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Work. 2016 Jul 19;54(4):941-54. doi: 10.3233/WOR-162352.

Exploring the design of a lightweight, sustainable and comfortable aircraft seat.

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Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands.
Optimares SpA, Sezze Scalo, Italy.



Making a lightweight seat that is also comfortable can be contradictory because usually comfort improvement means adding a feature (e.g. headrest, adjustable lumbar support, movable armrests, integrated massage systems, etc.), which makes seats heavier.


This paper explores the design of an economy class aircraft seat that aims to be lightweight, comfortable and sustainable.


Theory about comfort in seats, ergonomics, lightweight design, Biomimicry and Cradle to cradle was studied and resulted in a list of requirements that the new seat should satisfy.


The design process resulted in a new seat that is 36% lighter than the reference seat, which showed that a significant weight reduction can be achieved. This was completed by re-designing the backrest and seat pan and integrating their functions into a reduced number of parts. Apart from the weight reduction that helps in reducing the airplane's environmental impact, the seat also satisfies most of the other sustainability requirements such as the use of recyclable materials, design for disassembly, easy to repair. A user test compared the new seat with a premium economy class aircraft seat and the level of comfort was similar.


Strong points of the new design were identified such as the lumbar support and the cushioning material, as well as shortcomings on which the seat needs to be improved, like the seat pan length and the first impression. Long term comfort tests are still needed as the seat is meant for long-haul flights.


Biomimicry; comfort; cradle to cradle; nature-inspired-design; user experience

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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