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New Trends in Furniture Manufacturing

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Suggested Thumbnail: Minimalist Furniture designed by St.Petersburg based Modom Studio. Source: Home-designing.com

 

According to the  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 87% of their life indoors. Whether lying on the living room’s sofa, socializing in the fanciest uptown bar or working in the office, chances are, furniture is all over the place. We spend hours picking out just the right pieces for our living spaces. We consider comfort, size, shape, material and colors. We love our cozy couches and minimalist-like kitchens. At work, it’s an oak or mahogany desk and a low-back executive chair. Furniture is the everlasting staple of every indoor. And, it comes in all shapes and materials just to satisfy our hanger for convenience.

Gladly for us, furniture manufacturing is embracing technological advances to satisfy its eager audience. Whether it’s new materials, optimized engineering or revolutionary manufacturing processes, this article takes a closer look at the trends driving innovation in this field.

New Materials

Material development has been paramount to the furniture manufacturing industry. It has a symbiotic relationship with the processes of developing furniture. Materials and processes are inextricably linked, which is particularly true of man made composite materials.

Processing materials could be thought of as primary, with a secondary process of manufacturing materials into products. In many cases, production of the material and the product happen at the same time. For instance, polyurethane resin (PUR) created from raw constituents is now common for furniture foam molding.

Plywood is another example of how technology enables material development serving the furniture industry. Plywood is constructed from cross-laminated veneers into a sheet so it can resist complex forces. Modern production of Plywood uses at least 35 steps. German manufacture Reholz, originally a veneer company, has developed a new form of manufacturing that has advanced plywood technology. The patented process produces deep three-dimensional curves, first used with the Gubi chair designed by Komplot in 2003.

Other materials like polymers and plastics, commonly perceived as cheap or even vulgar, are now used to craft the finest pieces-of-art-furniture. Take this table, made by artist designer James Shaw. It employs “High-density polyethylene” or HDPE, a material typically used to manufacture plastic bags, and sewer piping.

The “plastic extruding gun” by James Shaw. Material: recycled HDPE (Polymer). Source: designbuildideas.eu

CAD & Digital Manufacturing

In furniture manufacturing, perhaps the most notable area of new technological development is the use of Computer-Aided Design (CAD files) to drive machinery.

As there is no tooling in this process, it is possible to curb the cost while achieving a flawless product quality. As a matter of fact, digital manufacturing has enabled a much closer relationship between the designer and production. Actually, computers merely serve as a medium of communication between the designer and the machine.

Digital manufacturing actually comprises two main categories: computer numerical control (CNC) and rapid prototyping.

CNC machinery encompasses a range of processes and operations that include drilling, laser cutting, engraving, milling, water jet cutters and wood routers. All of these process work on sheet materials apart from turning.

Rapid prototyping is used to produce simple and complex geometries by fusing together very fine layers of powder or liquid. Digital manufacturing has led to new forms of expression by designers.

 

Source: Cacao Impresa 4.0, Company Website

A great example of a company taking furniture digital manufacturing to the next level is Padova-based “Caccaro”. Located in Villa del Conte, Italy, the company produces top-quality furniture and home storage systems. Its factory integrates a revolutionary vertical drilling and automatic insertion technologies.

As well as innovative, Caccaro is also a sustainable manufacturer, and was one of the first in Italy to adopt water-based coating systems.

Here’s how they do it: https://vimeo.com/224280501

3D Printing

When we think of 3D printing, we usually picture small objects, no larger than the size of a football. But a company is already paving the way towards bigger use cases.

The Galatea 3D Printer and 3D printed Furniture on hand at Maker Faire Paris. Source: 3D printing.com

The project started in 2012, when French entrepreneurs Sylvain Charpiot and Samuel Javelle created Drawn, a startup specialized in crafting a new trend of furnitures. With help and support from investors and researchers, they created their own robotic arm 3D furniture printer, a.k.a Galatea (named after a mythological Greek sculptor).

Looking at the 3D printed objects, the layer quality is extremely uniform. The different deposited layers appears to be smooth and consistent. Of course, like other “Fused Deposition Modeling” based 3D printed objects, the multiple layering is noticeable to the human eye. In this case, Drawn has used this fingerprint as a brand signature. Their furniture comes in different sizes and colours and may be customized to suit every purpose and design taste.

 

Tags: Furniture, Manufacturing Process, Technology, Materials, CAD, 3D Printing, Robotics.

Copyright: I, Mehdi Mezni, release the materials herewith, including graphics for commercial use.

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