Thermoplastic Alloy Sheet Gives Aircraft Window Shades a Lift in Performance


WARRENDALE, Pa.—Airline window shades are subject to a long list of performance requirements. In addition to regulating the amount of light entering airline cabins, window shades must exhibit extreme durability, minimize weight, withstand thousands of use cycles, conform to stringent FAA fire ratings, and meet the competitive pricing requirements of cost-conscious airlines.

It is difficult to develop shades with these properties, according to Magee Plastics Company (, a Warrendale, Pa.-based manufacturer of custom engineered parts. Magee Plastics has manufactured airline window shades for more than 40 years, and supplies all major U.S. airlines and many European airlines, as well as distributors worldwide. The company starts by utilizing a proprietary, double-color, thermoplastic sheet—Boltaron 9250C—developed specifically for the application.

Produced by Boltaron of Newcomerstown, Ohio, the sheet exhibits high opacity in bright light conditions, and high resistance to impact, abrasion, staining, and harsh cleansers. It also meets FAA regulations for flammability, and is intended for thermoforming and related processes, which, in Magee's case, includes vacuum forming. Magee applies the sheet for various window shades destined for new aircraft and aftermarket shades.

Sheet Grade is Application Specific

The shades that Magee vacuum forms of 9250C sheet have a gray backing on the outer layer to maximize their light-blocking property, while the interior layer is a different color that matches the cabin decor. Most of the interior colors specified are Boeing-equivalent shades--white, pearl, and shades of gray--that match the original window shade colors on new passenger jets. Only one percent of the aftermarket shades Magee produces require custom colors.

The shades are 21 in. (53.3 cm) long, 12 in. (30.4 cm) wide, and 0.050 in. (1.27 mm) thick. The company cuts blanks for the shades from 9250C sheet and fabricates them in a specially configured process.

Technical Support Enhances Properties

The engineering staffs of Magee Plastics Company and Boltaron often collaborate to meet changing requirements. Magee Plastics engineers often provide a 'wish list' of performance needs for Boltaron to fulfill.

One example involved a higher heat resistant version of the 9250C material. Magee Plastics needed better heat deflection temperature and didn't want to use a higher priced thermoplastic to achieve it. After consulting with Boltaron's engineers, the sheet supplier was able to reformulate the material and raise its heat deflection temperature to a range of 200-210°F (93.3-98.8°C) from 180-190°F (82.2-87.7°C).

Magee Plastics' philosophy is "to provide customers with the best shade at the lowest price possible." This philosophy serves Magee well in aftermarket work. The company estimates that it can be 50% less expensive for airlines to source window shades from Magee during refurbishing of their fleets or replacing interior components than from an OEM.  According to Magee, as airlines seek to reduce the cost of high-use items like window shades, competitively priced options are very attractive to them, especially if they are functionally equivalent to the OEM versions.

In addition to the shades, Magee injection molds the window components into which the window shades are installed.

The aftermarket business is good for Magee Plastics. There is strong demand for the window shades that the company fabricates, and a lot of business is under way worldwide as airlines refurbish their planes.

Supplier Relationship Adds Value

According to Magee Plastics Company, its success in the aviation market stems from its ability to provide products that meet the specifications and budgets of customers, which hinges on the technical competence and willingness of Magee's key suppliers.

In addition to window shades, Magee thermoforms aircraft window panels and other interior panels of honeycomb and composite prepreg materials. The company also pressure forms, compression molds, and injection molds components for aircraft interiors, ground vehicles, rail cars, medical products, and industrial equipment.

Boltaron ( sheet products are offered in gauges from 0.003 to 3.0 in. (0.076 to 76.2 mm) for thermoforming, fabricating, membrane pressing, and laminating of components for aircraft interiors, rail/mass transit vehicle interiors, building products, and diverse commercial/industrial applications. The company offers calendering, extrusion, and press laminating of sheet products. Each of these processes produces a range of products having distinct qualities. Sheet produced using more than one of these processes can be fused in-line or off-line to create a far wider selection of composite sheet products than any single production process can achieve, the company says.

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