Ogle Models Creates Plane Seat Prototype for Zodiac Aerospace

Over 100,000 flights are made every day across the world. With a growing demand for in-flight convenience and comfort, Ogle Models & Prototypes worked closely with Zodiac Aerospace to deliver the next generation in business class seat innovation.

Zodiac Aerospace is a leader in aerospace equipment and systems for commercial, regional and business aircraft, as well as helicopters and space applications. The Zodiac Seat Division designs, certifies and assembles innovative high-added-value products. With an extensive portfolio of business class seats, Zodiac approached Ogle to make modifications and improvements to the existing Aura design.

The requirement was for a full-scale functioning exhibition model with precise aesthetic appearance that would be exhibited at The Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg; incorporated into the stage floor within Zodiac’s stand. The model was to be built between two side-by-side client-supplied production business class seats.

There was a requirement for strength and rigidity within the model as it needed to appear to float above the floor with minimal contact points with the seat frames and floor. Whilst model board would have been easier to select for the CNC process it would have been too heavy for the seat. Fiberglass was selected as the main production material because it delivered added strength and drastically reduced the weight of the model. These two factors were vital for the exhibition seat as it was likely to be tested but also needed to be packed and moved with relative ease. Another benefit of this material is the cavity it creates for the electrical cabling and wiring – necessary for the lighting, air conditioning and television unit – to be neatly stored in.

Ogle boasts a portfolio of three, four and five-axis CNC machines. The majority of CNC work for the seat was done using several three-axis machines as the geometries were not overly complex.

Ogle selected to 3D print the trim and detailed parts using Stereolithography (SLA), working mostly with ExtremeWhite resin. During the CNC process, precise cavities were created within the model for the extra detailing, which is why SLA was selected as it can meet an accuracy of ±0.1 mm per 100 mm. Most importantly for this premium product, however, was the superior surface finish to ensure the model was as visually accurate and close to the production seat as possible.

The functional aspects of the model were then added. This included LED mood lighting, flat-screen TV, air condition duct and other electrical parts. The client required all electrical elements to be controlled by a single remote and connected to the existing electrical supply for the production seats. The completed model, including the production seats, also needed to be able to split into three sections, which meant that all the cabling has to run under the floor and have connections between each seat and section. This was to limit the physical involvement of anyone who had to set up the model.

The center console has to incorporate two working production tray table units, as well as a functioning privacy screen. To ensure the tables and privacy screen mechanism were sufficiently supported, the entire console was engineered around a large aluminum spine that other panels could be connected to.

Precision model making combined with the fabrics and leathers that were supplied by the client, created a visually-accurate model for the exhibition. The final stage was to fit and bolt down the model between the production seats and ensure they did not fowl or rub as they ran through their full motion of travel.

The variety of technologies available at Ogle including industrial 3D printing, CNC machining 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.

On completion of the project Patrick Smith, Senior Design Engineer at Zodiac Aerospace, said: “With the ever increasing demands of airline customers to improve product functionality, quality and customer experience, Zodiac Seats UK relies on partners such as Ogle Models & Prototypes to showcase product innovation in the best possible light.

“Zodiac Seats UK is a premium manufacturer of Business & First Class seating systems, supplying to a global customer base and working with the some of the world's most premium airlines.

“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.”

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