How good factory furniture is designed
As a woodworker and problem-solver, I enjoyed a 2-day-long workshop by Bernhardt Design, a veteran company that designs and manufactures high-end, limited production pieces for the furniture industry. Called “Concept to Market in 36 Hours,” it was held mostly in a large woodshop at Appalachian State Univ., where craftsmen from the company built protoypes of a new design and tried to work out how it would be manufactured in production.
Design can’t really be rushed, so the organizers cheated a bit and developed the beginning drawings and models beforehand.
The designer, Kemal Gokturk, is from Savannah College of Art and Design, and he passed CAD models back and forth with the Bernhardt people in N.C. while working out the design.
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This small scale model of the design was created on a new tool for designers, called a 3-D printer. You send a CAD drawing to the printer, and a 3-D model comes out!
This is basically how a 3-D printer works. It extrudes tiny beads of plastic, layer by layer. 3-D printers cost between 15 and 25K, not too bad considering the huge amount of design time they must save.
On a full-size prototype designers worked out the decorative details, such at these flutes at the top of the legs.
Then they built a version to figure out the final look and materials.
This is a mockup they did in high-density foam to begin to figure out how to execute the joinery in production.
The process really got cooking as craftsmen from Bernhardt Design worked to streamline the manufacturing process. By teaming up four legs at once, they were able to turn the rounded parts of the legs, plus they used a custom router bit to make the flutes on two legs at once with a single plunge cut.
Craftsmen work to fit a lathe faceplate onto the assembly. On the lathe, the clamps will come off and the hose clamp and faceplate will hold that end together.