Safety. Comfort. Speed. When you go on a plane, you expect the incorporation of all three elements during your flight. However, the only way this happens is from specialized films that protect the plane, make them lighter and more aerodynamic, and provide you with the entertainment that makes your travel time more enjoyable.
However, what makes this all the more impressive is that you’ve probably never noticed the crucial role films play in air travel. Let’s start with the outside of the plane, and this is where film plays a key role in ensuring your safety. During a flight, lightning strikes can pose serious safety issues to the occupants of the plane. This can cause numerous life-safety issues, such as a spark near the fuel tank or for lightning to disrupt the complex electrical systems.
When airplanes were predominantly made of aluminum, this was not an issue, because aluminum acts like a conductive shield, which causes electricity to harmlessly enter and exit the exterior of the plane. Today’s airplanes are made of more lightweight composite materials to decrease the plane’s overall weight and improve fuel efficiency. The trade-off is new planes no longer have built-in conductive shielding.
To solve this engineering problem, the exterior composite parts are integrated with a unique surfacing film. This film, which is on the outer skin of the plane, has a fine foil or lightweight metal mesh embedded into it, which acts as a conductive shield. This is an example of how film technology solved an engineering problem and helped develop a safer and lighter plane.
There are two areas within the interior of the plane where film plays a prominent role. Like the exterior of the plane, the interior walls are made of a composite, laminate system. This film is lightweight and incredibly durable, since it needs to hold up to heavy use on a daily basis. Another area of the interior of the plane that utilizes film, but is often overlooked by passengers, is the touch-screen display on the back of every headrest. Often times, the touch-screen display is constructed of both film and glass materials.
Looking at the future of film technology in air travel, new airplane concepts will integrate display technology within the interior walls of the plane. The display screens, which require flexible film technology, will stretch out along the entire fuselage. The touch screen technology needed for future airplane designs will also utilize film as a protective, encapsulation layer, along with a functional polymeric film substrate that will act as the conductive layer of the touch-screen wall.
The future design of airplanes and the flight experience will look dramatically different within the next decade, and film technology will play an important role in that revolution.
Safety. Comfort. Speed. You can thank film for your enhanced flight experience.