Back Skin Development for "Be" Chair


The back skin is one of the key parts of this innovative chair design which offers a new standard of comfort and unrestrained movement, supporting the range of postures and work styles typical of today’s workplace. Designed by Formway Design, "Be" takes the idea of elastic design—where a product rearranges itself in response to its user—to a new level.


Success of the back skin development rested on AXIAM having the knowledge, confidence and willingness to work with Formway Design to make it a reality. Significant research was carried out for material selection before specific grades of DuPont Hytrel were selected for further trials on small scale, flat, test tools.


One of the most innovative developments came from research that showed that excessive stretching of the moulded part changed the physical properties of the polymer creating an extremely comfortable, strong, fabric like feel to the back skin.


When it came to moving from small flat section test tools to a full size prototype it meant pushing the material properties and processing well beyond the norm. The moulded skin needed to be perfect to achieve the desired result.


Any weakness in the part from weld lines or air traps would result in failure, and with 1925 small cores of different shapes and size to flow round and a part length of 670mm it is no simple exercise. Mould flow analysis was done several times to assist in achieving optimum control of flow pattern needed to ensure strong welds.


Though this was a development tool, no short cuts could be taken to prove the process. Tool was all P20 with many hours of complex machining, and a large complex manifold that was set up to ensure we could control the flow rate where we needed.


Project managed by AXIAM, tool design was a combination of input from AXIAM, Formway Design, Knoll and RPM Engineering who created the CAD work for the tool and did the full tool build for us. Complex machining of the large die blocks were cut on RPM's large 5 axis machine. Every individual core on the part is slightly different so programming and machining was time consuming and complex and delivery deadlines were rapidly getting closer.


Special high flow grades of Hytrel were developed by DuPont USA for this project on the assumption that flow was going to be an issue, however great results were achieved with off the shelf grades. Materials were also tested in various colours to ensure colour additives did not affect material properties when pushed to the limits.


Tooling was set up in our 860 Tonne Nissei machine to be sure we had ample clamping of the hundreds of small shut offs. Flow patterns were fine tuned one step at a time and the result backed up our research and predictions very well.


The real test of the product was how far it can be stretched without snapping the thin horizontal ribs. The results showed us just what was needed to take what was a radical new idea and confidently show the client that this was indeed viable.


This now patent pending technology forms the basis of current and new developments in office seating design at Formway Design Studio.


Once proven, the prototype tool was sent to the US for further trials and from there a new production tool was built and commissioned for manufacture in the US.





Axiam - Back Skin Development for "Be" Chair

The partnership of AXIAM, Formway Design, Knoll and RPM Engineering produced an award winning innovative solution