Cooper Standard Technical Rubber GmbH (formerly Metzeler Technical Rubber Systems GmbH), based in Edingen-Neckarhausen, Germany, has developed durable alternatives to PVC flooring in passenger aircraft.
The new DUROFLEX® and DUROFLOOR® flooring systems are non-slip, and have abrasion resistance and flame-retarding properties. They are based on Levapren, the halogen-free rubber material that allows for a high filler content and is made by Lanxess AG in Leverkusen, Germany.
Flooring used in passenger aircraft has to meet a number of stringent requirements. This is especially true for products installed in the galleys of these aircraft.
Cooper Standard Technical Rubber product development department head Joachim Bormuth said: "One should not image the galleys of large aircraft as being extremely small.
"The galley of an aircraft such as the Airbus 320 already has about 24 square metres of floor space, and in large airliners, this can easily be more than 100 square metres. It goes without saying that these galleys, equipped with electric appliances and a great number of electric cables tightly routed in a narrow space, have to be protected against fire hazards.
"Airlines issue rigorous specifications requiring that materials pass stringent fire-resistance tests."
OEMs frequently complete these specifications with regard to dimensional stability, waviness and abrasion properties. It is also important that the tensile strength of the material is high enough to prevent it from tearing during installation.
"In addition to this, we have to make sure that no blisters form in the materials when the pressure inside the cabin is reduced," Bormuth added.
Cost-efficient rubber material
The most important requirements have often been met by flexible flooring or rigid laminates with a silicone rubber top layer. Due to the lower hardness of these materials and the associated disadvantages, such as increased wear and reduced durability, engineers at Cooper Standard Technical Rubber started looking for alternatives in 2003.
After tests, a special variety of a synthetic rubber made by Lanxess was chosen.
Working with the experts from Leverkusen, Cooper engineers have spent a considerable amount of time working on the new product. High Performance product expert Michael Herrmann called it ‘a good choice’.
The Elastomers Business Unit of Lanxess said: "Levapren does not contain any halogens and therefore does not release any corrosive, hydrogen-chloride vapours in the event of a fire.
"As a result, rescue equipment remains intact for longer periods of time [and] human lives and materials are saved. In addition to this, the rubber emits a low amount of fumes in case of fire, enabling passengers and crew to see the escape routes clearly for a longer time.
"To prevent things from getting that far in the first place, Levapren can be produced with a high content of flame-retardant, in organic fillers and still remains easy to process."
With Cooper Standard using a relatively polar variety of the material, which is offered in many levels of polarity, oils and other foodstuffs soiling the surface can easily be removed, and even aggressive detergents cannot damage the material.
Despite its high content of fillers, the material also meets the stringent requirements of the aviation industry in regards to low material density. In addition to this, the cost-efficient rubber material easily bonds to the subfloor, a property which not only contributes to the safety and durability of the flexible DUROFLEX flooring, but also to the cost-efficient production of the more rigid DUROFLOOR laminates.
The Levapren material in the DUROFLEX or DUROFLOOR flooring has already undergone and passed significant tests. For approximately a year and a half, the flooring has been on the way in two aircraft operated by a well-known airline.
"We are highly satisfied with the results of the flight test," Bormuth added. "After this endurance test, our flooring looks much better than competitors’ products."
Cooper Standard Technical Rubber has already entered into negotiations with other airlines.
For further information, please visit: www.cooperstandardperformance.com
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