Retarding fire hazard in interior fabrics

Retarding Fire Hazard in Interior Fabrics Technicians must know the rules for their own protection By John Boyce October 1998 The installation of interior fabrics is really no different to the installation of any other component in...


The most common complaint related to fire-resistant foams has targeted seat bottom designs. Because the seat cushion is subjected to the majority of weight and takes the greatest degree of punishment, that is the area most often connected with "poor comfort and service life."

Upholstery shop personnel used to working with traditional polyurethanes, will most certainly find fire-resistant foams different to work with initially.

One important difference between traditional polyurethane and fire-resistant cushioning is the "standard" size offering.

Polyurethane is traditionally offered in huge buns as well as sheet stock. Fire-resistant cushioning is normally sold in smaller buns or in specific sheet stock sizes. In order to minimize waste on specific projects, the correct sheet size should be always be ordered and utilized to best suit the cushions being cut in the fabrication process. Many manufacturers offer several standard sizes, and some will supply sheets which best accommodate any fabrication which may transpire within the upholstery shop.

As for cutting various cushioning products, the difference is simple: any blade you might use to cut fire-retardant polyurethanes can be used to cut fire-resistant cushioning. The only exception to this would be a hot wire cutter, which will not work with fire-resistant foams.

You should talk with the cushioning manufacturer regarding the adhesives you plan to use in your operation. There are many types of adhesives supplied within the industry, some solvent-based and some water-based, and not all adhesives will work with all cushioning types. The cushioning manufacturer should be able to supply you with suggested adhesive products that will best work with their foam.

While FAA certification and building the ideal seat are important, we cannot overlook the area of durability. Aircraft owners and commercial airlines alike want a seat that is going to give them their money's worth over time and use.

Service life is important not only for economics, but for aesthetic value as well. Service life of a seat can be attributed largely to the initial cushion construction. If a seat bottom is built using an incorrect choice of lower density cushioning, that cushion will compress, become unsightly and uncomfortable, and will quickly need replacing.

Regardless, when upholstery personnel are selecting firmness for use in their cushions, it is always best to err on the firm side to ensure continued comfortability through normal usage. Any cushioning foam, whether fire-resistant or traditional polyurethane, will experience some in-service loss of firmness initially. Using the correct construction in the original cushion will best ensure the durability and extended service life demanded by the aircraft industry.

When choosing your cushioning supplier, capabilities of importance should include:
• Technical support
• Miscellaneous supplies such as velcro, muslin, strapping, cushioning with fabric backing, adhesives, etc. •ÊFull-scale fire testing capabilities, flotation (TSO) testing capabilities
•ÊProper certification documents for both flammability and flotation testing

Another area that needs to be closely controlled when preparing for FAA certification is document collection. If you request the appropriate detailed invoices, test results (if available) and certification to be forwarded to the DER overseeing the actual testing this process will be a much smoother one for all involved.

Finally, while there may not be a "magic formula" for creating the perfect seat cushion, it could also be said that DaVinci could not have explained to Rembrandt how he painted Mona Lisa. If you approach the building of a seat cushion as you would the creation of a work of art, there is no doubt that you will end up with a safe, comfortable, long lasting seat, and a satisfied customer who will return again and again.

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