Case study

Cecence develop sustainable airplane seatback in collaboration with NCC and Gen 2 Carbon

10 March 2022

Cecence, in collaboration with the National Composites Centre (NCC) and Gen 2 Carbon, have developed an airplane seatback that could reduce CO2 emissions by over 320 tonnes during the aircraft’s service life, paving the way for more environmentally friendly air travel.

Cecence’s FST compliant resin system, material engineering and composite seatback design delivered a substantial weight saving in the cabin interior and a further reduction in CO2 per aircraft through the use of sustainable manufacturing methods.

Funded by Innovate UK as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund, the project aimed to find a sustainable alternative for aero seatbacks, with the NCC being asked to carry out an initial LCA and review Cecence’s already energy efficient manufacturing processes to see if any further increases in efficiency could be made.

Working with Cecence, an award-winning design and manufacturing SME based in Salisbury, and Gen 2 Carbon, the team of experts at the NCC used 3D modelling software to simulate composite plies for the new seatback using five different design variations. By conducting a life cycle assessment of each design and comparing them to one for the existing seatback currently produced by Cecence, they were able to ascertain which materials and processes were most sustainable, whilst still meeting aircraft regulations. Significant benefits were found by utilising recycled carbon fibre instead of virgin carbon fibre, with carbon emissions decreasing from 64kg to 11kg, an 84% reduction in impact.  

The dedicated SME team at the NCC also worked with Cecence to analyse their lean manufacturing process and looked at ways of automating a manual bonding process to further increase manufacturing rate. Cecence are now combining this research and applying it to the development of natural fibre composites for the construction and commercial interiors sectors.

“This was a highly successful development project where the team worked well together and delivered extremely positive results,” said Samantha Bunyan, Co-Founder and Head of Industry Engagement and Sustainability at Cecence.

“The work carried out on the SAS (Sustainable Aero Seatback project) has enabled Cecence to accelerate its in-house resin and material development and strengthen its sustainable offerings to aerospace and to a number of other sectors looking for environmentally friendly products. It was a pleasure to work with the team at the NCC and with Gen 2 Carbon on the nine-month programme”.

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