For SABIC, success comes through constant contact with industry partners.
Sander Rave, design and innovation expert at SABIC in the Netherlands, explains that the company is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of plastic materials, operating across a number of industrial sectors.
Aviation is a smaller part of the business than for some other companies, but he says it is vital that there are regular meetings with OEMs, major suppliers, airlines and designers. They each have their own requirements that need to be taken into account when developing new materials that can be used for particular projects while meeting safety regulations.
The company can take advantage of its material scientists and colour experts to respond, using experience from different divisions if necessary (especially from automotive). In premium cabins, the demand is for materials that can be customised to provide a unique product, such as the entrance area for the Airbus A350 Airspace concept.
However, there is increasing demand for differentiation in economy class as airlines respond to the changing demands of passengers.
In this case, it is a question of modifying features of the seat, perhaps deleting an IFE monitor mount, or through low-cost replacement of standard components, such as a tray table, to provide a new identity associated exclusively with the customer airline.
In addition to design-led requirements, SABIC is developing its own technology. The introduction of carbon or glass fibre into the material results in greater strength, which can also be translated into the same strength with less weight.
Thermoplastic materials can also be shaped to allow another material to be bonded with it, called under – or over – moulding, depending on where the thermoplastic layer is positioned. Finally, by spraying a mix of epoxy resin and coloured powder, a scratch-resistant layer can be applied with much better impact resistance than paint.
One area where SABIC is acknowledged as a market leader is in the development of transparent materials. A major hurdle to overcome is the fact that the inhibitors that need to be added to meet the FST/ FSH regulations diminish the level of transparency.
SABIC has managed to achieve 80 per cent light transmission at 2mm thickness with its LEXAN XHR2000 material while meeting OSU 65/65 heat release and typical industry FST requirements (FAR25.853, BSS7239, ABD0031).
This means no secondary testing is needed if a coating is applied. He says designers are increasingly looking for ways to introduce light into the cabin and XHR2000 can be 3D thermoformed into various shapes, textured, laminated and coloured, while decorative effects can be added through printing graphic processing.
It is particularly useful for large transparent components, such as security partitions, oversized windows, trolleys, monitor covers and self-service refreshment stations.
For more information, visit sabic.com.