actuators that provide adjustable control for:
  • neck support
  • back support
  • footrest
  • base
Acme thread forms are ideally suited for this seat actuation system by providing highly dependable and repeatable performance over the lifespan of the aircraft. When coupled with proven aerospace-grade motors, seat actuators designed with Acme thread forms can be packaged and weight-optimized to comply with the multitude of safe air travel regulations.

Comfortable airline seating and innovative linear-motion, lead-screw actuation systems are redefining the entire flying experience and shifting the priorities of the airline industry back to where they belong, the passengers.


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