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Dining in armchair comfort

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 29 April, 2005  (Company News)
Today's trend in seating furniture is increasingly towards elegance, functionality and comfort. Sophisticated customers expect ever higher standards of design in the furniture that adorns their homes.
Recognizing this trend, Rolf Benz AG, of Nagold, Germany, has taken the concept of a dining chair as simply something to sit on while eating a meal and transformed it into a piece of designer furniture offering all the relaxation and comfort you would expect from an armchair. The Rolf Benz 7200 features a complex, ergonomically shaped plastic supporting shell manufactured by the Swiss company Emaform AG, of Gontenschwil, using Baydur® 60, a polyurethane system from Bayer AG, Leverkusen, Germany. The material's sandwich structure combines low weight with high strength, qualities that have earned it an outstanding reputation as a structural material for lightweight yet extremely robust furniture.

In creating this new chair, whose design is ideal for a dining room with a light, airy feel, it was not just the stylists Volker Laprell and Volker Classen who faced a challenge. The design engineers too had to find a way of integrating the feature that – together with its clean, simple lines – makes the 7200 so special: an adjusting mechanism concealed beneath the upholstery material. While its occupant is busy eating, the back of the chair remains upright; when the meal is over, however, and the contented diner wants to relax, gentle pressure allows the back to be slowly adjusted into a semi-reclining position. The material chosen for the seat shell therefore had to be extremely lightweight, yet capable of withstanding the varying types of load encountered during use. 'With its high strength-to-weight ratio, Baydur 60 was the ideal choice,' said Eduard Maurer, Managing Director of Emaform AG. 'No other material could compare with it.'

The secret lies in the structure of Baydur 60 integral skin foam, whose combination of a cellular core with a solid outer skin makes it both lightweight and strong. The complex 3-dimensional geometry of the shell –which measures 517 x 607 x 636 millimeters – presented no problems during manufacture. The molding has a minimum wall thickness of 7 millimeters, but sections subjected to particularly severe loading are molded up to 20 millimeters thick. Another advantage was the material's completely smooth surface, which enabled the upholstery materials to be fitted cost effectively and with no compromises as regards quality.

The method whereby the mold for the seat shell reaches Emaform's production shop is also technologically advanced. It is manufactured using a CNC machine in accordance with data obtained direct from the CAD system used by the stylist and design engineer, with the information being transmitted to Gontenschwil by e-mail. 'Using digital technology we can build more complex molds with even greater accuracy, and at the same time eliminate the need to produce numerous copy-milling models,' explains Eduard Maurer. This means that the aluminum molds used to produce the polyurethane parts – which are inexpensive in the first place – can be produced even more economically. The use of computer technology is fully in line with the commercial philosophy of the Rolf Benz company and, together with the versatile engineering polyurethane Baydur 60, makes it possible to create pioneering designs with slim cushioning elements that can be manufactured quickly and efficiently, without the many laborious operations that formerly had to be performed by hand.
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