DuPont™ Hytrel® backrest successfully combines form, function and comfort
By Rick Tobar, Development Programs Manager at DuPont
With people spending up to nine years of their lives in their office, and 93% of this time sitting at their desks, office chair selection is arguably just as important as choosing the type of mattress you sleep on at night. Chairs have to be able to support the body in all the right places, yet not hinder normal everyday movement.
High-quality contemporary office chairs are the epitome of functionality working in complete harmony with striking aesthetics. In order to strike this fine balance, designers and manufacturers have to turn to proven materials that offer the correct range of desirable attributes in terms of strength, flexibility and longevity. For these reasons, Colombian company MUMA and design studio, Curve ID, turned to Hytrel® RS for the backrest material for the innovative DNA Ingo chair.
The flexible backrest is designed to offer support to different areas of the back that most need it, such as the dorsal and lumbar zone, releasing pressure in the area of the lungs and bringing maximum comfort to the user, but not at the sacrifice of mobility. It is adjustable in both height and depth and can also be reclined.
Pablo Naranjo, MUMA design director, explains: "During an intermediate stage of the chair's development, we faced a stressful challenge. The design of different parts of the product was moving at a good pace, but we felt the backrest wasn’t at the same stage. All we knew was that we had a great desire for it to be flexible. We therefore explored different materials options, researching several alternatives, but eventually found that DuPont and its philosophy of ‘The Global Collaboratory’ was the best choice for the project. Our team presented the project to DuPont Colombia, who embraced it with great interest and began the evaluation process right away."
Alberto Mantilla, a partner at Curve ID, elaborates: "We were looking for a very specific material that few companies could offer. We needed a range of characteristics including strength and flexibility and—just as importantly—we needed a partner to work with us collaboratively on an international basis. After scoping out the project and our needs, we initially approached DuPont in Colombia and working through them, we met with Rick Tobar, DuPont development manager in the US. This meant that Curve ID had support in its New York studio, while MUMA could liaise with local contacts in Colombia. DuPont has a market-driven approach to innovation meant that we found the perfect solution for the MUMA task chair."
Mantilla continues: "Working from MUMA’s brief, we were looking for a thermo-resistant elastomer that was both strong and flexible; one that would also maintain its elastic properties during its lifetime. We wanted back support that would mold to the user's individual lumbar requirements. And in addition to this, we were looking for a renewably sourced material. Hytrel® RS exceeded our expectations, proving to be a vital aesthetic and functional choice. It also contains up to 60% renewably sourced ingredients, so it offers a smaller environmental footprint than many other materials."
Juan Carlos Bedoya, MUMA CEO, explains the need to differentiate the chair from the many existing mesh products in the market: "Since we wanted to compete in the mesh market, the backrest should have a net appearance, which meant we had to work with a material that offered a good flow rate during the injection molding process, in order to copy the geometry and dimensions of the product easily. With this input, DuPont introduced us to Hytrel® RS, which met all of our needs."
DuPont provided Curve ID with samples of materials so that stress tests and prototyping could take place. Curve ID designers worked with the DuPont team to understand the parameters of Hytrel® RS and how it performed when tested against different patterns. The aim was to find the right geometry to satisfy both aesthetic and ergonomic requirements, while making the most of the material's capabilities. Test results were shared with the DuPont team, who then offered advice on the next steps in the development of the backrest.
MUMA, DuPont and Curve ID also explored how the material responded to the original requirements in terms of its behavior and mechanical properties. Thanks to the experience and knowledge of DuPont in computer simulation, several different analyses were completed that allowed MUMA to understand the material's performance during the injection and post-injection process. The technical collaboration from DuPont helped MUMA overcome concerns it had, enabling it to predict and prepare for the result of the final production process.
Mantilla explains: "DuPont engineers have a vast amount of plastics experience, and we certainly bonded over a mutual interest in the subject! We are able to undertake a wide variety of materials testing and prototyping on-site, and understand intuitively the implications on the manufacturing process."
Naranjo adds to this: "What we value the most from DuPont—as a company in collaboration—is its ability to help us transform all the technical qualities of a material into a compelling product that the market values. That goes from the most technical into the tangible benefits for users and customers. DuPont engineers got involved in the launch process with a commercial attitude, turning engineering concepts into tangible benefits for users and customers and highlighting the differences from parallel alternatives."
Concluding, Mantilla explains: "DuPont is a dynamic and innovative company working across a vast array of industry sectors. It is a proactive, forward-thinking business, which often challenges design companies like ours to come up with uses for new and innovative materials. Given the crossover with industry sectors where Curve ID has experience, we hope that we work together again very soon."
Naranjo is just as enthusiastic: "The DuPont team has been an excellent guidance partner—helping us, step by step, transform an idea with many uncertainties into a successful project, and of course bringing out the best of us. Today, we feel that Ingo is the result of believing that good ideas require synergy and inter-organizational networking to overcome critical moments. MUMA´s approach to design and innovation considers that the world is full of possibilities, investing in important resources under a sustainable, friendly and renewable view."
MUMA is a furniture company with 62 years of experience in the contract and hospitality markets, doing business in North, Central and South America. The company, which has been recognized with several important design awards including the RedDot from Germany, believes that by exploring and applying new technologies and renewable materials for its design and product development, it can strengthen the bond with its users, giving it the key to compete in new markets.
About Curve ID:
Curve ID is a New York based product design studio run by partners Alberto Mantilla and Tony Baxter. It works across a wide range of industry sectors with a global client base following its mantra—which is to make connections for clients, providing design solutions that not only focus on aesthetics, but also demonstrate a profound understanding of materials and manufacturing. Other leading clients include John Deere, Colgate and Groupe SEB.