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Specialty Tools: Snake Tongs

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

If you go to Tongs.com, you won't find barbecue utensils. Instead you will find Snake Tongs designed by Dana Savorelli, "a 40-year veteran in the field of research and development of animal handling equipment."

Savorelli's company, Midwest Tongs, produces a variety of his snake tongs, snake hooks and snake baggers. Looking through his lineup, my favorite is his Snake Stix Tongs:

I love that these are pure form-follows-function, yet still have poetry to them, looking like a bird. They come in seven different lengths ranging from 24" to 83" and don't have any exposed cables or springs that could get fouled.

While my wife is the farm's resident snake-catcher and uses her bare hands (not kidding), I'm thinking I should get her a set of these. Or at least maybe some Snake Gloves.

It should be noted that Savorelli uses a portion of the company's profits to benefit rescue animals:

"Dana Savorelli has dedicated his life to the safe and humane handling of animals and it is the core operating principle of his company, Midwest Tongs. One of the biggest ways that Dana fulfills this calling is in the founding and operation of Monkey Island Rescue and Sanctuary, a non-profit animal sanctuary and retirement home for over 250 animals. Not exclusive to primates, Monkey Island Rescue and Sanctuary offers food, shelter and acquires veterinary care for unwanted and abandoned exotic animals of all types. These animals require special accommodations and handling skills that most animal control agencies do not possess, and thus many of these animals are euthanized. By providing Monkey Island Rescue and Sanctuary, Dana has saved the lives of countless animals. He is a sought-after expert in the rescue, rehabilitation and housing of distressed exotic animals."

Emergency Phone With a Surprising "Screen"

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

Here's a phone with a rather surprising object where you're expecting to see numbers or icons:

That's the SpareOne Phone, designed by Singapore-based design consultancy NextOfKin Creatives for client XPAL Power, Inc. The brief was to design a "full functioning emergency phone powered by a single AA with a 15 year shelf life."

"As the product did not have any LCD information display, the archetype of the display screen was used to showcase the hero of this device - the iconic long lasting AA battery.

"We designed an intuitive layout with the Emergency button (for SOS calls) being the center of the button interface. The other features we rationalized necessary were a slim form factor, tactile button designs, programmable phone-number memory and the universal LED torchlight."

Simple and basic, battery front and center, I like it. The placement of the battery is such that you can see the expiration date at a glance. As for ergonomics, it's not like you're supposed to have an hour-long gab-fest with a college buddy on this thing and I'm okay with the bulge.

Japanese Medical Droid Follows You, Captures Your Walking Style to Detect Future Illnesses

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

The curse of the industrial designer is that you know how things are made, and can easily become distracted by the construction of items in the built environment. Out in the world, we slow our friends and spouses down by pointing out unusual details in seemingly mundane objects.

Physical therapists, too, have a curse. In New York I was friendly with a few, and sitting in a diner, they pointed out to me that the waitress (whom they didn't know) has a bum shoulder, a guy at the counter suffers from lower back pain, a woman passing on the sidewalk has recently had knee surgery. They'd seen and worked on enough human bodies to diagnose them by simply watching the way they moved, sat, stood, or carried things.

As it turns out, there's something to this. Medical research in Japan, according to design consultancy RDS, has discovered a link between the way that people walk and whether they're at risk for dementia, stroke or joint diseases, which are all ailments that shorten life expectancy. AI is used to pick out telltale patterns in walking motions that imperceptible to the human eye.

Photo by Arturo Castaneyra on Unsplash

Using walking as a biomarker would be fantastically useful, as it's non-invasive, doesn't require a testing facility and people in Japan tend to walk a lot, providing many opportunities to capture data. However, it's not practical to send a cameraman out to follow people as they go about their days. Thus RDS, working in collaboration with Japan's National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities Research Institute, has conceptualized a sort of droid called CORE-LER that follows a subject around and observes their walking motions.

According to RDS' (machine-translated) project description:

"In this product, a robot equipped with a 3D camera tracks the subject. The robot analyzes walking and the obtained data is stored on the cloud server. We will constantly improve the accuracy of result judgment by machine learning and define walking movement as a new health barometer. In addition, accurate walking motion analysis that could only be done with an expensive motion capture system can be performed inexpensively and easily, and more items can be measured than with conventional walking analysis. "By recording and analyzing walking movements as 3D data, it is expected to be used for early detection of diseases that were difficult to detect in the past and for measures against pre-illness."

As someone who's got a colonoscopy coming up, I'd much rather they develop a robot that follows me around and stares at my butt, or something.

Book-Sized Object Unfolds Into Flexible Monitor, Also Doubles as Projector

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

Folded down, the SPUD (Spontaneous Pop-Up Display), by startup Arovia, is roughly the size of a chunky book. It's a portable projector attached to an unfurlable tent-like structure, similar to a photography studio softbox. It projects video inside the tent onto a translucent white fabric that you can see from the outside, essentially turning it into a collapsible monitor.

The SPUD was a smash hit on Kickstarter in 2017, landing $711,397 in pledges on a $33,000 goal. But it shipped two years late, in 2019, and received savage reviews from users: The 1280x720 resolution, uneven focus and bulky size were criticized.

Now the company's back with what they say is a better version. To shed the stink of the SPUD, they've rebranded it Splay. They say their improved 1920x1280 display is bright, but do not address the focus issue—the criticism with the SPUD was that you could have focus in the center of the screen or on the edges, but not both—and the unit can now be detached from the tent to serve as a portable projector.

Admittedly I'm not a traveling portable monitor user, but if I were, my first thought would be the size of the thing when unfolded. Readers my age will remember how much space CRT monitors took up; the desks in the design studios I worked at in the '90s and '00s were deeper than today's desks, and with the ones that weren't, you had to turn the monitor and work at an angle just to get the proper distance from it, or pull the desk away from the wall and have the ass-end of the monitor hanging off of it.

Notably, Arovia doesn't mention precisely how deep it is. But in the shot below you can see that the screen is placed quite close to where you'd sit. I think that would take some getting used to. And while this is subjective, I wouldn't have the sense of entitlement to set this up at a café, taking up that much table space for one person.

It's expected to retail for $1,299, and they're offering discounted pre-orders at $699 for their forthcoming second Kickstarter. These days you can get a pretty good 24-inch flatscreen monitor for $150 to $300. However, I guess the Splay wins out in the portability category, weighing just 2.5 pounds; a 24" flatscreen weighs in around 7.5 pounds, and would require a special bag to transport.

I'm not quite sure who the target market is. The only situation where I can imagine this justifying the cost, is if I was a frequently traveling creative who needed an external monitor and often worked out of hotel rooms, where there was enough wall space that afterwards I could project a movie or play games.

In any case, I'd not have guessed that the first-gen version would land that $711,397, so I'm not surprised the company's back for more. The question will be whether they can stay off of that Shitty Kickstarters subreddit this time.

Check Out This Mechanism for a Dual-Swing Refrigerator Door

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

The first time I saw a dual-swing refrigerator door was in 1990s Japan, from manufacturer Sharp. The kitchens there are so small, it really does make sense to have a door that you can open from either side.


I never got to take a close look at how those hinges worked. However, global design and strategy consultancy Teams has also developed a dual-swing hinge for space-tight RVs, and they give you a pretty good look at it.

"Motorhomes are real space miracles," they write. "A refrigerator is always part of the essential equipment, but its contents are not easily accessible from every place, since the door can be opened from only one side. "TEAMS challenged this unwritten law during an ideation-workshop together with [RV appliance manufacturer] DOMETIC."

"Each hinge is also a lock," says Walter Heidenfels, Head of Engineering Services by TEAMS Hamburg, "that changes its function depending on the opening status, and that only with one movement, without the user noticing."

The Teams-developed hinge now appears in Dometic's RMD 10.5XT refrigerator.


World's Most Popular Power Tool: The Bosch IXO

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

For every jobsite roughneck who relies on their 18-volt driver, there are thousands of casual DIY'ers who only need something that turns marginally faster than a screwdriver. That's why the world's most popular power tool—according to Bosch, its manufacturer—is the diminutive Bosch IXO, with around 18 million units sold:

That's the 5th-generation design (the smaller ones in the top photo are the first four generations), which is the one we can buy in the 'States. Over in Europe, they've been rocking this 6th-generation model for nearly two years:

The 3.6-volt tool has a built-in battery that charges via micro-USB.

Three LEDs on the top indicate the battery life.

The trigger is variable-speed.

An LED on the front provides "scattered lighting."

The front pops off to accept different attachments.

Amusingly, Bosch sells some non-DIY-related attachments for it: A corkscrew, a "barbecue blower" and a spice mill.

While I'm not suggesting they stole these ideas, I do have to point out that they're super-similar to a student project done years ago by German industrial designer Timo Kuhls:

That project actually landed Kuhls a full-time job at Festool, where he is the only industrial designer on staff (working alongside 45 engineers). You can read all about that here.

The Hyundai Casper: A Sub-$12,000 Micro SUV

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

Hyundai's design turnaround continues to amaze me. If you look at where they were design-wise 10, 15 years ago, vs. the other car brands, and where all of them are now, I'd say Hyundai's moving in the right direction whereas many others are descending into madness (or CADness).

I don't say that Hyundai's designs will go into the MoMA. Rather, I admire that the company brass appears to be giving the design department the freedom to execute individual visions, and while there's no visual consistency across models—another bold move—each vehicle at least looks like the design teams work under the unifying supervision of a single designer. And I daresay it looks like they're having fun.

So here we have their latest, the incredibly affordable Hyundai Casper. (It's named for the skateboard trick, not the Friendly Ghost.)

Hilariously, the company refers to it as an SUV, even though it has a 1.0-liter engine and is roughly 11'9" long (for scale, a VW Golf is about 14 feet long). The vehicle's about as tall as it is wide, at roughly 5'2". Car Scoops says the base model will retail for under $12,000, with the fully-loaded version stretching up to about $16,000.

As someone who frequently takes meals in the car, I dig that the passenger-side seat can do this:

Even the driver's seat folds flat—which Hyundai says is a first—and becomes a sort of desk:

There are no plans to bring the Casper to the 'States; it's going on sale this month in South Korea, and will likely be offered later in other markets on that side of the Pacific. Interestingly, Korean Car Blog reports that Hyundai will be selling these D2C (direct-to-consumer) over their website, so it looks like consumers won't have to haggle over the price.

The Best Finalist for the 2021 National Toy Hall of Fame

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

"There is only one substance that the modern child is allowed to handle quite freely," educator Dr. Maria Montessori wrote in The Absorbent Mind, "and that is sand."

Perhaps that's why the gritty material is a Finalist for the National Museum of Play's 2021 National Toy Hall of Fame.

"Sand may be the most universal and oldest toy in the world….

"Children recognize sand as a creative material suitable for pouring, scooping, sieving, raking, and measuring. Wet sand is even better, ready for kids to construct, shape, and sculpt. Sand provides unique opportunities for tactical, physical, cooperative, creative, and independent free play."

Even better, the stuff is literally dirt-cheap. Sand—real sand, not that Kinetic Sand stuff—is like three bucks and change for a 40-pound bag, and some of you live in places where you can get it for free, if you can carry a bucket.

World's oldest playground? (Image: Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5)

LG's Array of Seamless LED Panels Allows for Home Cinema Screens in Unusual Shapes and Sizes

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

LG's new Direct View LED Home Cinema Screens are made up of panels that are assembled at your house by a professional installer. The panels go together seamlessly, and the modular system means you can order a gigantic screen in a conventional or unconventional aspect ratio. Some examples:

Then, well, it gets a little crazy:

As you can imagine, LG's not shipping these in mere cardboard boxes. No, these arrive in "custom-designed, branded, wheeled ATA flight cases to make sure everything arrives safe and sound. Premium protection for each stunning display. No more searching to make sure you received every box. No forklifts or pallet jacks required, simply roll the cases into your space."

Prices for these aren't listed. As they say, if you have to ask….

Industrial Design Student Work: Segev Kaspi's Forest Ranger Druids

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

Here's a wonderfully bizarre, terrifically imaginative project from Industrial Design student Segev Kaspi. Called Forest Ranger Druids, it's Kaspi's graduation project at Israel's Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, and was intended to "stimulate public discussion of atmospheric CO2 levels and the importance of rehabilitating the world's forests." Kaspi has envisioned some startling forms at the intersection of robotics and character design:

"A series of robotic forest rangers were developed to support reforestation efforts and sustainable forest management."

"Each robot is assigned a defined role in managing and preserving the forest. Their roles and design language reflect a long process of studying the work of forest rangers and an attempt to gain an in-depth understanding of the needs of the world's forests."

"The robotic foresters operate in systems that change in accordance with the forest's needs, and can function as separate individuals or as members of work groups."

"The project's visual and conceptual power derives from the hybrid connection of two worlds that are perceived as opposites – nature and technology – to offer a possible solution for an urgent problem."

Here's animations of the tasks they'd perform:

Check out more of Kaspi's work here.

Why the Smithsonian is Preparing a "Real" X-Wing Fighter to Display

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

This building's name is long: The Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

That's the facility where the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum prepares aircraft to be displayed. One that's in there now, getting prepped for showtime, has a name that's as short as the building's is long: "X-wing Starfighter."

Specifically, it's "a screen-used T-70 X-wing on loan to us from Lucasfilm," Margaret Weitekamp, who chairs the museum's space history department, explains to Tested's Adam Savage.

Weitekamp is as familiar with the fictional craft's lineage as she is with the real stuff. "When you look at the difference between this and that T-65B that Luke Skywalker would've flown, you see a designer who is thinking about, well what would the next generation look like? How might they have developed the engines, developed the guns?" (Nerds will recognize that the T-70 was flown by pilot Poe Dameron in the more recent Star Wars installments.)

One challenge that Weitekamp's crew has to work out in the hangar is how to suspend it from wires when it goes on exhibition. This T-70 was used for hangar shots in the films, and has been designed and built to support its own weight whilst resting on the ground. Hoisting it into the air, safely, requires a careful examination of the craft's structure and some ginger testing.

Another challenge is figuring out where the craft may have sustained actual Earth damage during the shipping process, versus the convincing wear-and-tear that Lucasfilm's fastidious modelmakers added to the vehicle. Weitekamp, in the video below, points out a damaged spot that caused her to fret, before learning it was intentionally painted on.

The video below, where Weitekamp goes over the X-wing with Savage, is well worth the watch. In it, she answers the question:

"Why does the premiere museum of real aviation and real spaceflight want an imaginary spaceship? Imagination and inspiration. Those are such important themes for everything that we have here. And we know that if you want to design and build and fly any of these things, you have to be dreaming it up, and a lot of that starts with these fictional visions and the power of that."

The X-wing will go on display next year, in the museum's flagship building on the National Mall.

This Course Embraces Play to Help Students Build Confidence in UI Design Skills

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

Despite technology's expansion and wide range of possibilities, its reputation for being dry and complicated can be a barrier to entry. Aspiring designers and engineers may feel unable to fit into a rapidly accelerating workplace without the proper tools and training.

Royal College of Art and Imperial College London instructors Arthur Carabott and Guillaume Couche have noticed the resulting strain on Master's students.

"The environment of graduate-level design education is an environment that can all too easily foster insecurity, a sense of inferiority, and 'imposter syndrome,'" they said in a statement. "With a broad range of student backgrounds and skill levels, and high academic expectations, many students may feel intimidated by what they do not know. This is especially true of technical skills, where the bar is continuously rising."

In order to bolster confidence, Carabott and Couche created Intentional Interactions, a technology intensive open to the school's Innovation Design students, as well as visiting students from Beijing's Tsinghua University. In this three-week module, each student designed electronic programs around a simple robotic arm. Students were encouraged to take the project wherever they wanted, which led to a wide range of wild approaches. The team described a resulting "explosion of creativity, with students creating interactive lamps, physical games, dancing birds, interactive sculptures…a physical iPhone Spotify DJ [and] a shy lamp that avoids human touch."

The course was irresistible for its focus on play, as well as its accessibility to students without prior coding experience. Carabott and Couche knew they could easily access high-tech equipment through their connection to higher learning, but wanted to make sure what they chose remained accessible to students after the course ended. The duo's three criteria for planning the course required tools that were 1) regularly used in the industry, 2) available and affordable, and 3) provided [transferable] skills. They also wanted to make sure the resulting course was approachable to newcomers while remaining challenging to students with higher technical proficiency.

"We needed a common thread to assess everyone's progress and make sure basic principles were understood, but the module would have to encourage bifurcations and creativity," the team said. "After considering all of this, custom robot arms felt natural. With anthropomorphism and the uniquely human ability to transpose life into the [simplest] objects, we felt this concept could turn simple motions into delightful emotions."

Students were first trained to operate a simulation of the arm on the popular software programs Unity and Arduino. After creating a control system, the students could easily design interactions between the physical and digital arm.

Each student was required to work by themselves, which Carabott and Couche hoped would encourage the sense of ownership often missing from group projects. They knew the more technically adept students tended to dominate in moments of shared responsibility, prioritizing a good grade over fully learning a process. Carabott and Couche wanted to make sure each student fully understood the tools they were using, as well as to encourage greater innovation in their professional lives.

"For the students, we felt we could provide the greatest value by objectively increasing their technical skills, with the underlying aim of increasing their emotional well-being as well," they said. "This is why we taught fundamental and transferable skills, using industry standard tools, without any sugar coating…Students worked in an open environment, with time dedicated to peer review and support, in order to help them feel comfortable learning together, and being honest about the learning they still needed. We also wanted to mimic a full design project for the students: not only creating the work, but documenting it and presenting it to the world, ultimately creating something worthy of their portfolios."

At the end of the year, the students presented their individual projects to the class, as well as guest lecturer and designer Durrell Bishop. The instructors then gave the class a surprise group assignment, where students had to dissemble, clean, and reassemble their tools in a collaborative light installation. The program was well-reviewed by participating students and ranked as one of the year's best modules in the school's end of year survey.

The success of Intentional Interactions provides a fantastic example of how educators and employers can take technological innovation out of the ivory tower. By fostering an inclusive environment that rewarded play and welcomed beginners, Carabott and Couche showed students and the design world that technology should be accessible and fun. Their focus away from dry, limited interaction systems like coding and UX encouraged students to dream big and focus on their own unique talents. With this kind of program, an aspiring engineer can make exactly the kind of technology they want to make, instead of what they think they should. A graduating student with that kind of training is more likely to enter the professional world with confidence, a heightened sense of creativity, and a sustained love for their chosen work.

Bishop was wowed by the course, and agreed wholeheartedly on its positive effect for students.

"It's a workshop that lets people play…with the right tools [and gives] them a really nice foundation that they feel like they can build on," he said. "It's going to change those students' lives."

Intentional Interactions is the Winner in the Design Education Initiative category of the 2021 Core77 Design Awards. You can check out all of the 2021 winners now on the Core77 Design Awards website.

Register for Episode 1 of our New Webinar Series with Jimmy DiResta, "Mockup to Market"

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

Jimmy DiResta's new (free!) webinar series with Core77 launches in just two weeks on Wednesday, September 29th at 11 AM EST with Episode 1, "Brainstorming & Idea Generation"! The first episode will kick off a 5 week series exploring new product development using a DIY mindset, with crafty legend and YouTube star Jimmy DiResta.

Episode 1, which is now open for registration, starts as any product development journey does with the question, "how can I find my way to a golden ticket idea?" DiResta will share, first off, why he finds value in launching an entrepreneurial idea using a DIY approach, and how he generates many of his ideas while ensuring they are original.

Participants will take away from this chat with:

1. Confidence in beginning their business-focused design journey

2. Inspiration for how to spark new curiosities that lead to unique, one-of-a-kind design explorations

3. A better understanding of how to use research to confirm your idea is original with potential to succeed in the market

Ready to begin the search for your big idea? Register now for Episode 1 of our "DiResta on Design" series, airing live on Wednesday, September 29th at 11 AM EST!

Loop's Reusable Packaging System Moves to Supermarkets

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago

In order to reduce single-use packaging and move towards a refill economy, reusable packaging is needed.

In the vision of ID firm Sich Design Studio, this reusable packaging would be owned by the consumer, like a gas can.

In the alternate vision of Loop, a startup that manufactures, cleans and restocks reusable packaging, this packaging is owned by the vendor, like glass milk bottles were in the 1950s.

Loop has partnered up with large chains like Kroger and Walgreens in the U.S., and ten Tesco supermarket stores in the UK. To use the latter as an example, here's how it works: Customers in the store can select from a range of over 100 products—including staples like pasta, rice, oil and sugar, as well as name-brand products like Heinz ketchup, Tetley tea and Coca-Cola soda—and purchase it in Loop-designed packaging right off the shelf.

Customers pay an additional refundable deposit of £0.20 (USD $0.28) for each package. Once they've consumed the product and emptied the packaging at home, they bring it back to the supermarket and deposit them in a Loop collection kiosk. Their deposits are refunded a few days later, via an app. And for those who don't feel like loading containers into the box one-at-a-time, they can also grab a Loop Returns Bag (also for a deposit), fill it with used Loop containers, and drop the bag into the box.

Those dirty containers, meanwhile, go to Loop partner Ecolab, a cleaning and hygiene services company. Once cleaned they're sent to a Loop warehouse and refilling facility. DHL handles the trucking in between.

Despite all of those extra steps in the reusable packaging's journey, Tesco says that "Prices for the contents of each item are comparable to the original." I am well curious as to how the economics of that all plays out.

While I'm not sure if anyone has done the math on carbon emissions, water usage and such, the math on the packaging impact has been worked out. "The impact of switching just three items of the weekly shop," writes Tesco, "could be enormous: if customers in the 10 stores switched their recyclable tomato ketchup, cola and washing up liquid bottles to the reusable Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Coca-Cola and Ecover alternatives, the packaging would be used and reused more than two and a half million times a year."

Deadline Extended to October 15! Parmigiano Reggiano Design Challenge 2021 sponsored by Alessi and Kartell

Core 77 - 4 hours 6 min ago
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is made today with the same locally-sourced, simple ingredients and the same artisanal methods that were first developed almost 1,000 years ago. This commitment to authenticity is one of the many reasons why Parmigiano Reggiano is considered an icon of Italian culture and it’s also why we’re launching this Design Challenge. The goal of this competition is to celebrate the role that authenticity plays in elevating the experience of cooking and eating.View the full content here

Electric Car With an On-Board E-Bike Buddy

Core 77 - Fri, 2021-09-17 06:20

Electric car company Polestar and electric bike company Cake have announced another collaboration, following their stand-on cargo bike: Their Electric Mobility Bundle. It consists of Cake's lightweight Makka bike essentially docked on the back of the Polestar 2 car, and it would apparently be sold as a set.

The companies are calling it "the solution to urban mobility," and the pairing has been designed in response to policies of certain European cities, whereby cars are banned or limited in the city center. The idea here is that you'd live out in the suburbs; drive to your job in the city; park your Polestar 2 on the city outskirts; then undock the Makka and ride the rest of the way to the office, presumably docking it in bicycle parking infrastructure.

As far as the flow of power, you charge the car, and the car charges the bike. The two are attached by what they're calling an "umbilical cord," which I don't think is an apt analogy, though it sounds cute.

Prior to the emergence of COVID, it would have been easy to criticize the concept, at least for mass uptake; green forms of mass transit are undoubtedly the most efficient way to move lots of people through a city center. If large numbers of commuters instead drove a Polestar 2/Makka combination, bike traffic in the city center would quickly grow unmanageable, and the revenue loss to the mass transit services could be problematic. But now that folks aren't keen to pile into mass transit vehicles filled with people, the appeal of this mobility bundle might have more sway with individuals.

One thing I'd like to see is some non-cartoon footage of how easy or hard it is to get the bike on and off of the rack, which at this point appears to be little more than an aluminum extrusion plugged into a tow hitch.

That's an area that surely warrants some design attention, for both the appearance of the rack and the UX of mounting and demounting the bike.

Sander Nevejans' Ultra-Thin Folding Chairs

Core 77 - Fri, 2021-09-17 06:20

It makes sense that this is called the Hong Kong Chair, as that's a city where every square centimeter of interior space counts. Created by Belgian designer Sander Nevejans, it's just 2cm thick when folded. "The cold drawn Italian steel not only provides the chair's strength," writes Nevejans, who grew up working in his family's metal fabrication business, "it also adds to its elegant styling within [an interior]."

For those who prefer armrests, Nevejans also designed this Sydney Lounge Chair, which also folds down to 2cm.

Both chairs are powder-coated and feature European Oak as the wood. They were supposed to launch this year, but production has presumably been delayed by the pandemic.

Love Hultén's Killer Design for a Retro-tastic Portable Synthesizer

Core 77 - Fri, 2021-09-17 06:20

Designer extraordinaire Love Hultén is at it again. This time he's received a commission to design a portable synthesizer, and his resultant EC1 doesn't disappoint:

There is considerable assembly required, but it all looks pretty do-able. The video shows you how it goes together, then reveals its impressive sonic capabilities:

An Armchair, A Sustainability Audit,and the Circular Future

Core 77 - Fri, 2021-09-17 06:20

Edited by Emily R. Pellerin


I bet you're so familiar with IKEA's iconic POÄNG chair that you can easily draw it from memory: its bent wood, cantilevered frame and simple upholstery create a single, swooping motion in profile. You may have owned it at one point (are sitting in it now, even!), and have a fondness for its little bounce.

You've no doubt also seen it a dozen times abandoned on a sidewalk or alley, hoping for a second chance in someone else's home.

For many people, this is exactly how they envision the end of this chair's life: discarded. But we designers know the sad fact that, once they're plucked from street-side abandonment, too many of our objects end up in a landfill – their ultimate end-of-life – where the chemicals and plastics they were made from will contaminate the air and the watershed.

IKEA knows this too. They also know that, instead of languishing in a landfill, the materials used to make POÄNG could be the raw material banks of the future. They are not sitting still with this knowledge; they've in fact been spending the past couple years redesigning their entire product line for the circular economy. It's quite momentous.

We'll get into that in a minute. But first: since the existing POÄNG product is so ubiquitous and embodies such common manufacturing methods and materials, let's take a preemptive look at exactly what goes into making it, how easily it can currently be repaired, and if the chair is at all designed for disassembly.

Why does the POÄNG seem to be dumped on sidewalks more than the average furniture? IKEA is working on that. Photos: Sarah Templin

An Audit

If we were to redesign the POÄNG with longevity, repair, and the circular economy in mind, we would start by completing an audit to assess the sustainability of each material and process used.

First, can this product be easily disassembled? For POÄNG, the answer is "yes"; all components can be disassembled. Right on, IKEA.

Next, what materials can be reclaimed as technical nutrient (i.e. recycled) or biological nutrient (i.e. composted)? (Read more about that process here.)

The chair's hardware can, in fact, be reused or reclaimed as a technical nutrient – but unfortunately, its elements are likely too small to recycle at most residential recycling facilities, which returns responsibility to the consumer. Let's consider this a near-win, but definitely not a miss.

Generally speaking, there's a chance that upholstery textiles can be reclaimed too, depending on their make-up. POÄNG uses blended fiber upholstery fabrics, which IKEA could hypothetically make into new fibers (IKEA cites both a 100% polyester fabric and a cotton/viscose/rayon/linen/poly blend). Then there's Polyurethane upholstery foam, which the chair is stuffed with. It's notoriously difficult to recycle; at best it can be shredded and down-cycled into carpet padding. And if the upholstery foam is glued to the frame – as is the industry standard with upholstered furniture, though is NOT the case with POÄNG (a win!) – the adhesive prevents both the cushioning and the frame from easily being reclaimed. In other words, there are some gray-area successes in the case of POÄNG's fabric make-up.

On to the bones: if a product frame's veneer is over solid wood, which it is for POÄNG, there are options for reclaiming it. If, in reality, the veneer is over particle board, which is unfortunately an industry standard, it would then be full of toxic chemicals that are harmful to both the employees using them and to the consumer, off-gassing into the home. (Those chemicals seep into the soil and the watershed when the product eventually finds itself at the dump.) Another point for IKEA.

To holistically interpret the sustainability of POÄNG, we also need to assess how easily it can be repaired by a layperson. This involves auditing the ready availability of replacement hardware and cushions, and the ability to refinish its surfaces or to reupholster it entirely. We all know that IKEA does a good job of making replacement hardware available in their stores, so we might be able to repair the chair if necessary. However, for POÄNG in particular, no other replacement parts except for its cushioning are currently available directly from IKEA.

The verdict is that while it has some industry-comparable successful elements, some elements of POÄNG's design would realistically need to be reconsidered to make it a more intentionally sustainable product. IKEA is certainly not alone with this diagnosis; most furniture companies are making their products to meet worse standards, with materials that can't be reclaimed, for objects whose only future is the landfill.

POÄNG is under pressure to live up to IKEA's sustainability goals. Photo: Inter IKEA Systems B.V

What does IKEA have to say about this?

IKEA has ambitious and influential sustainability goals. As the world's largest furniture company, their initiatives have the potential to create a ripple effect across all manufacturing.

Among other things, they have been working to become energy independent by investing heavily in wind and solar power. They launched a buy-back program this year across 27 markets to refurbish and resell used IKEA furniture, with products too beat up to refurbish being recycled into raw material for future products; and they are working towards selling exclusively circular products, with an aggressive deadline of 2030.

On this particular goal, Lena Julle, the company's Sustainability Manager, tells us about the results of assessing the circular capability of over 9,500 products last year. "POÄNG was one of the products. We learned a lot about what works well today, and what we will need to update to reach our 2030 goal to sell 100% circular products." Just as our audit showed, their research found that the chair performs well against the standards of circularity, but that it falls short of being all-the-way there. "The circularity score of this product can be improved," Julle says, "by applying more standardized parts, and using more recycled or renewable material in the cushion." IKEA identifying these clear, actionable steps forward for their product is not only progressive, it is also radically hopeful.

The amazing thing about the infamous IKEA home assembly

In a way, Design for Disassembly (DfD) has always been part of IKEA's design philosophy, even if they weren't necessarily thinking of it that way. Speaking to their history of designing flat pack objects for home assembly, Julle notes that "it is also relatively easy to take steps in designing these same products to be disassembled." Having this design precedent has, in turn, made DfD very intuitive for their design team.

But anyone who has ever tried to move an IKEA bookshelf from one home to another might have a different issue in mind, one from which Julle doesn't shy away: "The big challenge lies in designing products that are possible to put back together and continue to look and function as they did before they were taken apart." With these co-standards in mind, the company eventually altered the way it thinks about circularity, revising their design principles to now include assembly, disassembly and reassembly. "This is a game-changer in enabling reuse, refurbishment, and remanufacturing, as well as continuing to enable recycling at the end of product life," says Julle. "This is the true opportunity in prolonging product life."

IKEA's wedge dowel allows furniture to be easily disassembled for moving, repair, and IKEA's buy-back program. Photo: Inter IKEA Systems B.V

With this new mantra in mind, 5 years ago IKEA introduced their wedge dowel. The proprietary wood joinery and milled grooves design was developed through craft-based, trial-and-error iterations by the brother-sister in-house designers Marianne and Knut Hagberg. The dowel is a prime example of how turning to traditional design methodologies updated a major brand's product for a more effective future. Its design allows a table to be easily assembled and disassembled without tools, hardware, or the risk of the joints getting dinged up. It's a triple win: this method reduces the material used in the design, prolongs the potential life span of the furniture, and simplifies the assembly and disassembly experience.

IKEA's commitments and implementations are not only newsworthy, they're also roadmaps. Many of the approaches they mention as crucial elements of their future planning— like audits and contemporary adaptations of traditional joinery— are in fact simple, straightforward methods rooted in centuries of design. In turn, the power in their design decisions is accessible to much of the industry across the board – it's up to us, as designers, to harness it.

Collaborating on Digital Manufacturing

Design News - Thu, 2021-09-16 05:46
Protolabs has launched a new digital manufacturing quotation platform that supports collaboration and product life cycle optimization.