Monday, May 7, 2012

Flat Pack Furniture

Like most designers, as a kid I was obsessed with Lego, Construx, Capsela, and pretty much any other building toy I could get my hands on. Aside from all the lessons about spatial and mechanical reasoning these toys were intended to teach, a love of modular interchangeable parts also stayed with me. 


The male / female connections of these toys were the most celebrated feature of the form of each part. The little raised cylinders on top of the lego block brazenly beg to be connected, built upon, and to aggregate. 


In the age of the iPhone, the impenetrable object is irresistible and striking, but pure form cannot help but disconnect the user from the process, materiality, and true nature of the object. Here's a great article on that subject: http://supercolossal.ch/2011/07/11/megaexterior/

The Flat Pack furniture I've been making over the past year is a study in mass-customization, affordable design, CNC tooling, the principal of affordance, minimal material usage, and an aesthetic effect that celebrates all of the above. 

The furniture is all made from 3/4" birch plywood and 3/4" galvanized pipe and fittings that can be found at Home Depot.

The design of each piece can be called reflexive: I start with the basic design parameters such as comfortable desk height, practical drawer dimensions, etc. and design a generic piece in 3D. This piece is then laid out in relation to a sheet of virtual plywood. It then becomes apparent that certain elements have to be re-designed to fit within the sheet to minimize waste. The elements are then re-designed in relation to the whole, and back and forth, until the design is complete- hopefully giving equal weight to the design and the fabrication in the end.

Dinner Table: All plywood with tab-and-slot joints. Each square edged joint has a half-circle leading out; this is the diameter of the router bit. Allowing the tool to "color outside the lines" makes for faster assembly, less post-processing (i.e. chiseling out a rounded edge), and indexes the process of the object's making. I would argue that this is an "honest" joint.








Desk: More of the same kind of joinery using galvanized steel legs. The trough in the back is useful for computer peripherals, cables, etc. This layout makes for even less material waste.




Coffee Table: A simpler project that came as a result of not wasting some remaining plywood. 4 pipe clamps and galvanized pipes make up the legs and fasters that complete the piece. Assembly takes about 5 minutes and the finished product is incredibly rigid and practical. Having not taken the time to properly measure the clamp fittings before designing, the CNC cut pockets aren't dimensioned to fit precisely. On then next iteration, I plan to simply place the parts on a flat-bed scanner and trace the images as supplement to measurements.






5 comments:

Sham said...

Nice furniture product its a potable furniture you can use any where for this kind of furniture.

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bobby2sox said...

Pretty sweet!

I always loved that coffee table!

You're the man!

roid said...

I've had a bit of a design obsession with flat-pack objects recently too. Have been looking for inspiration, great to see i'm not alone.

Looking at your designs... here's a tip i picked up earlier from Ponoko: in laser cut designs when multiple parts have long straight edges (ie: they can lay together side by side), you should try to make them share their edges on the sheet - don't put any wasted space between the parts. Why cut 2 edges when you can cut one.
It speeds up the laser cutting and it also eliminates waste (which you mentioned being a design goal for you).

It's like that "is it a vase, or is it 2 faces?" visual illusion, if the multiple parts can share one edge then you only have to cut that one edge. The one single cut will cut out both the vase and the face.
I hope that made sense.

Charles Peacock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Peacock said...

Great blog, these flatpack furniture looking best as per their space availability.