London, United Kingdom—December 3, 2019—Red Cabin Brings Partners Together to Innovate Aviation Interiors at SEKISUI SPI
When attending high-profile conferences, most expect to network and come away with a few insightful ideas. But the Red Cabin Aviation Summit isn’t for those who want a typical conference experience. Founded by Monica Wick, CEO, Red Cabin is an exclusive aviation summit that provides unique round table platforms to establish and renew relationships in the aviation interiors market.
One platform featured a panel relating to the next generation of passenger experiences. The audience listened as Matthew Coder, Onboard Experience Manager at Alaska Airlines, detailed his dream economy class seat, with multiple trays and a “super widget” capable of informing passengers of everything from captain credentials to lavatory availability. Coder concluded by saying this seat would be a welcome addition to innovation in economy class, but this was years in the future.
Ronn Cort, President & COO of SEKISUI SPI, saw an opportunity to bring panel members Elina Kopola and Patrick McEneany of TrendWorks together with Matt Malejko, appLab™ Consultant, Rick Wood of ROLLON Corp, and Bernadette Chupela, SEKISUI SPI’s Customer Experience Manager, to explore the possibilities of the appLab™. This was a prime opportunity to take dialogue from the Red Cabin Aviation Summit to the next level by delivering a seat back prototype a few years earlier than Coder expected.
The team drew from the idea of A/B testing for successful innovation and combined it with the one of Alaska’s most well-known features, the Aurora Borealis. Just as the energy at the Red Cabin Innovation Summit excited attendees, the energy from aptly named A/B project crossed continents and built bonds, unifying everyone who had a hand in the completion of the Aurora Borealis Seat Back.
Kopola and McEneany introduced different elements of Coder’s wish list. The chosen iteration introduced a split tray table designed for touch and flexibility, a textured modular insert, an appBar including colored light indicators, a media easel for personal devices, and soft storage for in-flight essentials.
“I wanted to take all the very diverse passenger needs into consideration to create something that was comfortable, yet practical. The combination of the beautiful pearlescent finish (of KYDEX® Thermoplastics) with some tactile elements to enhance the passenger experience was essential. The contrast of the 3D-knit fabric with the pearlescent seat shell was intentional to make the Aurora Borealis Seat Back feel more human,” explained Elina Kopola, Founder/Director of TrendWorks.
To add threads to the tapestry woven from Red Cabin, the team also created colours (Artic Lustre, Sneaker White, Night Sky, Salmonberry, and Glacier Blue) to reflect those in Alaska Airlines’ lounge in Seattle, WA with assistance from SEKISUI SPI’s designLab®, which specializes in custom colour creation and quick turnaround.
Blueprints to Blue Sky
The A/B Project jumped from blueprints to forms the team could actually touch and refine. A seat form made of industrial foam from Machine Histories provided the base for the next few months of innovation. SEKISUI SPI’s appLab™ was the playground, with two CNC routers, a full-size pressure former, and a bevy of precision equipment at the team’s fingertips.
The project shifted to technical elements beginning with the tray tables, where the team moved forward with a split tray table design, which required custom mechanisms. ROLLON Corp fabricated the hardware while local company Berwick Machine, LLC worked with the team to customize the hinge mechanism.
"The most fun but challenging part is taking concepts and making them function. Taking a drawing to a reality while trying to foresee any issues has been part of my role for the past 30 years. It was interesting to do this as part of a larger team. Everyone wanted to help solve problems,” said Matt Malejko, appLab™ Consultant.
Because texture is an important part in aviation interiors, adding dimension to the modular insert through bespoke texture was key. Custom Etch collaborated with Becky Gallup, SEKISUI SPI’s Infused Imaging ™ Senior Graphic Artist, to laser etch the part in less than a week to deliver the texture to the team.
While the thermoforming mold parts were in development, Coder’s super widget was also coming to light. TrendWorks’ McEneany asked the group: “How can we create a digital feature that helps the crew and passengers communicate, especially since the crew is the primary point of interface with a passenger?”
The answer? The appBar, a one-of-a-kind creation by Aeolab giving passengers access to current in-flight amenities. “We wanted to address Matthew Coder’s request to create a new opportunity for interaction between the flight, crew, and passenger,” explained McEneany.
Collaborative Craftsmanship Complete
SEKISUI SPI, Kopola, McEneany, Malejko, and Wood are pleased to share the Aurora Borealis Seat Back prototype at the Red Cabin Aviation Summit on December 4 in London. Presented on a pedestal outfitted by Bloomsburg Carpet, the Aurora Borealis Seat Back display will include an iPad for attendees to experience the unique features of the seat for themselves. This project has been an ambitious, but successful, journey.
“It’s a full size, fully functional model we created in under six months. That speed is something that is impressive. It was the largest challenge coming out of the discussions at Red Cabin: We needed to break down silos, share ideas, and move quickly in a more iterative process, but at the end of the session, many people saying, “yeah, but that will never happen.” Having the opportunity to work together on Ronn’s vision to show them was the most important thing to us throughout this process,” said McEneany.
In a concluding word? "Elegant,” said Kopola, “from the lines of the seat back to the contour of the seat. Contrasting the tactile and elegance in the Aurora Borealis Seat Back is such an accomplishment.”
SEKISUI SPI is looking forward to sharing more details of the A/B Project and thanks all of our valuable partners who made it a success: Aeolab, Berwick Machine, LLC, Bloomsburg Carpet, Custom Etch, Inc., Kobleder, Lantal, Matt Malejko, Orange Packaging, Red Cabin, Rohi, ROLLON Corp, SEKISUI Alveo, SEKISUI Voltek, Tapis, and TrendWorks.
About SEKISUI SPI
SEKISUI SPI is a global thermoplastics leader that invents and manufactures specialized high performance plastics in small batches for boutique applications in aviation, mass transit, autonomous vehicle, and agricultural equipment markets. These KYDEX® thermoplastic materials help create products that are lighter, safer, stronger, recyclable, and environmentally sustainable – making the world a better place for future generations. SPI achieves this by investing in their people, process and products in ways that foster collaboration, caring, and a community of safety, where they lift each other up to achieve more than each person could achieve on their own. Fueled by a team of over 350 dedicated professionals, SEKISUI SPI delivers materials to more than 30 countries while continuing to invest and develop its manufacturing campuses in Bloomsburg, PA and Holland, MI. Visit www.sekisui-spi.com for more information.