Management & Operations

Seating Manufacturers Design for Efficiency, Hygiene

Posted on January 4, 2018 by Clayton Wong

The transit and motorcoach seating industry runs on innovation, and manufacturers are looking toward customer demand and emerging technology to guide development of new products.

Creating lightweight products is an evergreen trend in seating, as lighter products result in more efficient vehicles that can travel further. A key focus for seating manufacturers in developing new products is reducing weight from iteration to iteration.

“It’s weight and economics that drive the industry,” says Tony Everett, HSM Transportation (HSM) president.

A greater push for lightweight seating is also driven by a shift from diesel or CNG propulsion to battery propulsion, says United States Seating Co. (USSC) Executive VP Raymond Melleady.

“With battery propulsion, weight is distance,” he says. “The more weight you take out of a vehicle, you allow that vehicle to travel further distances.”

The Insight-Prime and Insight-Prime+ feature single-piece construction and are 20% lighter than previous seating models.
The Insight-Prime and Insight-Prime+ feature single-piece construction and are 20% lighter than previous seating models.

American Seating

The Insight-Prime and Insight-Prime+ are the latest products from American Seating. Both seats feature single-piece construction and can be secured to a structure with two bolts. By stripping the Insight-Prime and Insight-Prime+ of extra panels, upholstery, and other pieces of hardware, the seats are 20% lighter than American Seating’s previous models.

Both seats have 17-inch and 18-inch models and feature a surface design that repels dirt and moisture from seat crevices, facilitating cleaning.

Grab railings and various model types, including transverse, back-to-back, flip-up, and more are optional. The Insight-Prime+ comes with custom seat and insert color styling options to coordinate with various interiors.

Hygienic design and equipment maintenance is also a growing trend in the industry.

“We’re seeing a high amount of interest in going away from foam and fabrics and more [toward] plastic seating products,” says Doug Oswald, marketing director for American Seating. The shift to plastic allows for easier-to-clean seats, he says.

Protective covers and antimicrobial topcoats are also growing in popularity. Vinyl performance covers allow manufacturers to apply silver ions into the material that neutralizes bacteria.

The Gemini is designed for comfort and spaciousness with an ultra-light build.
The Gemini is designed for comfort and spaciousness with an ultra-light build.


The Gemini Series from USSC is a four-piece injection-molded seat ergonomically designed to maximize comfort and hip-to-knee room. It is manufactured using ultra-lightweight materials that are proven to last in the most extreme transit operating environments.

The Gemini is available in 35-inch or 36-inch widths, with removable grab rails, and hidden seat fasteners. Pedestals and cantilevers have aluminum, stainless steel, or painted carbon steel options. Seats can also be transverse or longitudinal.

The seats feature inserts that are vandal-resistant, flip-up, or fixed, and designed to be quickly changed. Gemini inserts are available in fabric, vinyl, and non-upholstered plastic.

“[Manufacturers] will put a protective topcoat on a material, kind of like clear coat paint on a car that protects the color underneath,” says Freedman Seating Co. National Sales Manager John Mienik.

As passengers become more connected through smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, demand for USB outlets and chargers has grown. They are especially popular in bus rapid transit applications, where passengers are traveling for longer than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, says Melleady.

The Esquire is 25% lighter than previous Freedman models, with a thinner backrest that allows for more legroom.
The Esquire is 25% lighter than previous Freedman models, with a thinner backrest that allows for more legroom.

Freedman Seating Co.

Freedman Seating Co.’s Esquire incorporates an energy-absorbing FMVSS 202A headrest that follows the same regulations as headrests in passenger vehicles and trucks. The Esquire features luxury foam construction and three-point shoulder belts. Shoulder belts can be adjusted for height, and child seats can be secured with dual-locking retractable seat belts.

The Esquire features a thinner backrest than previous generations of Freedman seats, allowing for more hip-to-knee room and reducing the seat’s weight by up to 25%.

Optional features include cup holders, folding footrests, matching fold-aways, USB power outlets, and more. The Esquire seat can be installed with 16-inch, 17.5-inch, and 19-inch-wide cushions.

FMS Seating, Freedman’s sister company offer the Trieste, part of its Eleganza Collection, which features adjustable three-point seat belts, deep side bolsters, and custom stitching and panel designs for executive shuttles. Logos can be embroidered onto the adjustable headrest. Other options include coach-style Italia armrests, USB power outlets, footrests, and snack trays.

With a variety of available seating products and the evolution of new features and trends, customers have numerous things to consider when looking for the ideal option. Melleady recommends that buyers first determine what products would best fit the needs of the passengers based on the type of transportation, commute times, and items that riders may take onboard the vehicle. The ideal product would accommodate all passengers without sacrificing safety and security.

HSM’s Helium Seat has an ultra-thin seat back, lumbar support, and flexmat and seat springs.
HSM’s Helium Seat has an ultra-thin seat back, lumbar support, and flexmat and seat springs.

HSM Transportation Solutions

The Helium Seat from HSM is built for durability and passenger comfort. HSM developed the seat to comply with its “triple 10” product goals, says Everett.

“Any new product launch is what we call a triple 10 project: 10% weight reduction goals, 10% product improvement goal, and a 10% value improvement goal,” he says.

The Helium Seat also features an ultra-thin seat back for extra leg space, lumbar support, and flexmat and seat springs. The seat sports 16-inch and 17.5-inch-wide cushions.

Seat options include molded or upholstered armrests, top and corner grab rails, rigid or reclining seat backs, mesh map pockets, seat belts and under seat retractors, and foldaway and flip-up seats.

For Oswald, ergonomics is a major factor in determining what type of seat is best for any given application. He recommends allowing customers to personally test seating samples among internal staff and ridership to work out the best fit.
It’s also vital for customers to ensure that a product is reliable, says Everett. Mitigating liability through design, pretesting, and manufacturing, and checking if products are properly certified, protects both customers and OEMs.

Infanti provides complete interior refurbishment of buses and coaches.
Infanti provides complete interior refurbishment of buses and coaches.

Infanti Bus & Coach Upholstery

Infanti Bus & Coach Upholstery provides complete interior refurbishing of buses and coaches, which includes the entrance door, panels, all seating and headrests, side panels, under luggage, ceiling, back walls, and flooring.  

In addition to upgrading fabrics, Infanti also helps clients with branding. The company can install power outlets and USB ports for customers.

Infanti, which also provides full detailing services, will deep clean vehicles using state-of-the-art equipment in a gentle and eco-friendly way, restoring them to a “like new” state.

These services can be done either on-site or at a customer’s location, for convenience and limited down time.

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