Product design, Manufacture
Free items given out on planes have been reported as highly unhygienic. Most notably, headphones, whose foam ear cups are hardly ever changed unless torn. Single-use earphones provide a solution to this problem but contribute toward a larger one surrounding sustainability. According to the ‘International Air Transport Association’, “In 2017, it is estimated that the airline industry produced up to 5.7 million tonnes of cabin waste.” Approximately 9.7% of cabin waste comprises electrical waste products, the majority of which is IFE (in-flight entertainment) headsets.
Dampen headphones can be re-used repeatedly by using replaceable water-soluble padding. They are cleaned using a dishwasher-like system, where soap and hot water dissolve the foam padding off the plastic base, followed by UV light treatment to ensure they are sterile. Once dry, new padding is fitted to the headphones, ready to be used again. The headphones’ modular design allows individual parts to be replaced or repaired instead of disposed of, reducing the amount of waste produced by the airline industry.
What IFE products currently exist on the market?
How do passengers interact with existing products?
What are passengers current pain points with existing products?
Which features are essential to the IFE experience?
I decided to conduct a bacterial test using existing airline headsets. From this test, I would be able to determine if they were truly clean, as passengers expect them to be.
A survey was conducted on 35 participants to identify which products and features people are currently using and determine which feature are essential to the IFE experience.
A series of in-depth interviews were conducted with pilots, flight attendants, and headset servicing companies to further identify existing products' pain points, frustrations, and needs.
My product should be targeted at contractors, as they require methods to increase repairing and cleaning.
Special fittings deter passengers from stealing and are a vital feature to include.
When designing a final solution, noise-cancelling, sound quality, and ergonomics are aspects to investigate.
In addition to individual airline’s cleaning techniques, servicing partners provide additional hygiene testing.
Performance, customer comfort, cost, weight, and product robustness are the most critical factors to consider.
Kangawrap is a viable solution to reduce plastic onboard that passengers have well received.
After establishing the problem, the passenger opinions were distilled down into user personas. These, along with the expert interviews, were used to inform the design specifications.
A persona was built based on the data collected to help keep the product focused on solving users pain points and frustrations.
Quick sketches helped me get ideas on paper to establish the product's aesthetics and kick off the development process. This fed into material and electronic exploration before realisation through CAD modelling, rapid prototyping and FEA simulations.
My solution will take inspiration from future design, with a modern colour scheme and geometric shapes. Headphones are typically elliptical to accommodate the ear; however, due to the modular features of my solution, a circular design is more suited.
3D modelling was used extensively to test the proportions of the final headset and ensure harmony between the modular components. Below are iterations and ideas following the natural development of the driver units.
FEA stress, drop, and excess pressure tests were used to verify the feasibility of the final design. A two meter drop test was simulated at extreme ends of the device to visualise the effect in reality. Increasing forces were applied to the device’s shell to simulate cabin pressure.
A semi-working prototype was 3D printed, painted and finished - later used for testing, feedback, and filming.
The components have been designed to be injection moulded with necessary draft angles and minimum thicknesses. Bosses and ribs have been utilised to secure internal components.