TU Delft students dominate Crystal Cabin Awards

Manon Kühne won the Crystal Cabin Award in the university category for her innovative design, HeadRest, an adjustable headrest enabling sideward leaning and seclusion on long-haul economy flights. All three nominees in the category came from TU Delft.

What started out as an independent graduation project, ended up being a collaboration with Zodiac Seats US, which earned Kühne her master’s degree in Integrated Product Design. “I pitched the idea to Zodiac, a contact of Professor Peter Vink, and they were enthusiastic and invited me to Texas to pursue it further. I used their facilities and suppliers for the prototyping,” she explained. On April 5, the Crystal Cabin Awards were presented for the best innovations in aircraft interiors during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. Dubbed the Oscars of aviation, they are the only international awards for excellence in the field. “I presented and pitched to the jury and heard I’d won the day after, during the ceremony, it was a great experience!” said Kühne.

Most people like to sleep at some point during a long-haul flight, which is easier said than done when travelling economy class. “The problem is so recognisable, and I think that contributed to the win,” said Kühne. Unfolding the side wings of the headrest reveals a hammock-like construction which cradles your head as you lean sideward, preventing sliding and nodding. It also visually separates you from your neighbour as the side wings are at eye height. “The unique thing is that you control the wings yourself. Adjustability is proven to contribute to a passenger’s comfort experience,” explained Kühne. The idea is that HeadRest is integrated into the seat, and is capable of being retrofitted. “We recently converted a provisional patent to a full patent. This award is a stepping stone to manufacture, we hope. I’m in discussion with Zodiac who own the rights to development, and as the inventor I want to be involved. Together we are planning our next steps.”

With all three nominees in the university category coming from TU Delft, a win was a certainty. The other nominees were ‘Modulair’ a galley made for change, and ‘FiO’ an adaptive aircraft entry. Read more about the awards here.

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