Sitting comfortably thanks to sustainable material science and collaboration from DuPont
By Rick Tobar, Development Programs Manager at DuPont
The Generation by Knoll® work chair, which revolutionized the world of office seating, benefitted from significant support, sustainable material science, processing and expert application development from DuPont. The chairs embrace the idea of elastic design, where a product rearranges itself in response to its user.
Key to the chair’s flexing and supportive features is the use of high-performance DuPont thermoplastics in the form of renewably sourced DuPont™ Hytrel® RS TPC-ET for the Flex Back Net with no compromise on properties, and DuPont Hytrel® TPC-ET and DuPont™ Crastin® PBT for the Dynamic Suspension control.
Believed to be the first major use of renewably sourced plastics in office chairs, the Generation chair has now been joined by another model christened ReGeneration, which also deploys significant volumes of Hytrel® RS TPC-ET for its flexible back rest. Principals at Formway Design, the New Zealand-based design group that designed the two chairs, credit the many lessons learned during the extensive design and prototyping process for the Generation chair and years of close collaboration with materials experts and product engineers at Knoll for the relatively quick two-year time span between the conception and launch of the ReGeneration chair.
According to Rick Tobar, development programs manager at DuPont, "Knoll went into these designs asking 'How can we make these chairs as green as possible?' The company has a tremendous history of environmentally friendly design." Indeed, according to Andrew Cogan, Knoll's CEO, "Today, Knoll continues to focus on three key environmental areas: climate change, third-party certification and design for the environment, which set standards for environmentally responsible materials, products and processes. And we are continuing to set industry-leading standards for sustainable design."
"The materials used in the chair's construction are vital from both an aesthetic and functional standpoint," explains Nicole Mirchandani, Knoll® senior marketing director. "By getting DuPont involved early in the design process, we were able to evaluate a huge variety of material-selection ideas to achieve our comfort and performance targets. The use of renewably sourced materials also enables us to deliver a pace-setting design that reinforces our commitment to sustainability."
Tobar expands on DuPont's role: "As well as introducing lots of different samples, we demonstrated how the different materials could be used and how the designers could extract the maximum value out of them in terms of balancing functional attributes against design needs, such as increased support while maintaining the necessary flex."
Generation and ReGeneration use high-performance DuPont materials in a way that had never before been seen in the furniture industry. The Flex Back Net and the Dynamic Suspension control work together to give the chair its flexibility and structure—allowing it to move to suit the extended range of motion required in a contemporary working environment—and yet still retain the memory of its original position.
The Flex Back Net, which deploys renewably sourced Hytrel®, supports many different postures and allows for a wide range of multidimensional movement—not just from front to back, but also from side to side. Users can also push against the Flex Top of the backrest and it will bend over to support their arm as they turn and chat with a colleague.
The chair’s streamlined and innovative Dynamic Suspension control, which uses Hytrel® and Crastin®, is a simple, non-mechanical control concept that provides a smooth, weight-compensated ride. Without the complexity of metal links or springs, the control uses one-third the number of parts of a traditional ergonomic chair mechanism. The chair is also 20 percent lighter than most high-performance chairs on the market.
Thanks in part to its use of renewably sourced materials from DuPont, Generation was the first product in the furniture industry to be rated Sustainable Platinum by the SMaRT© Sustainable Product Standard, a comprehensive, transparent, sustainable product standard that measures a product’s environmental, economic and social benefits over its life cycle and throughout its global supply chain, from raw materials extraction through reclamation or reuse.