Lightweight aircraft seat design takes off with AMRC help


Develop manufacturing methods, tool design and pressing trials for a new, lighter weight seat back design for commercial aircraft and producing over 60 components for testing procedures. 


The University of Sheffield AMRC worked with Norfolk-based Mirus Aircraft Seating, a global leader in the manufacture of aircraft seating with operations in the UK, Malaysia and China, to develop the manufacture methods for a new seat back design to be used in short-haul budget flight aircraft.  Building on previous seat design research projects undertaken together, Mirus Aircraft Seating approached composites experts at the AMRC with a new seat back design. The company’s aim was to have one of the lightest seat backs available on the market, as lightweight seats reduce the overall weight of an aircraft which contribute to reduced fuel consumption. 


The AMRC worked on tool design and pressing trials for up to five different prepreg types. Intensive development work was carried out on the preforming methodology due to the layup of the seat back being a thin monolithic layup. This thickness presented a challenge in producing good quality preforms due to it being more difficult than it would be for layups with more plies. 

The composites team also developed the parameters of the press program used for producing the seat backs. Mirus Aircraft Seating uses the same press manufacturer as the AMRC -  Langzauner - this alignment in machinery meant the press program developed by the AMRC team could be used directly on the company’s own press machine.

The seat backs produced by the AMRC were shipped to Mirus Aircraft Seating, where they were tested using the company’s dynamic testing rig. Composites experts at the AMRC modified the manufacturing techniques to ensure the seat backs met the test criteria and then visited the manufacturing site to assist with the company in producing preforms to a rate of   15 – 20 minutes, which is the time taken for the press program meaning one operator can keep up with the press.


The seat backs have been able to be manufactured on the Mirus Aircraft Seating site, and are now undergoing aerospace certification. If the seat back passes, the company will be able to take the product to market. The seat backs are manufactured from a carbon fibre reinforced pre-preg composite which is low density, provides sufficient stiffness and passes the flammability requirements.


The tool design and manufacturing methodology developed by the AMRC has helped Mirus Aircraft Seating bring a new product  to market. This seat is light but also able to be produced at a relatively high rate, meaning costs can be kept down. The impact of having a lighter seat back brought into the market, is that it can contribute to reducing  the overall weight of a plane. Lighter aircraft use less fuel, helping to reduce emissions and contribute towards more sustainable aviation travel.