This post is authored by John Bray, Marketing Communications Specialist for Rogers High Performance Foams Division.

Durable Comfort, Backed by Time

As air travel evolves, seating designers are faced with a constant challenge: Create a lighter seat that’s comfortable for the passenger and durable enough to withstand the rigors of public transportation.

There are many materials out there that claim to be all that and then some.  Claims of light weight, eco-friendly, some are even award winning.

But if we have learned anything over the recent past, it’s this:

Light weight is one thing, durability is something else.

Luckily, we are proud to announce the upcoming launch of a solution to that challenge:

Non-Petroleum Open Cell Silicone Foam

A non-petroleum based open cell silicone foam for aircraft seating. Currently referred to as “MFX”, this new low-density cushion maintains thickness, firmness, and comfort while holding a potential life span of up to three times that of traditional polymeric foam.

“We listened to the needs and requirements from all levels of the value chain; from passenger, to airline, to seat manufacturer, to cushion supplier which lead to this innovation,” says Mike Brock, Market Development Manager for Mass Transit at Rogers Corporation.

While comfort and durability have allowed our MF1 seating materials to be used for rail seating in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, Taiwan and many others cities for over ten years, the material has always been too heavy for use on aircraft.

Until now.

As a result of exhaustive research and proprietary formulations, our High Performance Foams team can offer unique silicone seating material that has a density of about 50kg/m3.

Hybrid Seating Options

The other thing we have found is that most airlines are taking a hybrid approach to address seating – meaning using a layering combination of materials to deliver the durability but most importantly, the comfort, that passengers require.  Southwest got some mixed feedback when they introduced new, improved seating earlier this year. Comfort was cited as a problem in the comments.

This new aircraft seating material can be used as a thin, soft “comfort pad” which can be upholstered into a dress cover or integrated into a cushion as a top pad.  Proper construction with “MFX” can even potentially reduce the use of fire blocking layers.

But it’s more than comfort, says Sharon Soong, R&D Group Manager at Rogers Corporation: “Silicone is a unique polymer that is inherently stable, durable, non-petroleum based, and resistant to microbial growth.“

Other Emerging Technologies

Other emerging technologies, including flexible fiber and honeycomb systems are being evaluated as potential seating solutions as well.  Because these fiber/suspension systems may be used as bottom pads with a foam top pad, Rogers is evaluating the possibility of combining their durable, soft ‘comfort pad’ technology with evolving fiber technologies to develop hybrid seating solutions for tomorrow’s aircrafts.