Researchers at the University of Stuttgart have leveraged the shaping forces of nature and possibilities of digitalization to create HygroShape furniture. This flatpack furniture takes final shape itself after unpacking sans the use of nails, tools, or instruction manuals. It may sound like fantasy to anyone who’s been through the flatpack puzzle, but truly self-shaping furniture could be the future!
Gillis Lundgren came up with the idea of flatpack furniture in 1956 and IKEA thrived on the notion germinating a DIY movement that has only gained pace through time. Substantially, flatpack concept is easy on the economy, transportation, and sustainability but it requires users to assemble furniture themselves, using instructions, tools, and lots of time.
HygroShape is a nature-inspired, technology-propelled solution to the headache of putting bits of flatpack furniture together manually. The elegantly curved furniture is designed to assume its shape in a few hours after unpacking. Unpacking may take up some of your time, but after that, the wooden furniture is good to take its shape on its own.
Self-shaping process of the HygroShape is possible because of hygroscopic shrinkage, which is a natural property of wood that has been known to carpenters ever since but has never been put to use this way. The natural properties of wood and computer-aided design allow the flatpack furniture to be provided a defined curved geometry they can realize when unfurled from its packaging.
This design practice of implementing material programming to the unique property of wood gives birth to a new material design, which retains natural characteristics and achieves desired form and function without induced force. The result here is furniture that can be manufactured in flatpack design to take up shape on its own when unpacked.
This transition from flatpack configuration to ultimate furniture design happens passively in a few hours; once shaped, the parts of the furniture mechanically lock in place to retain a sturdy achieved form through its lifetime. The pieces currently manufactured under HygroShape furniture include a lounge chair and chaise lounge (rocking lounger).
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The experimental rocking lounger dubbed H2 is designed to offer a relaxing recliner to the user. It is created from a pair of individually programmed planks of European Maple wood which are shaped together to raise at the legs to achieve a perpetual rocking movement. The lounge chair called H1 on the other hand is an upright chair with a comforting backrest. The self-shaping process allows the rocker and the chair to achieve an honest and clean design without human intervention.
These are only specimens of the technology for now. The first limited quantities of self-shaping chairs are likely to arrive in the summer of 2022. University of Stuttgart spin-off Hylo Tech has been formed to test the viability and marketability of HygroShape technology.