This new technology draws on Schneller’s half century of steady innovation in aircraft interiors. The company was among the first in the early 1980s to introduce decorative laminates for airplane interiors that met new heat release and smoke density standards.
In business, products are often pushed to the marketplace in hopes of meeting a particular demand. But it’s so much better when the demand for an innovative product already exists, and motivated customers are clamoring for an answer.
In fact, the latter dynamic nicely describes the origin story behind our AerFilm sofTouch® product. In early 2018, a major domestic airline asked Schneller to develop a product that could possibly replace the synthetic laminates then in use in the interior of its aircraft. The incumbent solution was having trouble passing FAA fire safety tests, and the airline wanted a possible back-up option in place.
But just behind that immediate need loomed a larger secondary motivation for the airline industry. As commercial aviation moves toward more luxurious, premium-class cabins, operators want quality interiors that feel natural and offer a special tactile quality that add to a comfortable environment - without limiting their design choices. Of course, the challenge in aircraft interiors is to deliver on all these attributes while reliably passing the stringent FAA requirements.
Key Benefits of AerFilm sofTouch® Decorative Laminates
AerFilm sofTouch® is a durable, aircraft decorative laminate that consistently exceeds FAA requirements, satisfying the original customer’s immediate needs. But it also went far beyond that initial parameter, offering a range of additional benefits:
20-30% lower-weight than many competitive materials, potentially resulting in savings on fuel.
Stain and abrasion-resistant with superior quality.
More durable and fade resistant when compared to other competitive laminate products.
Integrally colored base provides excellent resistance and panel protection, helping to minimize damaged surfaces.
Although materials now in use cannot be installed on intricately curved interior surfaces as with other AerFilm products, a next generation version of AerFilm sofTouch® is already under development, one that is formable onto three-dimensional parts.
Though it was originally proposed for the airline to consider as a back-up plan, AerFilm sofTouch® was met with such enthusiasm that it became the replacement material of choice, now in use in the business-class seats of a major airline’s Boeing 787 models as well as being selected by a second domestic airline for their Boeing 787 aircraft. As one airline official raved: “We were all really impressed with the finish. And I mean really impressed…It looks identical to the (synthetic leather) in terms of pattern…We tried to deface it, but it was really robust and much more resistant to damage."
As word of this innovation spreads, other airlines have expressed interest, one of which, another major domestic carrier, having already formally selected the product for their cabins.
A Sustainability Advantage
AerFilm sofTouch® also offers a sustainability advantage.
“What we’re learning is that our customer base is looking for a more animal-free product, because the typical competitor for this product is (leather),” says Schneller’s Samantha Stephens, a Business Unit Manager who has overseen the product launch.
“As we worked to develop AerFilm sofTouch®, we chose to include a matte finish, which is really attractive to the airlines’ interior designers,” says Dr. Donald Meltzer, who oversaw technical development. “And then another attribute came to our attention—which is that it’s more slip resistant than the materials now in use.” That makes it an ideal material to use on the finish of tray tables, which can better resist sliding of food, drinks or electronic devices such as passengers’ cell phones while in flight.
The product is being installed during scheduled refurbishment cycles. At present, the material has been used in dozens of aircraft, but that is expected to mount into the hundreds in coming months. Thus far, AerFilm sofTouch® is flying on business-class seats, but is seeing interest for use on other surfaces. In fact, it was engineered for use in other areas of the plane as well, including trays and cocktail tables, partitions, bulkheads, bins and cubbies.
Attributes exhibited by AerFilm sofTouch® are shown in Table 1 and compared to an incumbent soft furnishing. AerFilm sofTouch® clearly outperforms the competitive material in terms of colorfastness, heat release and smoke density.
|Colorfastness to Light
||SSCP* w/ PS-LHR
||SSCP* w/ PS-LHR
|NBS (4 min)
||SSCP* w/ PS-LHR
||2 ply phenolic
You can see our AerFilm sofTouch® at the Aircraft Interior Expo - Hamburg, Germany. April 2 - 4th Hall 5 Stand 5B20.