Hinge technology reduces seat weight for the aviation industry

Louise Smyth

Founded in 1984, Italian-headquartered company Geven has evolved from its roots as a family-run business initially specialising in upholstery for the automotive sector to become one of the global leaders in the design and manufacture of aircraft seating and interiors. By achieving approved supplier status with top-tier aerospace OEMs, Geven has demonstrated consistent reliability and outstanding quality, dedication and professionalism in the aviation sector.

Recently, the company sought to replace its headrest hinge as part of its goal to reduce the overall weight of its seats, enabling airlines to meet industry environmental standards whilst at the same time maintaining a high level of user experience in an extremely competitive market.

The challenge

New industry standards, as set by bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the EU emissions trading system (ETS), require airlines to reduce their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. In response, Geven explored ways to reduce the weight of its aircraft seating without compromising function and passenger experience, or increasing production costs. When redesigning the head supports in their existing seating, the company was looking for a solution that would help to eliminate any avoidable weight or bulk. Geven’s seat headrests were previously fitted with heavy hinges that were more than 18mm in diameter. Although these hinges functioned adequately, they added unnecessary weight to the seating and did not complement the design aesthetics.

Geven sought a product that would be light enough to help reduce the overall seat weight, but with a high enough level of functionality to meet the needs of the passengers of leading airlines. This posed a considerable challenge because reducing the overall size, diameter thickness and weight of the hinge could potentially affect the performance of the headrest. In addition to these challenges, Geven was also looking for a product that would fit seamlessly within its complete range of aircraft seating.

The solution

Geven replaced the existing headrest hinge with Southco’s E6 Constant Torque Position Control Hinge series, a low-profile, high torque friction hinge measuring approximately 10mm in diameter. Southco’s E6 class hinge incorporates the firm’s positioning technology, which provides constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion, enabling airline passengers to easily position headrests and other mounted components with zero-drift and backlash, even under vibration or dynamic loads, holding them securely at any desired angle. In addition to helping reduce their headrest size, the E6 class hinge provided an added benefit in that it eliminated the need for secondary supports, simplifying Geven’s build process and reducing costs.

Based on a standard product, the overall cost of the development remained low. Southco slightly adapted the E6 hinge for Geven to add further length and provide greater torque, allowing the company to design a headrest with low profile. Having been rigorously tested over 20,000 cycles with performance remaining within the optimal static torque range, the hinge ensures that the headrest maintains a consistent, high level of performance. As a result, using the E6 series has helped Geven to reduce the overall weight of its seats, helping airline companies to meet industry environmental standards while reinforcing quality, reliability and durability for their passengers.

The implementation

Integrating a proven solution such as Southco’s E6 hinge series into Geven’s existing range of aircraft seating allows the company to demonstrate exceptional value to its customers. As a standard product, the E6 is an affordable solution that offers design flexibility; furthermore, its long lifecycle means that it is also helping airlines to reduce their maintenance costs. Although the project started primarily as a retrofit initiative, the hinge is now being built into both premium and economy class seating ranges. Geven continues to experience the benefits of incorporating Southco technology; having won a range of additional contracts with leading worldwide airlines, it is reaching new clients with the prospect of supplying additional elements for their aircraft.

“Working with Southco, we were looking to upgrade our current headrest system as the former system was a bulky, visible solution that added extra weight without superior performance,” explains Pasquale Rapullini, R&D Area Manager, Geven. “With new industry pressures, OEMs need suppliers to develop innovative solutions to help achieve challenging targets. The integration of the E6 into our new seat and headrest design was a major benefit to us, as we were able to cost-effectively reduce the profile of the hinge whilst maintaining high levels of torque. We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with Southco.”

For more information visit www.southco.com

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