Comfort and pressure distribution in a human contour shaped aircraft seat (developed with 3D scans of the human body)

M. Smulders, K. Berghman, M. Koenraads, J. A. Kane, K. Krishna, T. K. Carter, U. Schultheis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: The concept of comfort is one way for the growing airline market to differentiate and build customer loyalty. This work follows the idea that increasing the contact area between human and seat can have a positive effect on comfort [5, 6, 7]. OBJECTIVE: To improve comfort, reduce weight and optimise space used, a human contour shaped seat shell and cushioning was developed. METHODS: First the most common activities, the corresponding postures and seat inclination angles were defined. The imprints of these postures on a rescue mat were 3D scanned and an average human contour curve was defined. The outcome was transferred to a prototype seat that was used to test the effect on perceived comfort/discomfort and pressure distribution. RESULTS: The resulting human contour based prototype seat has comfort and discomfort scores comparable to a traditional seat. The prototype seat had a significantly lower average pressure between subjects' buttocks and the seat pan over a traditional seat. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that it is possible to design a seat pan and backrest based on the different contours of study subjects using 3D scan technology. However, translating the 3D scans into a prototype seat also showed that this can only be seen as a first step; additionally biomechanical information and calculations are needed to create ergonomic seats. Furthermore, it is not possible to capture all different human shapes and postures and translate these into one human contour shape that fits all activities and all human sizes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-940
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • 3D scanning
  • aircraft seat
  • comfort
  • Lightweight
  • pressure distribution

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