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Improving Aircraft Passenger Comfortability with Brush DC and Brushless DC Motors

July 12, 2022

It’s time to board your flight! You enter the cabin, stow your carry-on in the overhead compartment, sit down in your designated spot, and automatically adjust the seat for comfortability with the press of a button. While this process is usually completed by the passenger without a second thought, the electronics, mechanics, and motion systems that go into producing and operating these aircraft seat actuation systems are anything but.

Seat actuation systems are known by a variety of different names, including seat control offerings, seat motion systems, seat electrical systems, and power seat actuation systems. They’re used in many different types of vehicles, including commercial and private passenger jets. These seat motion systems provide quiet and smooth operation of seat movement while simultaneously offering control of multiple axes to maximize passenger comfort while seated in the aircraft cabin.

Once the working point is achieved, seat actuation focuses on employing miniature motors to drive the actuator for a given set of seat control axes, including the headrest, footrest, or lumbar support. These mini motors are frequently used with a gearhead to meet greater torque requirements, an encoder to determine motor positioning, and/or a brake to hold the seat position. Three additional considerations that miniature motor solutions address include:

  • Quiet Operation. A quiet motorized solution is essential to limiting the audible noise in the aircraft, a priority given the number of people and movement in the aircraft cabin.
  • Reliability. Miniature motors maximize the uptime of the seat actuation systems, thereby limiting downtime and the subsequent passenger discomfort and repair costs.
  • Lightweight. Lighter weight and smaller motors not only fit the limited space available in the seat itself but contribute to a lower overall plane weight and reduced fuel consumption.

Note: extremely high torque, extremely high speed, and extreme environmental protection are not usually a concern for these systems.

When it comes to selecting a specific mini motor technology for your aircraft’s seat actuation system, 25mm to 35mm brush DC motors are often used; many existing seat actuation systems employ this technology, and it continues to be chosen because of the industry’s familiarity with brush DC motors. However, brushless DC (BLDC) motors are starting to gain traction because they are typically lighter in weight and have a longer usable life than brush DC motors. The most frequent approach is a mix and match of standard components that are then crafted into a cohesive solution

Searching for your next miniature motor for seat actuation applications? Portescap’s motion control solutions, including our Ultra EC brushless DC motors and Athlonix brush DC motors, deliver increased levels of precision, smooth motion, and reduced noise to provide flawless operation for seat motion systems. Explore the full range of options here.