Category: Industrial design, DFM, heavy prototyping + CAD revision
Time: 2021 Fall, 14 + 6 weeks
Role: Industrial designer
The pandemic forced people to work from home on the dining room table using dining chairs. However, dining chairs are not task chairs.
There are too much plastic and wood products around us! The situation got even worse during the pandemic. As a designer who wants to promote sustainability, I want to find a good alternative to plastic and wood. The one who has properties in between. Cork can be a perfect choice!
Benchmarking & Insight
I did product-focused research about the cork products. Most of them are small items like wine bottle caps, clip board or CNC milled pieces of a big block of cork, which can consume lots of energy and create a huge waste of material.
I realized that the potential of cork has not been fully discovered!
Product made of sustainable materials usually look less well executed compared with the non-sustainable products. How to make the sustainable products look sexier & well-made is a huge challenge
Emeco is a Pennsylvania based company, focusing on sustainability & durability since 1944. Its mission is to begin with what is left over. Turn it into what will last. Such simple words, but strong and not easy to achieve.
The seating parts are two CNC milled cork shell. The parts can be done with smaller scale CNC machines. Which consume much less energy and can reduce material waste by 70%.
The supporting frame is made of 3/4- & 1/2-inch square tubes and rods. Simple, reliable and durable, putting the cork shells to the 1st read. Also, it brings the price down, since Emeco has a mature production line for square tubing.
The chamfer edged surface of the shells are inspired by the sculpted surface of racing bike frame. The contrast between angular and organic element give a well-defined welcoming feeling, looking rugged and durable.
The process has a big focus on using different fidelity & scale prototypes to understand the constraints and to improve the design. During the process, I explored the possibility of different structure, proportion,
ergonomics, and stack ability.
Stack ability Test
It was my first-time to design a chair that can be stackable. It was a 1.5-month process that required lots of learning, patience and adjusting subtle things back and forth in both CAD and real life.
1st try was not successful, the body overlapped when stacking. I then sketched and CAD modeled several frames to test the stack ability.
Based on the test, the cross-section frame works the best. But it also has two big problems. 1. the cross-section frame makes the chair be a stool proportion, which is not stable.
2. there is a big gap between legs when stacking, also the frame touches another shell.
For the 3rd try, I tilted the angle of the seating parts based on the data from full scale prototype test. Also, I switched from 2D sketch frame to a 3D sketch frame. The final result stack much more precisely.