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Drive Systems are taking off in cabin equipment

Drive Systems are taking off in cabin equipment

In 2011 there were 15,556 passenger planes and almost as many private jets in operation worldwide. If predictions prove correct, this figure is set to double in the next fifteen years. At the same time there is a marked trend towards equipping aircraft cabins with additional features that provide comfort at the push of a button. This will require an increasing number of small electric motors which, of course, must be as reliable, light and powerful as possible.

Drives from Faulhaber are ideal for this area of application, and the example of the motorised touchless toilet seat demonstrates the underlying trend for the constantly increasing range of comfort features. Some passengers in business jets or flying first class place particular importance on not having to touch the seat. This is why an automated toilet seat with sensor and motor was presented at the air trade show in Hamburg last year.

The trendsetters can be found in private and business jets where there is virtually no financial limit to equipment and features. Here tables and holders for tablet computers are raised and lowered at the push of a button, and window blind systems are automated. Equipment and features that prove successful in this segment are often adapted for use in first class and then later in business class. Look, for example, at the way motorised seat adjustment has spread since it was first introduced some years ago. Premium economy class, which is now offered more and more frequently, is likely to be next to adopt a number of comfort technology features.

For the motors used for these comfort features in aircraft cabins, the most important requirement is reliability. Nothing must fail or break during a flight. And, of course, this also means that the maintenance intervals should be as long as possible. Weight is the second most important requirement. Every kilo increases fuel consumption, which is why airlines demand equipment that weighs as little as possible. Electricity consumption is not really an issue for airlines - the fans of the air-conditioning system alone probably use more electrical power than all of the motors in the cabin put together.

However, a high power density - ie a lot of power from a small mass and therefore also from a small amount of electricity - is of course very important. This list of requirements is almost tailor made for the Faulhaber range of motors and geared motors, available in the UK from EMS. The products stand out in terms of power density, reliability and maintenance intervals. In fact, you could say that normally an aircraft will have been taken out of service long before a Faulhaber drive needs to be replaced. Recently, airlines have tightened their specifications considerably, and that throws open new opportunities for these products.

Today, the majority of motors in aircraft cabins are found in the first-class and business-class seats. Originally, the manufacturers of the seats were primarily automotive suppliers, but such mass-produced motors no longer satisfy the new requirements of the aerospace industry. But motors such as Faulhaber's, which were previously regarded as 'too good' for aerospace seat adjustment applications, are now becoming the norm, because they deliver precisely that what customers need - even more so since they can be supplied as complete, functional drive systems consisting of motor, gearhead, brake and encoder.

These individual drive components are optimally matched to one another, work perfectly together and thus achieve a very high level of efficiency. Faulhaber uses, for example, extremely high-quality planetary gearheads. The encoders detect the movement of the shafts in high resolution and therefore allow very precisely regulated and smooth adjustment. The brakes are particularly important in cases where locking is required. And, of course, all components meet the highest quality standards. Faulhaber has 60 years experience in maintaining a leading position in this particular field of technology.

The aerospace industry is a key market for the company, and Faulhaber has been supplying drives used for adjusting first-class seats for more than 15 years. The window shutter in business class on the Airbus A319 is powered by a brushless motor that weighs just 192g - the 3242 BX4 model. Faulhaber motors can also be found in many safety- critical applications, such as in the locking mechanisms for cabin doors, for emergency exits or for the pilot's seat which must be fixed at a certain position during take-off and landing. Another application is the adjustment of valves which regulate the pressure in the air-conditioning system.

There are many new opportunities for additional motorisation, as well. The onboard entertainment systems in business class - individual, fold-down screens - are increasingly becoming motorised, and something similar may also be in the pipeline for economy class.

In addition, more and more passengers want to use their own tablets, for which there are now also motorised holders. In the higher class areas, tables and partition walls - which are being installed more and more, are equipped with motorised drives together with powered adjustable armrests to allow unobstructed access to the seat.

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